1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Police

POLICE (Fr. police, government, civil administration, a police force, Gr. πολιτεία, constitution, condition of a state, πόλις, 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 roads, footpads infested the streets, burglaries were of constant 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 headboroughs. 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 1808, 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 m. 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 preserving 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 way 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, replacing 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 that 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 60 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 pait 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.

Other Countries.—British India is divided into police districts,. the general arrangements of the system of the regular police, which dates from the disappearance of the East India Company, resembling in most respects those of the English police, but differing in details in the different presidencies. All are in uniform,. trained to the use of firearms and drilled, and may be called upon to perform military duties. The superior officers are nearly all Europeans and many of them are military officers. The rest are natives, in Bombay chiefly Mahommedans. The organization of the police was not dealt with by the criminal code which came into force in 1883, but the code is full of provisions tending to make the force efficient. By that code as well as by the former code the police have a legal sanction for doing what by practice they do in England; they take evidence for their own information and guidance in the investigation of cases and are clothed with the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and question them. The smallness of the number of European magistrates, and other circumstances, make the police more important and relatively far more powerful in India than in England (Stephen). The difficulties in the way of ascertaining the truth and investigating false statements and suppressed cases are very great. As regards the rural police of India every village headman and the village watchman as well as the village police office are required by the code to communicate to the nearest magistrate or the officer in charge of the nearest police station, whichever is nearest, any information respecting offenders. On the whole the system is very efficient. The police, which has numerous duties over and above those of the prevention and detection of crime, greatly aids a government so paternal as that of India in keeping touch with the widely extended masses of the population.

France.—It is a matter of history that under Louis XIV., who created the police of Paris, and in succeeding times, the most unpopular and unjustifiable use was made of police as a secret instrument for the purposes of despotic government. Napoleon availed himself largely of police instruments, especially through his minister Fouche. On the restoration of constitutional government under Louis Philippe, police action was less dangerous, but the danger revived under the second empire. The ministry of police, created by the act of the Directory in 1796, was in 1818 suppressed as an independent office, and in 1852 it was united with the ministry of the interior. The regular police organization, which preserves order, checks evil-doing, and "runs in" malefactors, falls naturally and broadly into two grand divisions, the administrative and the active, the police "in the office" and the police "out of doors." The first attends to the clerical business, voluminous and incessant. An army of clerks in the numerous bureaus, hundreds of patient government employes, the ronds de cuir, as they are contemptuously called, because they sit for choice on round leather cushions, are engaged constantly writing and filling in forms for hours and hours, day after day. The active army of police out of doors, which constitutes the second half of the whole machine, is divided into two classes: that in uniform and that in plain clothes. Every visitor to Paris is familiar with the rather theatrical-looking policeman, in his short frock-coat or cape, smart kepi cocked on one side of his head, and with a sword by his side. The first is known by the title of agent, sergent de ville, gardien de la pain, and is a very useful public servant. He is almost invariably an old soldier, a sergent who has left the army with a first-class character, honesty and sobriety being indispensable qualifications.

These uniformed police are not all employed in the streets and arrondissements, but there is a large reserve composed of the six central brigades, as they are called, a very smart body of old soldiers, well drilled, well dressed and fully equipped; armed, moreover, with rifles, with which they mount guard when employed as sentries at the doors or entrance of the prefecture. In Paris argot the men of these six central brigades are nicknamed "vaisseaux" (vessels), because they carry on their collars the badge of the city of Paris—an ancient ship—while the sergeants in the town districts wear only numbers, their own individual number, and that of the quarter in which they serve. These vaisseaux claim to be the elite of the force; they come in daily contact with the Gardes de Paris, horse and foot, a fine corps of city gendarmerie, and, as competing with them, take a particular pride in themselves. Their comrades in the quarters resent this pretension and declare that when in contact with the people the vaisseaux make bad blood by their arrogance and want of tact. The principal business of four at least of these central brigades is to-be on call when required to reinforce the out-of-door police at special times.

Of the two remaining central brigades one controls public carriages, the other the Halles, the great central market by which Paris is provided with a large part of its food. Every cab-stand is under the charge of its own policeman, who knows the men, notes their arrival and departure, and marks their general behaviour. Other police officers of the central brigades superintend the street traffic.

So much for the police in uniform. That in plain clothes, en bourgeois, as the French call it, is not so numerous, but fulfils a higher, or at least a more confidential mission. Its members are styled inspectors, not agents, and their functions fall under four principal heads. There is, first of all, the service of the Sûreté—in other words, of public safety—the detective department, employed entirely in the pursuit and capture of criminals; next comes the police, now amalgamated with the Surete, that watches over the morals of the capital and possesses arbitrary powers under the existing laws of France; then there is the brigade de garnis, the police charged with the supervision of all lodging-houses, from the commonest "sleep-sellers'" shop, as it is called, to the grandest hotels. Last of all there is the brigade for enquiries, whose business it is to act as the eyes and ears of the prefecture.

The pay of the gardiens de la pain is from 1400 to 1700 francs; brigadiers get 2000 francs; sous-brigadiers 1800 francs; officiers de pain 3000 to 6000 francs. The proportion of police to inhabitants is one in 352.

Germany.—Taking the Berlin force as illustrative of the police system in the German Empire, police duties are as various as in France; the system includes a political police, controlling all matters relating to the press, societies, clubs and public and social amusements. Police duties are carried out under the direction of the royal police presidency, the executive police force comprising a police colonel, with, besides commissaries of criminal investigations, captains, lieutenants, acting-lieutenants, sergeant-majors and a large body of constables (schutzmanner). It is, computed that the proportion of population to police in Berlin is between 350 and 400 to each officer. The pay of the police is principally provided from fiscal sources and varies in an ascending scale from 1125 marks and lodging allowance for the lowest class of constable.

