The Metropolitan Police

At last, in 1829, the Metropolitan Police force was established, their headquarters in Scotland Yard, just off Whitehall. Their uniform made them look more like park‐keepers than soldiers, to allay the fears of those who feared law enforcement by a centrally controlled military such as existed on the continent. They walked their beats in top hats and blue swallow‐tailed coats, armed only with truncheons. It took several years for them to be popularly accepted; some people looked back with regret to the old days of corruption and inefficiency. But even the City of London agreed, after initial resistance, to remodel its own police force on New Police lines.

The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 gave them wide powers. Small boys could be arrested for bowling hoops or knocking on doors, street musicians could be arrested just for playing. But London became a safer and quieter place. In 1869 their powers were extended to allow them to raid brothels and similar dens of vice.

In 1851 opponents of the Great Exhibition gloomily foretold that it would attract criminals, assassins and revolutionaries from all over Europe. In the event, the law enforcement officers greatly outnumbered the criminals. Only 12 pickpockets were arrested, foreign visitors were astounded to see the Queen walking calmly through the crowds without a military escort, and several of the foreign detectives who had crossed the Channel to watch for suspected foreign criminals went to watch for them on English race courses, instead.

By 1860 boroughs and counties outside London had their own police forces. They were still locally organised, because of the in‐built English resistance to the idea of a central force such as existed on the Continent, but they were partly funded by grants from the central government.

The Metropolitan Police

Whitby Vandals Zoser