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British Police history

The Romans brought their own form of policing to this Country nearly 2000 years ago.
The Anglo-Saxons and Danes introduced a form of policing based on the Hundreds and Wapentakes​.

1252 First reference to the term constable, although the title was in common use long before

1285 The Statute of Winchester summed up and made permanent the basic obligations and procedures for the preservation of peace. The Statute Victatis London was passed in the same year to separate deal with the policing of the City

1630 The Oath of the Office of Constable was published, although it had been administered for some time

1737 An Act was passed 'for better regulating the Night Watch and Bedels within the City of London and the liberties thereof'. This Act directed the payments to be made for serving and directed the number of Constables who where to be on duty each night, i.e. the City established a paid police force before any other area

1829 The Metropolitan Police Act established that Force. The Metropolitan Police was divided into seventeen divisions each with a Superintendent, four inspectors and sixteen Sergeants

1833 The Lighting and Watching Act allowed the establishment of paid police forces in England and Wales generally

1835 The Municipal Corporations Act required 178 Royal Boroughs to set up paid police forces

1836 Inspectors of Constabulary were first appointed

1839 The County Police Act allowed the establishment of police forces for the counties - eight were formed in 1839, twelve in 1840, four in 1841 and a further four by 1851

1856 The remaining counties were compelled to set up police forces by the County and Borough Police Act. Grant were made by the Exchequer to those forces certified each year as efficient. From this Act, moves were made regularly to merge smaller forces into larger ones on the basis of effectiveness and 'value for rate and taxpayers money'

1919 The Desborough Committee, while rejecting the idea of a national police force, did achieve a measure of centralisation by the creation of a police department in the Home Office

1934 Home Office Committee effectively rationalises police uniforms

1946 Police Act leads to many police forces amalgamations - 45 boroughs were abolished

1964 Police Act results in more amalgamations to result in today's 41 county or area police forces plus the Metropolitan and City of London Police



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