The City of London has its own police; a body, though distinct, not altogether dissimilar to that already described as doing duty in Westminster; their attendance is both day and night, but is entirely under an arrangement peculiar to the City, and to its protection only it is confined. The City police is under the control of a chief commissioner (who sits daily at Guildhall), to whom complaint may be made in any case of misconduct upon the part of its officers.
Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844
THE CITY OF LONDON POLICE
THE charge of the wealthiest centre of the business and bustle of the world
is no light responsibility, and it is greatly to the credit of the Corporation
of the City of London that so little is heard upon the subject. Citizens
have come to take the comparative security of their persons and property, with
the regulation of the traffic in overcrowded thoroughfares, as simple matters of
course. Indeed, so general is the indifference, or what may be called the
ingratitude, that I believe many people of intelligence are ignorant that the
City has a police of its own, altogether apart from the metropolitan force. Yet,
as a matter of fact, the City police has arrived at pretty nearly the perfection
of efficiency, although there may be minor details of organisation in which
there is till room for improvement. The 'Saturday Review' does not always sin on
the side of charity, where it is a question of criticising our public
institutions. Yet some four or five years ago, a writer in the 'Saturday'
admitted that "the police administration of the City is as nearly perfect in
every respect as anything human can be." Since then it is safe to say that
the force has in no degree deteriorated; in fact, gentlemen in the City, who are
best able to form an opinion, maintain that at the present moment it is more
efficient and reliable than ever.
We are apt to take present mercies as matters of course; while we are slow to appreciate the advances and reforms which have made life far easier and infinitely more agreeable. There are grumblers always ready to swear by "the good old times," though as Dickens showed in one of the brightest of his articles in 'Household Words,' those good old times, being phantoms of the fancy, fade away into the ages of the myth before the philosophical inquirer. And that is emphatica1ly the case when we come to inquire into the past history of London. We need not go back to the days when the train-bands were called out to keep order in moments of emergency; when the prentice rose in emeutes to their rallying word of "Clubs"; when the sanctuaries swarmed with ruffians, always ready to make raids on law-abiding folk who had money in their pockets. Scott has described it all in his 'Fortunes of Nigel'. Nor need we go back to the times when the streets were scoured by the Mohocks, hot from their nightsuppers in the taverns of Covent Garden, who cheerily knocked honest wayfarers out of sense and time, and playfully trundled decent women down the steeps in empty sugar-hogsheaas. Less than one hundred years ago, when George III. had been long on the throne, the state of things was still as bad as might be. We have it all given categorically in the evidence of Townsend, the famous Bow Street runner, who spoke out under examination before a Parliamentary Committee with a blunt candour which says much for his honesty and independence. His memory, which must have been singularly retentive, went back to 1780. And we have a clue to the non-efficiency of the feeble police by the character he gives to the magistrates. Corruption in one shape or another was universal, and impecunious innocence could hope for neither justice nor protection. The police of the metropolis was administered from behind an impenetrable veil; there was no check on its proceedings, either from a press or public opinion; while it was the interest of all officials, from the magistrate down to the turnkeys of the prisons, to obtain the greatest number of convictions upon any terms. The consciences of men in the most responsible positions had been hopelessly blunted. The magistrate, who was either unpaid or poorly paid, must make a living somehow. The streets were periodically swept, as Townsend says, of "poor devils" of vagrants, who were run in and bailed out for trifling sums, which nevertheless mounted up handsomely in the aggregate. Things were not quite so bad as in the time of Jonathan Wild, who handed over the criminals who were his confederates when he pleased, and enriched himself by resetting and blood-money while drawing regular pay as a thief-taker. But they were bad enough in all conscience. About the year 1800, in the notorious case of Vaughan, it was proved that one of the most trusted officers of the Corporation was in collusion with criminals and informers. Townsend tells us that there were veteran thief-catchers who made a trade of convicting innocent men and women for the sake of the rewards that had been offered under certain recent statutes. It was easier to swear away an innocent life than to lay hands on a dangerous highwayman or footpad, who probably paid black-mail out of the proceeds of his industry, and swaggered in gold lace about the taverns of the town, as if fern-seed had made him invisible The heaths and commons of Hounslow, Wimbledon, and Finchley were of specially infamous celebrity; but it was hazardous to venture out after nightfall so far as the site of the present Apsley House. Townsend declares that there had been some dozen of