Who ‘invented’ the police?
The police evolved from an organised, uniformed group of men who were employed in mid 18th century in London, England, to catch criminals. They were called the ‘Bow Street Runners’ because they operated from the Magistrate’s Court in Bow Street in London.
In 1829 a politician called Sir Robert Peel took over control of the ‘Runners’ and formed the London Metropolitan Police Force. In those days police constables were often called ‘Peelers’ after Sir Robert Peel. Even today police officers are sometimes referred to as ‘Bobbies’ because Bobby is a diminutive of the name Robert.
Soon after 1829 Sir Robert’s Metropolitan Police Force was copied by nearly all the important cities in the United Kingdom and since then many countries all over the world have adopted the practice of having a police force.
What do the Police do?
Apart from arresting criminals, policing Britain also involves investigating crimes, both large and small, keeping the peace, controlling riots and civil unrest, directing lost tourists, dealing with domestic violence, clearing up car accidents, detaining drunk drivers, dealing with property found in the street, arranging for stolen items to be returned to their owners, dealing with the victims of crime, regulating crowds at football matches – the list goes on and on! The general aim is not only to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals but also to prevent crime by raising public awareness of the types of crimes people may be susceptible to – advising members of the public about how to protect their cars, their homes, their property and themselves. Ultimately the police are there to prevent crime from happening at all, if possible!
When a person joins the police in England he or she swears allegiance to the Queen, not the government (although the Home Secretary is responsible for the police) and swears to serve the public (i.e. to work for the people, not against them).
What is a Police State?
A Police State is one in which the police force may be secret. It is controlled by the government and it carries out the orders of the politicians. Living in a Police State means that your freedom is limited and often the right to free speech does not exist. You may not be free to travel around and it may be risky to express opinions if they conflict with those of the government. The police in a Police State work for the government, not the people.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. The police evolved from an organised, uniformed group of men who were employed in mid 18th century London, England, to __________ criminals.
2. In 1829 a politician called Sir Robert Peel __________ over control of the ‘Runners’ and formed the London Metropolitan Police Force.
3. Soon after 1829 Sir Robert’s Metropolitan Police Force was copied by nearly all the __________ cities in the United Kingdom.
4. Policing Britain also involves investigating crimes, both large and small, keeping the peace, controlling riots and civil unrest, directing lost tourists, and dealing with domestic __________.
5. Apart from arresting criminals, the Police in Britain also arrange for stolen __________ to be returned to their owners.
6. Living in a Police State __________ that your freedom is limited.
For use with Talking Point worksheets
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