Metropolitan Police

The issues of crime and policing were taken up by Robert Peel when he became Home Secretary in 1822. Peel and his ministerial colleagues saw the increase in criminal activity as a threat to the stability of society.

Metropolitan Police Bill

In 1828, another Commons inquiry reported in favour of a police force for London, and in 1829 Peel's Metropolitan Police Bill received parliamentary approval.

The new Act established a full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force for the greater London area under the control of the Home Secretary. The uniformed constables embodied a new style of policing in contrast to the small and disorganised parish forces of the 18th century.

Response to crime and disorder

Besides being a response to rising crime and disorder, they answered the growing need for preventive policing and helped to keep order on the streets.

Peel hoped that the Metropolitan force would offer a model for reformed policing in other parts of the country. Further development was rapid. In 1835 the Municipal Corporations Act required newly-created local councils to appoint paid constables for preserving the peace.

Policing grows steadily

This initially brought policing to 178 towns, and the number grew steadily. In 1839 the Rural Constabulary Act allowed county areas to establish police forces if they so wished; Wiltshire was the first county to do this.

By 1851 there were around 13,000 police in England and Wales, although existing legislation did not compel local authorities to establish local forces.

Related information

Historic Hansard

The House of Commons debates the second reading of the Municipal Corporations Bill

Lord John Russell introduces his County and District Constabulary Bill (Rural Constabulary Bill) in the House of Commons

Biography

You can access a biography of

Robert Peel, 2nd baronet

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Did you know?

The new policemen were known as as Peelers or Bobbies - after Sir Robert Peel