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POLICE (Fr. police, government, civil...

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 979 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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POLICE (Fr. police, government, civil administration, a police force, Gr. sroXumeia, constitution, condition of a state, roars, city, state), a term used of the enforcement of law and. order in a state or community, of the department concerned with that part of the civil administration, and of the body or force which has to carry it into execution. The word was adopted in English in the 18th century and was disliked as a symbol of foreign oppression. The first official use appears, according to the New English Dictionary, in the appointment of " Commissioners of Police " for Scotland in 1714. A police system has been devised for the purpose of preventing evils and providing benefits. In its first meaning it protects and defends society from the dissidents, those who decline to be bound by the general standard of conduct accepted by the larger number of the law-abiding, and in this sense it is chiefly concerned with the prevention and pursuit of crime. It has a second and more extensive meaning as applied to the regulation of public order and enforcing good government. United Kingdom.—The establishment of a systematic police force was of slow growth in England, and came into effect long after its creation abroad. A French king, Charles V., is said to have been the first to invent a police, " to increase the happiness and security of his people." It developed into an engine of horrible oppression, and as such was repugnant to the feelings of a free people. Yet as far back as the 13th century a statute, known as that of " Watch and Ward," was passed in the 13th year of Edward I. (1285), aimed at the maintenance of peace in the city of London. Two centuries later (1585) an act was passed for the better government of the city and borough of Westminster, and this act was re-enacted with extended powers in 1737 and soon succeeded by another (1777) with wider and stricter provisions. The state of London at that date, and indeed of the whole country at large, was deplorable. Crime was rampant, highwaymen terrorized the occurrence, river thieves on the Thames committed depredations wholesale. The watchmen appointed by parishes were useless, inadequate, inefficient and untrustworthy, acting often as accessories in aiding and abetting crime. Year after year the shortcomings and defects were emphasized and some better means of protection were constantly advocated. At the commencement of the 19th century it was computed that there was one criminal to every twenty-two of the population. The efforts made at repression were pitifully unequal. In the district of Kensington, covering 15 sq. m., the protection afforded was dependent on three constables and three head-boroughs. In the parish of Tottenham nineteen attempts at burglary were made in six weeks, and sixteen were entirely successful. In Spitalfields gangs of thieves stood at the street corners and openly rifled all who came near. In other parishes there was no police whatever, no defence, no protection afforded to the community but the voluntary exertions of individuals and " the honesty of the thieves." In those days victims of robberies constantly compounded with felonies and paid blackmail to thieves, promising not to prosecute on the restitution of a portion of the stolen property. The crying need for reform and the introduction of a proper police was admitted by the government in 1829, when Sir Robert Peel laid the foundation of a better system. Much opposition was offered to the scheme, which was denounced as an insidious attempt to enslave the people by arbitrary and tyrannical methods. The police were to be employed, it was said, as the instruments of a new despotism, the enlisted members of a new standing army, under the centralized authority, riding roughshod over the peaceable citizens. But the guardians of order, under the judicious guidance of such sensible chiefs as Colonel Rowan and Sir Henry Maine, soon lived down the hostility first exhibited, and although one serious and lamentable collision occurred between the mob and the police in 1833, it was agreed two years later that the unfavourable impression at one time existing against the new police was rapidly diminishing, and that it had fully answered the purpose for which it was formed. Crime had already diminished; it was calculated that the annual losses inflicted on the public by the depredations of the dangerous classes had appreciably fallen and a larger number of convictions had been secured. The formation of the metropolitan police was in due course followed by the extension of the principle to the provinces. Borough constabulary forces were established by the Municipal Corporation Act (1835), which entrusted their administration to the mayor and a watch committee, and this act was revised in 1882, when the general powers of this authority were defined Acts of 1839 and 1840 permitted the formation by the justices of a paid county police force. Action in this case was optional, but after an interval of fifteen years the Police Act of 1856 made the rule compulsory, it being found that an efficient police force throughout England and Wales was necessary