The Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829, and it established the Metropolitan Police Force, replacing the loosely affiliated, disorganized volunteer watchmen and the Bow Street Runners, the detective force that had been established in the mid-18th century and which had to this time been the only police force in London
. The force was headed by two Commissioners, and at its inception the force patrolled 17 divisions, which were identified by single letters. This was expanded to 20 in 1865, and 21 in 1886.
To avoid the appearance of deploying the military in civilian matters, the new police force wore blue and was armed only with truncheons, as well as rattles which they used to signal the need for assistance. Despite this they were at first unpopular among the population, and were often physically assaulted. In 1831 Special Constables were created, allowing civilians to be appointed to the force in times of crisis. In 1839 the Bow Street Runners were absorbed into the Met. Between 1839 and 1848 they were involved in maintaining order during the Chartist demonstrations. In 1842 the Detective Branch was formed. In 1852 the second Commissioner died and the remaining Commissioner acted as sole Commissioner. In 1863 just over 200 officers were arrested for being intoxicated while on duty, and in 1877 three detectives were tried for corruption. In 1883 the Special Irish
Branch was formed to deal with Fenian threat. In 1888 the "Irish" was removed, and the newly-renamed Special Branch was redirected to cover all threats. By 1900 there were over 16,000 officers on the force. The Fingerprint Bureau was established in 1901, which aided in criminal identification. This was used in the first case to achieve conviction through fingerprint identification, that of the Stratton Brothers in 1905. In 1912 the Special Constables were reorganized, so that civilians could no longer be drafted, they had to volunteer. Women were first allowed into the Met during the First World War, due to many men being sent overseas to fight in the war. At the time women were not allowed a great deal of power in the force until the 1970s. During the Second World War reserve groups were mobilized to help support the Met, and they were used to protect potential sabotage targets. During this time period crime rates soared, and looting was especially high due to the destruction wrought by the Blitz and other bombing attacks. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Met was again the subject of attacks from the public, and often clashed with violent protestors. In 1965 the Special Patrol Group was formed to help maintain public order, and received special training to deal with the public. Through the late 1970s and into the 1980s the Met was often accused of police brutality, racial discrimination and institutional racism. In 1986 the Special Patrol Group was dissolved and replaced by the Territorial Support Group. The name of the Met was changed from the Metropolitan Police Force to Metropolitan Police Service in 1989. The force was controlled by the Home Secretary, but is currently administrated by the Greater London Authority
The police did not regularly carry firearms in the early years of the force, though flintlock pistols were purchased and could be given to officers if they were assessed by superiors to be trustworthy. In the 1860s these flintlock pistols were decommissioned and replaced by revolvers. In 1883 a vote was held, and 70% of officers in the outer regions indicated a desire to be armed; they were then equipped with Bulldog revolvers.1884 saw the replacement of the rattle with a police whistle. In June 1940 Met officers were armed with rifles due to their job of protecting possible targets for sabotage. Currently, officers carry batons, speedcuffs and other restraints and incapacitant spray, as well as personal radios, torches and occasionally first aid kits.
Major Story Arcs
The Met has been involved in a number of famous cases. In 1849 the Bermondsey Horror case, in which Marie Manning and her husband murdered her lover, was one of the first investigated by the Detective Branch, and was the first time a husband and wife were executed together since the 1700s. In 1888 the Whitechapel
Murders began, and carried on until 1891, claiming a total of eleven lives. This case is most famously associated with Jack the Ripper
, who claimed at least five of the victims. This case remains famously unsolved. In 1905 the Met secured the first conviction by fingerprint evidence in the case of the Stratton brothers, who murdered two people in the course of a robbery. In 2005 London was hit by terrorists in the 7/7 bombings. The Met was able to prevent follow-up bombings two weeks later. In early August of 2011 London was the epicentre of several nights of rioting and looting which the Met was called in to help control.
In Other Media
The name Scotland Yard is frequently used to describe the Met. It gained this name because the original headquarters of the Met was located in Whitehall, in and around Great Scotland Yard. The headquarters of the Met are currently located at New Scotland Yard, located within Westminster. The police service is also referred to at the Met, the Met Pol and the MPS.
The Met often appears in popular culture, usually referred to as Scotland Yard, due to their being the police force for a large city in which a number of stories have been set. It often appears in crime fiction, such as in Sherlock Holmes
, where they are often an ally of the detective. They similarly appear in Agatha Christie's Poirot and other of her detective novels. Their efficacy in these cases is usually substandard, and they tend to rely on the lay detectives to aid them in solving the case. In Eddie Campbell
and Alan Moore's From Hell
, Scotland Yard investigates the Jack the Ripper murders, but are shackled by the high-ranking Freemasons
who prevent them from discovering or revealing the true identity of the killer.