Monday, August 16, 2004

175 Years of the Metropolitan Police

The debate over policing and law & order provides a flimsy pretext valuable opportunity to have a quick look at the history of the Metropolitan Police.

As every schoolboy knows, the Met was founded in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel. How much power the new "police constables" (or "Berties") should have was a hot topic at the time. To begin with, they were authorised to issue stern rebukes for most crimes, generally speaking declaiming the miscreant for not being a good egg. For more serious offences, a strongly-worded letter might be written.

The deterrent effects of this approach were limited, and the early force had little impact on crime. A review in 1834 beefed up the police's powers to include occasional cuss words in serious situations. But still, some felt the force was a bit of a joke.

Incensed by the criticism, Peel replaced his new force with a 20,000-strong army of ninjas. Fast, silent and extremely deadly, these heavily armed assassins were a strong deterrent to wrongdoing. Crime fell heavily across the city, as did the population of certain boroughs.

The Metropolitan Ninja Army (or the "Ninj", as it became known) was, however, extremely unpopular and began to reflect badly on the government of the time. The mounting cost of Throwing Stars was also a problem. By 1839, the Berties were reintroduced after the city promised to be on its best behaviour.

Interestingly, though, no-one was brave enough to tell the ninjas that their services were no longer required, and their reign of terror in the East End continued until 1848, when they got a better pay offer from the city of Chicago.

This fascinating episode is the origin of the Met's motto "Cave Ninjarum" (Look out! Ninjas!).


Blogger Dave said...

I thought their motto was "Carpe Melem"

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That explains a lot

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