daring robberies by mounted highwaymen in the suburbs in a single week. The highwaymen were pretty promptly put down by the establishment of Sir Richard Ford's horse-patrol; but when they had to part with their horses, they shought a living on foot, and the metropolis and the still richer "City" swarmed more than ever with footpads. Those ruffians lounged about the narrow thoroughfares watching for opportunities and lurked in the shadows of the dark corners. The forces to cope with them were the parochial watchmen or "Charleys," who were generally aged and often decrepit; while the men told off to track the authors of any special crime were the red-waistcoated Bow Street runners, who, according to Townsend, were frequently venal, and who were always very much their own masters. And Dr. Colquhoun, in his suggestive and very interesting volumes on the land and the river police, published in 1800, confirms all the evidence given by Townsend. He goes into detail, besides, as to various nefarious practices, which show there is nothing new under the sun. He talks of the "confidence trick," though then it was called "coney-catching," and proves that all organisation was on the side of crime, so that felons, thieves, and burglars had every possible facility and encouragement. There were receivers who did a safe and lucrative business, passing on the stolen goods to brokers or dealers with a connection, in which they disposed of them at leisure. Furnaces fitted with crucibles or melting-pots were kept continually alight, to transmute silver plate into indistinguishable ingots. While there was a daring organised piracy on the river, which kept shipowners and honest supercargoes in perpetual anxiety, and not without good reason. There were gangs of "light-horsemen," "heavy-horsemen," and "game lightermen"who boarded the wealthy West Indiamen and other vessels, either to unload or on other plausible pretexts, and having perquisites to which custom entitled them, and being in league with dishonest mates plundered to an extent almost incredible.
Indeed volumes might be written on the romance of crime, previous to wise reforms in the criminal law, the appointment of upright magistrates with good salaries, and systematic surveillance by a respectable and well-disciplined police. For severity, which was terribly capricious, did nothing to check offences; on the contrary, it seem to have made the lawless classes more reckless. They became familiarised with the horrors of a public execution, which, when the culprit "died game" amid the cheers of the mob, was considered honourable rather than shameful. Criminals were strung up of a Monday by batches before Newgate; and there was much profitable pocket-picking in the crowds gathered under the gallows. But it is by looking back on that disgraceful state of things, that we find good reason to be grateful to the present guardians of the public safety. We owe much to their vigilance, as they must rely very much on their prestige. It is almost startling to reflect on the handful of disciplined men told off to hold in check a whole host of criminals and of roughs, who are ready for anything. Experienced officers know very well many of their most formIdable antagonists by head-mark. Could carte blanche sbe given to the police by an autocratic Ministry of Justice, London might be purged in a week of its most dangerous malefactors; and it is probable that little injustice would be done by an issue of democratic lettres de cachet. As it is, the officers of justice must be content to bide their time, and to note down for future use the results of vigilant observation. Then in merely keeping order, as they did the other day among the masses assembled for the laying the foundation of the new Tower bridge, were it not for tact and good temper, with the consciousness on one side and the other of an invisible power in the background, the constabulary scattered about on duty would be powerless. They could do nothing against a suddenly organised movement at any point; for, carrying nothing but their batons, they are practically without defence. Happily there is no solidarity in the mobs, and that sort of improvised onset is not to be dreaded. It is only the skilled outlaws who form "inner rings," and conduct their operations by syndicates, though with unlimited liability. The helmet and the blue frock-coat strike terror to the lawless rough, who sees behind them probabilities of the police office and prison, with possibilities of seclusion, with hard labour, at Portland. So each individual officer preserves his serenity in a crowd, strong in selfconfidence, and in the esprit de corps; though he knows that when doing night-duty on his solitary beat, he may at any moment be the object of a savage onslaught.
Thus the preservation of the prestige of the force is a matter of the first importance; aud consequently, such an event as that of some months ago, when the mob for many hours had the West End at their mercy, may cost society much more than the immediate mischief. Should the hydra-headed monster once begin to realise his own brute strength, he will be more ready to use teeth and claws on occasion. Fortunately the roughs have little instruction and short memories, or the rare precedents of successful disorder would be more disastrous. But the most experienced police officers will tell you, that they have never altogether recovered the effects of that riot, when the mob, under the leadership of Mr Edmund Beales and his friends, broke down the Hyde Park railings.
