Here he is – the new London Metropolitan Police Man – dressed to impress and fully armed to defend the citizens of London and its environs. Well that was the plan, a new uniformed, united corps of armed police officers, the brainchild of Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary under two prime minsters, The Earl of Liverpool and the Duke of Wellington from 1822 to 1830. The New Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 was the climax of his determination to provide England with a new and armed police force.
In the event, the originally proposed armaments of Roman sword and pistols were replaced by a twenty-inch wooden truncheon and access to a flintlock pistol in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Armed police were regarded as far too politically and socially contentious and could lead to serious conflict and public disorder.
Nevertheless, the use of the term ‘Accoutred’ was deliberately chosen to market them as clearly uniformed, highly trained and beyond bribery, favours and back-handers, particularly the ‘favours’ of the public house! When the New Metropolitan Police Act passed into law on June 19th, 1929, a best-selling twopenny publication was released to the public so those who wished could be fully prepared for this revolutionary new force of law and order
It says something about the previous views of the police and their relationship with the local ale houses when it makes a promise to the reader on the front cover to tell them not only what will happen to them if they obstruct this new, dynamic metropolitan police man but how the Act will punish publicans for ‘harbouring’ him!
Now, in many respects, the new order and morally upstanding intention that, policemen on duty should not be offered nor accept alcohol in a public house, is now standard practice but ironically was to have a direct connection with a subsequent serious decline in crime detection.
This new generation of officers were to become so highly regimented and deeply embroiled in their rule books which gave them them almost unlimited ‘stop and search powers’ – it was thought crime would be swept away. The new police man was instructed that he may, “apprehend all lose, idle and disorderly persons whom he shall find disturbing the public peace.‘ But not only this, he was further instructed that if he suspected anyone of ‘having evil designs‘ – he could arrest them and take them to the watch-house:
There was for Peel’s new men, no need to drink in alehouses, having the ear of the landlord, paying informers and turning a blind-eye to certain rogues who were more usefully encouraged in their criminal ways than put in prison. Sir Robert Peel’s intentions were to ensure his new brand of police men would totally usurp the operational style of their individualistic and sometimes highly eccentric predecessors, The Bow Street Runners who would be totally disbanded within ten years and the new metropolitan area under this Act included all parishes, townships, precincts and places within twelve miles of Charing Cross.
Compare the new with the old.
Below is George Ruthven, one of the most revered Bow Street Runners with his trademark yellow silk waistcoat and elegant city attire (apologies for print quality – if anyone has the original or better picture of George please share)
George had no need for a government issue uniform, the reputation of the runners as highly successful detectives, sometimes armed only with a tipstaff (a truncheon that also held warrant papers inside) was enough for most occasions although such weapons as swords and pistols were of course available as needed such as in the famous Cato Street conspiracy seige of 1820  Indeed George was a crack-shot with the Bow Street issue William Lacey pistol and an excellent swordsman.
The hub of informers for the Runners was the alehouse – the need to drink, bribe and turn a blind-eye were cornerstones of detection and the Bow Street Runners can be credited with being Britain’s first true detectives. As I already discussed in an earlier blog entitled, The Roehampton Monster. Morbid Curiosity and The Metropolitan Police – ′Peel’s confused and ill-equipped police force let go of its specialist detective department when they disbanded the Bow Street Runners in 1839. So, devoid of the informers and sneaks that used to be paid by the Bow Street system in the ‘old days’ – their concerns to end this so-called corruption and claim a new police morality totally lost them their network of detection.’
Source : http://wp.me/p8yqmi-80
Cartoonists had a field-day poking fun at the high moral tone Peel was accrediting to his new police men.
With a daily rate of three shillings pay, ‘The men are to provide themselves out of their pay with a plain blue uniform of a fixed pattern at contract prices.” Recruits had to have a ‘vigorous constitution’ be over thirty-five years of age and be at least five foot seven inches in height. Thirty-five years old in the 1830’s was pretty much proof of a vigorous constitution, for according to Professor Martin Daughton’s BBC article entitled, ‘London’s ‘Great Stink’ and Victorian Urban Planning’,
“A baby born in a large town with a population of more than 100,000 in the 1820s might expect to live to 35 – in the 1830s, life expectancy was down to a miserable 29.”
In the event, recruits under 35 were accepted, otherwise the recruitment drive would fall short. Not only were the new police men also going to be trained as fire-fighters, the ultimate plan was to create a ‘united core’, with a dedication to police work second to none – no more rag-bag watchmen and idiosyncratic, individualistic Bow Street Runners undertaking detective work involving infiltration into gangs and plotters and sharing out the reward money.
Just over a year later amongst a great deal of public disquiet concerning the new police and their heavy-handed enforcement of law and order and the stark realization how much the new police rate was costing local parishes – meetings took place all over London to try and have the new police act repealed. Here is but one example from Mr. Leech at a meeting held for St. Saviour’s Parish in Southwark and reported in The Times;
Then a week later came a criminal case that seemed almost welcome by the public.
Indeed when John Barrett (PC No, 58) and William Liddiard (PC No. 29) both stationed with the brand new H-division of the Metropolitan police were sent for trial for robbery in September 1830 for taking money and a penknife from an slightly inebriated but innocent member of the public who they pulled into a back alley – the moral indication of the public was aroused and a song was popularized to point out the moral duplicity of these new policemen. Here is the first verse and chorus:
The final, 5th verse, serves to remind the public of Peel’s role in the creation of our so-called protectors and very cleverly sums up the irony of his moralising crusade.
These two new policemen were found guilty and ‘transported beyond the seas for seven years,’ to appease public anger.
Okay, the Runner’s were no angels but they ‘did deals, not steals‘, as the saying goes!
The opening image of the new London Metropolitan Police Man had, within a matter of months, undergone somewhat of a transformation!
 For George Ruthven’s exciting adventures, see my book : The Cato Conundrum: