Scotland Yard -Mysterious and Efficient
History of English Police
In the seventeenth century during the reign of Charles II began the first semblance of a police force. At that time they were nicknamed “Charlies”, and their job was to patrol the streets at night armed with a rattle to attract attention and a cudgel if they saw a crime being committed. They were usually elderly men, to old for regular jobs, paid a shilling a night and were little more than watchman.
In 1749, the first real police force was formed. There were detectives called the famous “Bow Street Runners.” They were the forefathers of the modern metropolitan police force. There was an unpaid Westminster magistrate, Colonel Thomas de Veil, who pioneering the force and lined his pockets with bribes. He also carried out his own detective work without assistance.
Henry Fielding, the author of “Tom Jones” (1749), was insecure in his ability to make a living for his family by writing, and he was the next magistrate. However, the job paid 1000 pounds, which was a small fortune in those days. Six unpaid men except for rewards by citizens banded together to fight crime in the streets.
There number rose to 80 after only two years, and they were being called the “Bow Street runners” after the house on Bow Street where Henry Fielding lived. Henry Fielding died in 1754, and his job was taken by his half brother, John Fielding who went on to expand the police force to include foot patrol. He was responsible for starting a weekly journal called “Hue and Cry” that would later be named the “Police Gazette.” The runners had no uniforms until 1805.
Scotland Yard - The Beginning
Scotland Yard Breginning
No one is really sure why the name Great Scotland Yard was ultimately chosen but it may have to do with a diplomatic mission between Scotland and the Union of England prior to 1707, or that there was a street named Scot during the Middle Ages. Another theory states that is was a street used for stagecoaches. During the 17th century several government buildings were built and the poet,
John Milton lived there during the Commonwealth of England under the Oliver Cromwell’s rule. The staff at Scotland Yard was responsible for the protection of important individuals, public affairs, community patrols, recruitment and the management of personnel. The first plains clothes police were sent out in 1842, but the public wasn’t particularly comfortable with “spies” on the streets.
Over time the charisma of the officers helped win the trust of the community. Charles Dickens who occasionally accompanied constables on the street in their nightly rounds became friends with Inspector Charles Frederick Field and Dickens wrote “On Duty with Inspector Field.” Dickens used Fields as a role model for his charming Inspector Bucket in his novel “Bleak House.”
Sir Robert Peel
The Metropolitan Police was formed by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel with the implementation of the Metropolitan Police Act, passed by parliament in 1829
It was Sir Robert Peel that selected the original Scotland Yard for the new police headquarters. This is where the name “Bobbies” originated. Eventually they outgrew these headquarters and built on the Victoria Embankment, which overlooked the Thames River.
Scotland Yard: Famous Crimes
Some of the More Famous Cases
Frederick Porter Wensley (a.k.a. “The Weasel”) is one of the better known detectives around the turn of the century. His 40 year career starting in 1888, which was high lighted with many landmark cases. On the morning of November 2, 1917, the street sweepers found Emilienne Gerard, a 32-year old French woman, named the “Blodie Belgium” case. Wensley questioned her lover, Louis Voisin, asking him to write the message “Bloody Belgium.” Voisn made the same spelling error again, which sealed his fate as the murderer.
Earlier in Fredrick Wensley’s career he worked on the infamous "Jack the Ripper" case which almost dominated England’s East End. While building the new headquarters they found a dismembered torso of a female believed to have been a victim of the largely impoverished Whitechapel area murders perpetrated by “Jack the Ripper. The case was never solved.
Jack the Ripper was the self-proclaimed alias of the serial killer (or killers) responsible for 4 murders between the years of 1888-1891. He was also responsible for 11 attacks on prostitutes. The police did determine his pattern; he offered to pay for sex, then he would lure the women away and slice their throats.
Of course, there was no forensics at that time. Police depended on anthropometry (identifying criminals by certain facial features, such as jaw shape, eyes, etc.). More than 160 people were accused of the crime, ranging from the “Alice in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll to painter William Richard Sickert. Many letters were received from people claiming to be the killer and in fact, two gave detailed facts, and they were signed “Jack the Ripper.” However, the case was officially closed unsolved in 1892.
A blot on English history is Britain's "Bloody Sunday" riot, which occurred on November 13, 1887, when 2,000 police officers disrupted a meeting in Trafalgar Square organized by the Social Democratic Federation, resulting in more than 100 casualties. A pitched battle took place between police and many unskilled, unemployed workers at an open-air meeting. The press attacked the Metropolitan Police unfavorably as compared to the “City of London Police.”
New Scotland Yard
Beginning of Fingerprints
Sir Edward Henry is the one who devised a workable classification for fingerprints after work Sir Frances Galton had accomplished. Henry published his book “Classification of Fingerprints” in 1900. The fingerprint system were classified using a basic pattern, which is an arch, whorl or loop
In 1901, Henry was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Police at the new Scotland yard and began to facilitate his new fingerprint system. By 1902, they had 2000 sets of fingerprints on file. Within ten years his classification system was being widely used throughout the English speaking world
Scotland Yard has enjoyed a place in popular culture as the officers have appeared in popular fiction as characters of mysteries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are very popular. Of course, the Scotland Yard “bobbies” can be found standing stoically behind the royal family and other dignitaries
Recent Statistics for Scotland Yard
The New Scotland Yard grew from 1000 officers to about 13,000 in 1890. Further increases in the size and responsibilities of the force required even more administrators and in 1907, and again in 1940, further extensions were completed. Presently the newest Scotland Yard was built in 1967, at 10 Broadway.
Guns are illegal in England and their murder rate is 1/13 of the rate in the USA. Select officers (1750) are allowed to carry pistols, and they are used as backup units who have receive intensive training on marksmanship, and in discriminating among "dangerous criminals, deranged people and lads playing with air pistols". A poll of officers revealed that 79% prefer not to be armed with pistols.
The Metropolitan Police Service today is a very large organization with a complex command structure. There are 33 borough operational commands and various specialist units dedicated to reducing all aspects of serious crime.The Metropolitan Police employed 33,258 police officers, 2,988 Special Constables, 14,332 police staff and 4,520 Police Community Support Officers.
Scotland Yard Games
Recently, I read that the well known Scotland Yard building will be closed, and Scotland Yard offices will be moved to a new office just around the corner. We have seen this building in movies and tours for so many years that it will be an adjustment for employees, as well as, those people who are interested in this age old institution.
There has always been a bit of mystique about Scotland Yard. There have been numerous fictional books written with Scotland Yard as the backdrop. Of course, there is the movie previewed above and at least two Scotland Yard games. Their history is interesting, and the work they do today seems to be top of the line. There have been several newsworthy incidences where there involvement quickly solved the case.
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.