The real story as told by a high police official who happened to be an eyewitness, though he had no command, is a very curious one, and suggestive besides. Standing on one of those "Island of the Blessed, "-the refuges at the crossings - the crowd of Mr Beales's lawless following came surging and swaying all around him. A group of small street arabs had perched themselves on the top-rail of the iron gratings some distance to the west of the Marble Arch, the gates of which were closed, the police being massed in force behind them. The railings gave way under the weight of the boys, and fell inwards, leaving an open breach of thirty feet, of which the police were unaware till they found themselves outflanked. What is notable is, that the first idea of the excited mob was to beat a hasty retreat after that involuntary damage had been done. Half a dozen of policemen under a superintendent on the spot would have cleared Park Lane, and changed the fortune of the day. But the police, for the moment, knew nothing of what had happened, and the mob, finding it had fled when no man pursued, returned in the might of its masses. A great victory was gained over the law, and the general in command of the successful insurgents was made a county judge by Mr Gladstone's Government. Accident of the kind cannot alway be guarded against; but the lesson is one to be laid to heart. Let the roughs feel themselves in the presence of a superior power, of which the helmeted individual before them is the symbol, and there is little danger of actual riot, except under extreme excitement. The real and everyday responsibilities of the police begin when they have to deal with the rascals who live by their wits, and who are always on the watch for opportunities. And these are subdivided into an infinityof classes. From the gentlemanly and cultivated swindlers, who deliberately devise some grand financial coup, through the skilled "cracksmen," thoroughly versed in the practical mechanics of burglary, down to the children who snatch a trifle from a stall, or filch a handkerchief hanging out of a pocket.
The actual area of the City is very small, as compared to what for police purpose is denominated the metropolis. The district under charge of the metropolitan police is no less than thirty miles in diameter, and embraces a superficial extent of about even hundred square miles, while the City and its liberties only cover a single square mile. But no other square mile in the world is the centre of business interests so important, or contains such a mass of valuable property, in the shape of bullion, cash, and convertible securities. The area of the City is merely a mile; but there are about fifty miles of streets to be patrolled, and many of them during the daytime are crowded to excess; while after business hours they are relatively deserted. Banks, warehouses, and offices are locked up, or left in the care of a solitary watchman or housekeeper. Nevertheless, even of a night, some 50,000 sou]s are supposed to sleep in the City, which, after all, is coniderably more than Wthe population of many a flourishing provincial town. The metropolitan district has a population of some four millions; and including the business men who come up from their suburban or country residences, it may be said to send all its adults into the City each working day. In other words, there is a daily influx of about a million chiefly of busy men. The rising tide of incessant traffic must be directed, especially where it comes in rushes or breaks into eddies, a at the great railway stations or on the bridge, - about the Bank, the Mansion House, or the Stock Exchange. While at that scramble through the thoroughfares, or in the crushes at the crossing, thieves and pickpockets are perpetually on the watch. Thus even in the daylight the policeman's duties are no sinecure. He is stopping an omnibus or beckoning a cab to advance; he is gallantly escorting a nervous old lady on the way to draw her dividends; or he is saving a party of decent country-folk from self-destruction, when they have lost their heads and are meditating a desperate dash among the wheels. Yet, all the time, he may be trying to keep an eye on his familiar acquaintances, who if they had their rights, and in the interests of their fellow-citizens, should be safe in one of the prisons under lock and key
It is needless to say that the duties of the night-watch are more onerous and more responsible. Should a night-constable make a mistake or be guilty of the slightest oversight, there is always the chance of his hearing of it, for prima facie, any robbery or burglary will be attributed to fhe negligence of the man on the beat. Of course he is carefully trained and the first virtues inculcated upon him are patience, perseverance, and vigilance. At his best, he should be the model of intelligent routine. The night-constable is sent on his eight-hours' watch at ten o'clock. Slowly patrolling a street of shops or warehouses like Cheapside or Cannon Street, his first business is to look carefully to all the fastenings. Wind, wet, or snow, it is all the same; he flashes his lantern on each bolt and padlock. When he sees any fastening insecure, he puts a private mark upon it, and make a note in his memory as well. He pays special attention to the weak point through the night, and reports the matter next day to his superiors, who will communicate with the owner of the premises. Reports of such cases of neglect on the part of the owners or the servant are very common. As a rule, however, premises properly secured are never tampered with from the outside. Robberies are perpetrated, either by collusion with the persons in charge or far more frequently by a confederate of the thieves having succeeded in secreting himself before the closing for the night. From which it follows that when house-owners are robbed, they may generally blame their own negligence. Each night the building should be searched - before the doors are secured. There are two entrances, at least, to most of the great offices or warehouses. The door that are locked from the inside may be pronounced impregnable: if the place is to be forced at all, it is by that which is fastened on the outside. And the surest fastening on the outside is a strong metal strap or band over the inner lock, with a stronger padlock of intricate mechanism.
Yet the most careful precautions will not always avail against confederated thieves directed by superior intelligence. Now and then the enterprise of an erratic genius will give useful hints to the capitalists and their locksmiths. One of the most remarkable instances of the kind, was that of the chief of a band of burglars, arrested and convicted about twenty years ago. " Scottie," not without much natural pride in his professional ingenuity, after his conviction made full confession. His system, like that of most successful schemers, was as bold as it was simple. He set himself to attack the padlocks which secure those strong metal bands of which I have spoken. To pick them on the spot was difficult or impossible. On the other hand, by placing women on the watch, the fastenings might be tampered with in the interval of the policeman passing on the beat after his first satisfactory examination. The padlock was quickly removed by breaking the catch of the hasp with a small "jemmy," and replaced by one similar in size and appearance. During the night the intricate work were extracted, so that it could be opened by its own or any common key. Then the hasp was neatly repaired, and the lock returned to its place, before the arrival of the owners of the premises in the morning. Thus the buqdars, being masters of the situation, might enter the place at their leisure. No fewer than twenty-seven doors had been so "doctored," when the gang came to sudden grief over a grand preliminary enterprise. They had been laying siege, "unbeknown" to the proprietor and the police, to the shop of a watchmaker in Lombard Street. By their quiet method of manipulating doors, they had made their way into an office on the upper floor, visiting it repeatedly without detection. Finally, after close examination of the premises, they forced their entrance into the watchmaker's from below, and from a tailor's shop at the side. They carried off a quantity of watches and jewellery; but fortunately for the twenty-seven gentlemen whose padlocks had been tampered with, in prudence they suspended operations after that coup, though nevertheless they were followed up and arrested. And to show the cool deliberation with which they had gone to work, "Scottie" mentioned that, having fitted a false key to it from the first, they had been in the habit of regularly investigating the safe up-stairs. As there was little in it to tempt them, they waited till they had robbed the watchmaker, when they took their chance of what happened to be in the safe and cleared it out. Nowadays there are said to be few regular receivers in London. Stolen property of value which is capable of identification is sent out of the country. It is sometimes consigned to Holland, but more generally to Paris. To cope with crafty criminal like "Scottie" and his followers, the police as a body must be both shrewd and quick-witted - though individuals who are recruited primarily for their thews and sinews may be stolid or stupid. But what strikes us most, perhaps, is the amount of principle and self-control exacted of each individual for a very moderate wage. Tht private soldier is the ordinary policeman's nearest parallel; and the private soldier can keep a creditable character by resisting temptations that are common to all men. If he yields to a love of liquor, and goes drunk upon duty or parade, so much the worse for him; but he is seldom beset by offers of free drink, and never approached when on guard with blandishments or bribery. Should a man enter the police in place of taking the shilling, he comes out at once in an official character, and it is the interest of many people to "square" or corrupt him. There are "Scotties" who would pay him handsomely to shut his eyes un occasion, though advances of the kind are the exception. But any night he might have liquor to any amount from publicans who should shut up at regulation hours; and the keepers of disorderly houses can still better afford to be lavish. Each individual policeman may not be an anchorite or absolutely irreproachable for we cannot forget some recent disclosures as to the metropolitan force. But his conduct must be generally exemplary, since he is seldom convicted of offences: and there is no concealing the fact of being disguised in drink from the eyes of the sharp-sighted sergeant or inspector. Yet even with the possibility of the inspector coming round the corner at any moment, the policemen of the rank and file strike us as so many obscure St Anthonys. The saint, who may have been constitutionally cold, has gained immortal credit for his resisting the fascinations of beauty. He felt all the time that a single slip meant nothing less than eternal damnation. . While the ignorant policeman has never been taught that ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute. What can be more natural than that in a cold or blustering night he should toss down a single glass of strong water, which would have as little effect on his brain as if he had emptied the glass upon the pavement? But if he once broke out in that way he would never pull up till he had compromised his character and forfeited his place. So it is logically evident that the force is to be trusted in the population of publicans and ratepayers who have a personal interest in demoralising it. These men may be kept straight to a certain extent by the constant though spasmodic surveillance of their officers. But "quis custodiet custodes" Who looks after the non-commissioned officers? Not certainly their commissioned superiors, who, nowadays at least, make it a rule of never trying to spy upon their subordinates. The only material guarantees for their integrity and incorruptibility are in the advantageous prospects accruing with long service, and these appear to be sufficient.
Nevertheless it is clear that much discrimination is requisite in recruiting the privates, though of course they are taken on trial, and may summarily be dismissed for any shortcomings. It is absolutely indispensable that they should come up to a certain physical standard. They must not merely be sound in wind and limb, but must be tall and muscular, broad-chested and square-shouldered. Next they must, have a certain amount of education, with a view to subsequent promotion; they must be able to read and write and cipher; and if they show any special talent for precis writing and reporting evidence, so much the better. Consequently they are submitted to a searching examination, both as to their physical and mental qualifications. But moral character is of even more essential importance, and that can only be fairly tested after a trial in the force. Good testimonials will necessarily go a long way; but in the absence of these, there are general assumptions, from which vague though tolerably satisfactory deductions may be drawn. Strange to say, soldiers presenting themselves with more than creditable antecedents are by no means welcome. It is found that they have been so broken to drill and discipline, that they have been taught to hang upon the bit and the reins. Turn them out upon the streets as their own temporary masters, and they are almost certain to stumble and break neck or knees. While, on the other hand, a large proportion of the accepted volunteers come from the ranks of the strong and well-disciplined railway porters. Almost certainly these are men of sound physique, while they have been trained under the inspection of sharp superintendents, as their manners have been ameliorated by the expectation of tips and softened by well-remunerated attention's to the fair sex.
When once a man has been enlisted, he is trained chiefly by hope, but partly by fear. As we shall see, the prospects of advancement are good, depending entirely on steadiness and perseverance in well-doing; and he can count on the pension after retirement, for which his pay is laid under contribution. But punishments for any indiscretion, ingeniously flexible as they may be arbitrarily crushing, may blight his prospects. In fact, his chief and the deputy-chief have him practically at their discretion. The Chief Commissioner, for any offence whatever, may inflict an apparently trivial punishment. The fortnightly holiday may simply be stopped for a month or six weeks,- apparently no very great hardship. But then any penalty inflicted by the Chief Commissioner on a first-class constable sends a man back to the bottom of the second class, which may involve a forfeiture of three and a half years' service in the second class before it comes to his turn to be reinstated. And the being sent down to the foot of the second class is really being degraded to the bottom of the regular force; for each man is passed on from the third class to the second, if he has satisfactorily served through the probation of a single year. On the other hand, and in the Chief Commissioner"s absence, it is the Chief Superintendent who tries and condemns. Should he pass sentence in his own character, the punishment is literally interpreted,- in other words, the culprit forfeits so many holidays or so much pay. But should the sentence be signed as acting Chief Commissioner, the possible consequences of a three and a half years' degradation are involved. It need scarcely be said that the exercise of such summary power can only be confided to men of proved temper and judgment.
All that brings us to the constitution of the force as it exists at present, and which may be said virtually to date from the appointment of Sir James Fraser, the present Chief Commissioner. At the same time, great credit is due to the Corporation, which, having been fortunate in finding an admirable head for their executive, had the good sense to leave his hands absolutely unfettered. The Corporation delegates many of its powers to a Police Committee, selected by the Common Council, and consisting of eighty members. The committee keeps a vigilant eye on, and takes pride in the efficiency of, the force, for which it makes liberal provision out of ample means. And as long experience ha confirmed its confidence in it Chief Commissioner, it has alway lent a ready ear to his suggestion for promoting the wellbeing of the force. It votes pension or allowances, on his suggestion, for disabled, invalided, or superannuated men, and it has carried out the hospital arrangements with wise liberality.
And as it is only fair to give credit where credit appears to be due, I may as well make allusion to the officers who have been forming and disciplining the force. Sir James Fraser was bred a soldier. Entering the 35th Regiment as a youth, he stuck to his old corps till he rose to command it. Subsequently he was in command of the 72d Highlanders. After having served an apprenticeship to civil duties as governor of a large prison, he was appointed chief constable of Berkshire, the police force of which county he raised and organised. He resigned that post when, three-and-twenty years ago, he was chosen Chief Commissioner of the City. So he has had perhaps a greater experience in the directism of police affairs than any official in the kingdom, and it is said that he combines great tact and discretion with a courageous contempt for consequences when held answerable for dangerous emergencies. He has certainly shown a wonderful flair in choosing capable subordinates. He had never lost sight of his former adjutant in the 35th, then Lieutesnant, now Lieutenant-Colonel Bowman. Bowman had been pronounced by a high military authority "the adjutant in the army." When the new Chief Commissioner required a lieutenant or chief superintendent, he bethought himself of his adjutant. It was in 1869 that Colonel Bowman accepted the appointment. He had then passed the age of fifty; he knew nothing whatever of police work, yet it is said of him, by one who ought to know, that "he developed into as good a policeman as ever donned a uniform." Colonel Bowman retired, after serving the time for a well-earned pension, and was succeeded by Major Henry Smith, who seems to have done equal credit to his superior's gifts of selection. Major Smith's capabilities were carefully tested before he was permanently confirmed in the place. In energy, activity, and indifference to responsibility, he would seem to have modelled himself on the example of his superior. In the opinion of good judges, as I have remarked already, the efficiency of the force was never greater; and yet Major Smith, though a strict disciplinarian, has made himself extremely popular in the force.
Perhaps the weakest point in the organisation of all police forces is the absence of what may be termed commissioned officers. As a certain "Custos," well known to be an expert, put it in a pamphlet on the metropolitan police, published in 1868 - and the police of the metropolis and the City are officered on a similar system:-
"Numerically as strong as a division of the army, the police force of the metropolis is left entirely without the guidance and supervision which, in the army, is derived from the presence of commissioned officers. From the police constable to the superintendent, each class has a corresponding grade in the other service,- the constable of tpe lower class representing the private soldier; the first-class constable, the corporal; the section sergeant, the platoon sergeant; the inspector, the colour-sergeant; the superintendent, the regimental sergeant- major; and at this point the resemblance ceases. Between the Chief Commissioner, whose position may be said to be similar to that of the General of Division, and the official whose social standing is not higher than that of a non-commissioned officer, there are but the two Assistant Commissioners, whose functionsto pursue the comparison-are somew hat analogous to those of Generals of Brigade."
Probabl y the strength of the garrison in the City is sufficient ..Here we have it, as given from the official returns :-
|Public Service||Private Service|
|Superintendent||Inspectors||Station Sergeants||Detached Sergeants||Sergeants||Police Constables||Total of all Ranks||Police Sergeants||Police Constables||Total|
The constables detached on private service are employed and paid by public establishments or private firms. Thus there are four men permanently on duty at the Bank of England, ten at Billingsgate Market, and no fewer than twenty more in charge of the Post Office. Six are tolel off to keep time at omnibus standings; three are engaged by the 'Times' newspaper; as many by Rothschilds; while sundry other bankers, merchants, and busy warehousemen, have each engaged an officer on their staffs.
The powers and duties of the Corporation and of the Commissioner respectively are clearly defined under the City Police Act. Those of the Corporation are almost entirely financial. The collection of rates rests with them; they frame the estimates of the annual expenditure and vote the supplies. The control and discipline of the force are solely in the hands of the Commissioner, with whom all regulations for the government of it originate.
The total of the expenditure is ?122,000. The estimated income for the present year falls nearly ?11,000 short of that, and the difference must be provided by the Corporation. The chief item in the receipts is ?70,000 - I give these sums in round numbers - derived from a rate of 5d. in the pound on the assessable rental of the City, which amounts to ?3,600,000; while a fourth of the total, or ?28,000, is contributed from the City cash, the balance of ?10,000 being made up by the employers who keep officers in their private service. The salary of the Chief Commissioner is ?2000; that of the Chief Superintendent, ?615. Then there are clerks, a surgeon, &c., all sufficiently remunerated. The man in the responsible place of assistant superintendent receives ?357. There are a couple of inspectors with ?213 each, while a dozen others receive rather less. Twenty-six sergeants earn 51s. a-week. Seventy sergeants have from 40s. to 37s. Thus it will be seen that there are fair prizes in pay and promotion for the encouragement of steady and intelligent men. The rank and file are divided into three classes. After a year, should they have a clean defaulter's sheet, they are passed from the third to the second. In this present year there are 442 constables of the first class, 230 of the second, and 110 of the third, receiving weekly from 32s. 3d. to 25s. 7d. Their uniform is of course provided; and their future, as I have said, is guatanteed by a superannuation fund. The superannuation fund, which is supplemented from the public money, is made up chiefly of stoppages from the pay which are never to exceed one-fortieth and partly of fines, levied either on the constables them elves, or on the individuals convicted of assaulting them. Thus the victim of outrage has the comfort of knowing that he has suffered doubly in the public interests. If a constable has served "with diligence and fidelity" for fifteen years, and then become mentally or physically unfit for further service, he is eligible for a pension equal to one-half of his pay. After twenty years service or upwards, he is, under similar circumstances, eligible to receive two-thirds. If he be disabled in the discharge of his duty he may be pensioned at the full amount of his pay; but all allowances and pensions are at the discretion of the Corporation, or in other words, of their Chief Commissioner.