for the more effectual prevention and detection of crime, the suppression of vagrancy and the maintenance of good order. Local acts had already endowed Scotland with a police system, and in 1857, and again in 1862, counties were formed into police districts, and the police of towns and populous places was generally regulated. Ireland has two police forces; the Dublin metropolitan police originated in 18o8, and in 1829 the provisions of Sir Robert Peel's act for London were embodied in the Police Law for Ireland. The extent to which the metropolitan police has developed will best be realized by contrasting its numbers on first creation and the nature of the duties and functions that then appertained to it. The first act (the Metropolitan Police Act 1829) applied to the metropolis, exclusive of the city of London, and constituted a police area having a radius of 12 rn. from Charing Cross. Two justices of the peace were appointed, presently named commissioners of police, to administer the act under the immediate direction of the secretary of state for the home department. The first police office was located in Whitehall in Scotland Yard, from which It was removed in the autumn of 1890 to the new and imposing edifice on the Embankment, in which all branches are now concentrated, known as New Scotland Yard. The first constables appointed were 3000 in number, who, when sworn in, enjoyed all the powers of the old constables under the common law, for pre-serving the peace, preventing robberies and other felonies, and apprehending offenders. The subdivision of the district into divisions, on much the same lines as now existing, was at once made for administrative convenience, and a proportion of officers was allotted to each in the various grades then first constituted and still preserved, comprising in ascending order, constables, sergeants, inspectors and superintendents. Some time later the grade of district superintendent was created, held by gentlemen of superior status and intelligence, to each of whom the control of a large section of the whole force, embracing a wide area, was entrusted. This grade has since been merged in that of chief constable, of whom there are four exercising powers of disciplinary supervision in the metropolitan districts, and a fifth who is assistant in the branch of criminal investigation. The supreme authority is vested in the home secretary, but the immediate command and control is exercised by the chief commissioner, with three assistants, re-placing the two commissioners provided for in 1829. After various parliamentary reports and some legislation by way of extension, an important act was passed in 1839 reciting than the system of police established .had been found very inefficient and might be yet further improved (Metropolitan Police Act 1839). The metropolitan police district was extended to 15 M. from Charing Cross. The whole of the river Thames (which, in its course through London, so far as related to police matters, had been managed under distinct acts) was brought within it, and the collateral but not exclusive powers of the metropolitan police were extended to the royal palaces and 10 m. round, and to the counties adjacent to the district. Various summary powers for dealing with street and other offences were conferred. When the police was put on a more complete footing and the area enlarged, provision was made for the more effectual administration of justice by the magistrates of the metropolis (Metropolitan Police Courts Act 1839). The changes that occurred in magisterial functions are scarcely less remarkable than the transition from the parish constable to the organized police. The misdirected activity of the civil magistrate in the 17th century is illustrated by the familiar literature of Butler, Bunyan and others. The zeal of that age was succeeded by apathetic reaction, and it became necessary in the metropolis to secure the services of paid justices. At the beginning of the 19th century, outside of the city of London (where magisterial duties were, as now, performed by the lord mayor and aldermen), there were various public offices besides the Bow Street and Thames police offices where magistrates attended. To the Bow Street office was subsequently attached the " horse patrol "; each of the police offices had a fixed number of constables attached to it, and the Thames police had an establishment of constables and surveyors. The horse patrol was in 1836, as previously intended, placed under the new police. It became desirable that the horse patrol and constables allotted to the several police offices not interfered with by the Act of 1828 should be incorporated with the metropolitan police force. This was effected, and thus magisterial functions were completely separated from the duties of the executive police; for although the jurisdiction of the two justices, afterwards called commissioners, as magistrates extended to ordinary duties (except at courts of general or quarter sessions), from the first they took no part in the examination or committal for trial of persons charged with offences. No prisoners were brought before them. Their functions were in practice confined to the discipline of the force and the prevention and detection of offences, their action limited to having persons arrested or summoned to be dealt with by the ordinary magistrates, whose courts were not interfered with. The aim and object of the police force remain the same as when first created, but its functions have been varied and extended in scope and intention. To secure obedience to the law is a first and principal duty; to deal with breaches of the rules made by authority, to detect, pursue and arrest offenders. Next comes the preservation of order, the protection of all reputable people, and the maintenance of public peace by checking riot and disturbance or noisy demonstration, by enforcing the observance of the thousand and one regulations laid down for the general good. The police have become the ministers of a social despotism resolute in its watchful care and control of the whole community, well-meaning and paternal, although when carried to extreme length the tendency is to diminish self-reliance and independence in the individual. The police are necessarily in close relation with the state; they are the direct representatives of the supreme government, the servants of the Crown and legislature. In England every constable when he joins the force makes a declaration and swears that he will serve the sovereign loyally and diligently, and so acquires the rights and privileges of a peace officer of and for the Crown. The state employs police solely in the interests of the public welfare. No sort of espionage is attempted, no effort made to penetrate privacy; no claim to pry into the secret actions of law-abiding persons is or would be tolerated; the agents of authority must not seek information by underhand or unworthy means. In other countries the police system has been worked more arbitrarily; it has been used to check free speech, to interfere with the right of public meetings, and condemn the expression of opinion hostile to or critical of the ruling powers. An all-powerful police, minutely organized, has in some foreign states grown into a terrible engine of oppression and made daily life nearly intolerable. In England the people are free to assemble as they please; to march in procession through the streets, to gather in open spaces, to listen to the harangues, often forcibly expressed, of mob orators, provided always that no obstruction is caused or that no disorder or breach of the peace is threatened. The strength of the metropolitan police in 1908 was 18,167, comprising 32 superintendents, 572 inspectors, 2378 sergeants and 15,185 constables. At the head is a commissioner, appointed by the home office; he is assisted by four assistant commissioners, one of whom was appointed under the Police Act 1909, in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Metropolitan Police 1906, his duty especially being to deal with complaints made by the public against the police. The metropolitan police are divided into 21 divisions, to which letters of the alphabet are assigned for purposes of distinction. There is in addition the Thames division, recruited mostly from sailors, charged with the patrol of the river and the guardianship of the shipping. To the metropolitan police also are assigned the control and guardianship of the various naval dockyards and arsenals. The city of London has its own distinct police organization under a commissioner and assistant commissioner, and its functions extend over an area of 673 statute acres containing two courts of justice, those of the Guildhall and Mansion House, where the lord mayor and the aldermen are the magistrates. Although the area is comparatively small the rateable value is enormous. The force comprises 2 superintendents, 48 inspectors, 86 sergeants and 865 constables; also some 6o constables on private service duty. The total police force of England and Wales in 1908 was 30,376, almost equally divided between counties and boroughs; that of Scotland numbered 5575. In Ireland the Royal Irish Constabulary are a semi-military force, numbering over 10,500; they police the whole of Ireland, except the city of Dublin, which is under the Dublin metropolitan police, a particularly fine body. The most active and by no means the least efficient branch of the modern English police is that especially devoted to criminal investigation or the detection of crime. The detective is the direct descendant of the old " Bow Street runners " or " Robin Redbreasts "—so styled from their scarlet waistcoats—officers in attendance upon the old-fashioned police offices and despatched by the sitting magistrates to follow up any very serious crime in the interests of the public or at the urgent request of private persons. The " runners ' had disappeared when the police organization introduced by Sir Robert Peel came into force in 1829, and at first no part of the new force was especially attributed to the detection of crime. They were much missed, but fifteen years elapsed before Sir James Graham (then home secretary) decided to allot a few constables in plain clothes for that purpose as a tentative measure. The first " detectives " appointed numbered only a dozen, three inspectors and nine sergeants, to whom, however, six constables were shortly added as " auxiliaries," but the number was gradually enlarged as the manifest uses of the system became more and more obvious.
End of Article: POLICE (Fr. police, government, civil administration, a police force, Gr. sroXumeia, constitution, condition of a state, roars, city, state)
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