I’ve said it once or twice, but I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to learn from Constable Richard Watson (the picture above). Just in time, I might add, because he is retiring this year! He is well known in London, so well that him and his wife received a personal invite to the Trooping of the Colour. Which for those reading that don’t know is a celebration for the Queen’s birthday.
On Thursday May 14th we went to the Metropolitan Police (Met) Mini Museum. There we learned the history and development of the Police and their uniforms. Technically beginning in the 17th century with “Watchmen”. “Watchmen” were paid to guard gates of cemeteries and patrol the streets at night. In the 18th century because of social changes “Watchmen” were no longer sufficient. And so in 1829 Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police Service, officers were then called “Peeler’s” and “Bobbies”, to me these are funny names, obviously created to give credit to Sir Robert Peel. Ten years later all police in London, except ironically the City of London Police, were under Met control.
The picture below is of me holding Sir Robert Peel’s cane, and again Constable Watson behind me.
How freaking cool is that?! Seriously.
In 1829 training to become a Met Police Officer took only twenty days, believe that?! 20 days!! Below the first picture is of the first Instruction Book issued to all officers. Tiny isn’t it? Below that one is a picture, kind of blurry, of the obviously improved Instruction Book issued in 1939. Now that’s more like it!!
We were shown the first uniform, and things that were distributed to the paid “bobbies”. Things like hang cuffs with a key that you had turn about 8 times to lock; the first wooden truncheon; and the “Rattles” they used to make noise to get the attention of those around, when you heard this noise you were required to join the chase of the criminal, in 1885 those were replaced by a whistle. Let me tell you it is loud and would get the job done. In the mid-1960’s those were replaced by the first radio, many complained about the size and weight, I held one!! I was also lucky and got to use their first form of the siren, it was NOT easy and extremely loud. I had to use all my might. Imagine the grief I received from that, hahah!!
Below is a picture of some of the first uniform Jacket’s. (I apologize for the glare.)
Now let's talk about us females! Women were finally invited to join the Metropolitan Police in 1919 beginning with only 25 recruits to fill spots of men drafted by the army. However they were not given a uniform nor handcuffs and had no power of arrest until 1923. Instead their duties consisted of caring for females, juveniles and children. Today there are over 8,000 women officers and they perform the same duties as the males.
Below is a picture of the changes in the women uniform over the years. The dates are kind of blurry starting in 1919 all the way to 2003.
While there I was introduced to the idea of a Police Box. Police Boxes were used between 1929 and 1970 to provide shelter for officer’s in bad weather and held a public telephone, there was a light on the top that let the officer’s know they were needed. The personal radio and the domestic telephone pushed the boxes out and by 1970 they were all removed.
Something else I learned while visiting was that here in London they use the 999 service, which is the oldest emergency telephone service in the world, but 911 works also, for us visiting Americans, “in-case you cannot remember 999” Constable Watson joked.
In addition I had the chance to see police notes on Jack the Ripper case! That was COOL!
This was definitely one of my most favorite stops! I learned so much!