Austria.—Taking Vienna in the same way as illustrative of the Austrian police, it is to be observed that there are three branches: (1) administration; (2) public safety and judicial police; and (3) the government police. At the head of the police service in Vienna there is a president of police and at the head of each of the three branches there is an Oberpolizeirath or chief commissary. The head of the government branch sometimes fills the office of president. Each of the branches is subdivided into departments, at the head of which are Polizeirathe. Passing over the subdivisions of the administrative branch, the public safety and judicial branch includes the following departments: the office for public safety, the central inquiry office and the record or Evidenzbureau. The government police branch comprises three departments: the government police office, the press office, and the Vereinsbureau or office for the registration of societies. The proportion of police constables to the inhabitants is one to 436.

Belgium.—In Belgian municipalities the burgomasters are the heads of the force, which is under their control. The administrator of public safety is, however, specially under the minister of justice, who sees that the laws and regulations affecting the police are properly carried out, and he can call on all public functionaries to act in furtherance of that object. The administrator of public safety is specially charged with the administration of the law in regard to aliens, and this law is applied to persons stirring up sedition. The duty of the gendarmerie, who constitute the horse and foot police, is generally to maintain internal order and peace. In Brussels as elsewhere the burgomaster is the head, but for executive purposes there is a chief commissary (subject, however, to the orders of the burgomaster), with assistant commissaries, and commissaries of divisions and other officers and central and other bureaus, with a body of agents (police constables) in each.

There are two main classes of police functions recognized by law, the administrative and the judicial police, the former engaged in the daily maintenance of peace and order and so preventing offences, the latter in the investigation of crime and tracing offenders; but the duties are necessarily performed to a great extent by the same agents. The two other functions of the judicial police are, however, limited to the same classes of officers, and they perform the same duties as in Paris—the law in practice there being expressly adopted in Brussels.

In Switzerland, which is sometimes classed with Belgium as among the least-policed states of Europe, the laws of the cantons vary. In some respects they are stricter than in Belgium or even in France. Thus a permis de sejour is sometimes required where none is in practice necessary in Paris or Brussels.

Russia was till lately the most police-ridden country in the world; not even in France in the worst days of the monarchy were the people so much in the hands of the police. To give some idea of the wide-reaching functions of the police, the power assumed in matters momentous and quite insignificant, we may quote from the list of circulars issued by the minister of the interior to the governors of the various provinces during four recent years. The governors were directed to regulate religious instruction in secular schools, to prevent horse-stealing, to control subscriptions collected for the holy places in Palestine, to regulate the advertisements of medicines and the printing on cigarette papers, to examine the quality of quinine soap and overlook the cosmetics and other toilet articles—such as soap, starch, brillantine, tooth-brushes and insect-powder—provided by chemists. They were to issue regulations for the proper construction of houses and villages, to exercise an active censorship over published price-lists and printed notes of invitation and visiting cards, as well as seals and rubber stamps. All private meetings and public gatherings, with the expressions of opinion and the class of subjects discussed, were to be controlled by the police.

The political or state police was the invention of Nicholas I. Alexander I. had created a ministry of the interior, but it was Nicholas who devised the second branch, which he designed for his own protection and the security of the state. After the insurrection of 1865, he created a special bulwark for his defence, and invented that secret police which grew into the notorious "Third Section" of the emperor's own chancery, and while it lasted, was the most dreaded power in the empire. It was practically supreme in the state, a ministry independent of all other ministries, placed quite above them and responsible only to the tsar himself.

United States.—The organization of police forces in the United States differs more or less in the different states of the Union. As a rule the force in cities is under municipal control, but to this rule there are numerous exceptions. In Boston, for instance, the three commissioners at the head of the force are appointed by the governor of Massachusetts. The force in New York City, alike from the standpoint of numbers and of the size and character of the city, is the most important in the United States. It included in 1910 a commissioner appointed by the mayor and exercising a wide range of authority; four deputy commissioners; a chief inspector, who has immediate charge of the force and through whom all orders are issued; he is assisted by 18 inspectors, who are in charge of different sections of the city, and who carry out the orders of the chief; 87 captains, each of whom is in direct charge of a precinct; 583 sergeants; and last of all, the ordinary policemen, or patrolmen, as they are often called from the character of their duties. There is a separate branch, the detective bureau, composed of picked men, charged with the investigation and, still more, the prevention of crime. The total number of patrol men in 1909 was 8562. Appointments are for life, with pensions in case of disability and after a given number of years of service.

Literature.—Patrick Colquhoun, Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (1796); Pierre Clement, La Police sous Louis XIV. (1866); Maxime Du Camp, Paris, ses organes, ses fonctions et sa vie (1869–1875); Dr Norman Chevers, Indian Medical Jurisprudence (Calcutta, 1870); A. T. Crawford, Reminiscences of an Indian Police Official (1894); C. R. W. Hervey, Records of Indian Crime (1892); Arthur Griffiths, Mysteries of Police and Crime (1903); Captain W. L. Melville Lee, A History of Police in England (Methuen, 1901); Sidney and Beatrice Webb, English Local Government (Longmans, 1906–1908); article by H. B. Simpson, “The Office of Constable,” in the English Historical Review (October 1895); F. W. Maitland, Justice and Police (Macmillan, 1885); L. F. Fuld, Police Administration (New York, 1910).  (A. G.)