It is to Sir James Fraser that the force are indebted for a regular hospital - one of the most beneficial of the many reforms he has introduced. When he came to the office, the men had outdoor medical attendance consequently they had every opportunity and inducement for malingering. Trumped-up tales of imaginary ailments, often coloured with a picturesque realism that did credit to the constables' imaginations, were of everyday occurrence. One patient, for example, who had managed to drag himself to the office for advice, was seen to pour the medicine he carried away into the gntter as be turned the corner: while another, supposed to be stretched helpless on a sick-bed, as he promel.aded the Crystal Palace with a lady on either arm, had the ill luck to run up against the Commissioner in person. Then, the average of invalids used to be seventy in about five hundred; now that the hospital offers compulsory hospitality to all comers, the average has gone down to fifteen in nine hundred. The saving in men and money is immense; while real sufferers have every comfort and the most skilful advice and attendance in an establishment conduced on military principles.
The duties of the police and their powers are clearly defined in a little handbook printed for general circulation. The chief superintendent is supposed to sit at headquarters; but the assistant superintendent is practically omnipresent. That is to say, like his subordinates in charge of their respective districts, he may turn up on any spot at any moment. Should a constable drop into a public-house, contrary to the standing orders, he may find himself face to face with his superintendent on sneaking out again; and in daylight, at all events, that is one of the surest safeguards of wavering virtue which could possibly be desired. But the subsuperintendent is bound besides to visit each division once in the twenty-four hours, and at uncertain periods; he assists at conflagrations; he directs the arrangements at popular gatherings and public ceremonies; and when important criminal cases are heard in the courts, he watches proceedings for the Chief Commissioner. An important duty of the chief inspector is to receive applications from candidates tor admission to the force, and he is held answerable for each recruit satisfying the essential requirements specified in the "Conditions of Service." It is he who is charged besides with keeping order at the sessions of the Central Criminal Court. The divisional inspectors are made responsible for the behaviour of the sergeants and men placed under their orders, and are supposed to be capable of instructing their inferiors on all points connected with 1 their duty. The divisional inspector is ready to act in case of fire or riot, communicating if necessary with the head office; and at fires he is ] to collect information on the spot as to the causes, sending in a report as soon as possible. The divisional inspector, or the station sergeant in his absence, is intrusted with considerable magisterial authority. He may detain or discharge at his discretion, when no magistrate is sitting, persons charged with certain minor offences. And he may consent to accept bail or refuse the application, so that while innocent persons are not needlessly detained, culprits shall not be permitted to escape. He takes care of the persons and property of people who, though helplessly drunk, have not been disorderly. The duties of the station sergeant who is his substitute are very similar; and the sergeant of a section is to be perpetually patrolling his section and looking up his men on their beats.
As for the ordinary constable, he is told, when he puts on the uniform, that by activity, intelligence, and good conduct he may rise to the higher stations. Meantime his intelligence is to some extent assumed, for he is forthwith made answerable for life and property within his beat. He is to begin by thoroughly informing himself as to its topography, which explains the marvellous promptitude with which anxious inquirers are directed "to take the third to the right and then the second to the left." More than that, he is expected to make a study of the inhabitants, so as to be able to recognise or identify them on occasion. In the absence of exceptional incidents to detain him, he is to walk his beat regularly, so as to be found at any given spot by anyone waiting there for a certain time. He is to prevent all interruptions in the traffic, to see that pavements are duly swept, and that rubbish is regularly carted away. But he is to avoid all llnnecessary interference, and to interpose when he does act with lecision and discretion. Should a fire break out, he is to spring his rattle, and send information immediately to the station. He has to help the ailing and destitute to the relieving officer, and to take charge of the drunken. He must never walk or gossip with a comrade: he is told that his first duty is absolute obedience, and he is reminded that perfect control of the temper is indispensable. So, considering the trying lives they lead, and the irritating conditions of their service, it will be seen that much is expected of the constables; and in the rarity of serious comsplaints against them, it will be confessed that they must be literally picked men.
All who are passed into the second class must necessarily be more or less intelligent; but the shrewdest intellects are naturally drafted into the detective department. The men who show special aptitude for the work are first sent out and tested as patrols in plain clothes, afterwards they are detached as divisional detectives. Each of the divisions has its own detective constables, the sergeants being always on duty at the central station. The superintendent or inspector is in attendance from nine to five, to receive applications for assistance and to issue orders. The duties of the City detectives are especially difficult and delicate. Now and again, of course, they have to trace out the perpetrators of a commonplace murder or ordinary burglary. But as a rule they are chiefly concerned with commercial fraud, where the criminal is presumably as quick-witted as themselves, and has probably taken his precautions against discovery. Generally he has already "made tracks," and sought refuge in foreign countries. He may have gone where there is no extradition treaty; but as there are many disagreeables to be met with among foreigners, whose manners he dislikes and of whose language he is ignorant, he more frequently takes a passage for America or Australia. It seem so easy to change your name, to cast your skin, and lose yourself in a new existence among a great English-speaking population. Even in the former case, and beyond the range of extradition treaties, the refugee from justice is not altogether safe. Should the detective follow him up and find him out, existence may be made unpleasant or even intolerable. The agent of the English law can stick to the fugitive like his shadow; and by communicating with foreign confreres, who eagerly lend assistance, can make any Continental retreat uncommonly hot. As matter of fact, successful pursuit and ultimate capture are for the most part mere questions of money. If a notorious absconder is not tracked and brought back, it is generally because those who have been robbed and wronged have personal reasons for hushing up the affair. At this moment there are City gentlemen, once sufficiently notorious, left to themselves and their consciences in Spain and in Sweden, whose present addresses are as well known as that of any respectable merchant figuring in the Post-office directory. But in such cases the police are powerless, unless private enterprise sets them in motion.
When a gentleman who has been robbed or swindled is set upon redress or revenge, he comes for assistance to the detective department. When the inspector has heard all he has to say, the first thing is to put one officer or more at the applicant's disposal. Facts or presumptions in the information lodged are verified by professional crutiny. Then the officers set about tracing the absconder by means which custom has made familiar - though the resources of an original detective genius are fertile, and chance not unfrequently does as much as head. Supposing there is probability or a moral certainty that the criminal has gone in a certain direction, a detective is duly provided with a warrant, and sent off in pursuit. No doubt, with the telegraph cables stretched across the oceans, descriptive messages may be despatched, so as to assure the absconder a surprise and a welcome. But even when he is supposed to have been marked down on board a particular steamer, the telegraph is seldom employed. Awkward mistakes are always possible, and they may lead to actions for false imprisonment and heavy damages - though the foreign or colonial police may be warned to keep a watch, if they can, on some passenger compromised by suspicions and his personal appearance. Occasionally, however, in exceptional circumstances, the telegraph is set in motion, and there may be some sensational romance in an affair of the kind. Once, for example, a celebrated Fenian agent, "wanted" in connection with a daring outrage, had an extremely narrow escape. The police had the moral conviction that he had embarked in London on board a certain American steamer bound down Channel. There were unavoidable delays before the Home Secretary could be communicated with, and before the needful authority to board the steamer could be obtained. Then a message was despatched to a seaport on the Channel, where the police forthwith chartered a tug. No time was lost; for there are tugs always lying with banked-up fires, ready to cast off at a moment's notice. The tug stood out in the dusk to cut across the track of the Atlantic liner, but only reached its cruising ground in time to see what might have been the lights of the vessel she was looking for dying out in the distance. Nevertheless, and nowadays in this age of electricity, the feelings of the absconding criminal are not to be envied. His punishment begins on the day of his flight, and when the shores of England have faded from his sight, he never knows what may be awaiting him at his destination. He at least has no cause to complain of the dull and uneventful monotony of a sea-voyage; and unless the horrors of sea-sickness are a merciful anodyne, he is continually being racked between hope and apprehension.
The detective following at his heels has a far better time of it. We can imagine no career indeed so full of enJotional interest to a man of mental and physical energy, with a natural talent for the profession. It was not for nothing that M. Emile Gaboriau made his Lecocqs and his Tabarets tend irresistibly to the Rue Jerusalem. The celebrated detective has all the excitement of the Queen's messenger, who is kept perpetually on the move, changing scenery, surroundings, and climate, between Calais and Constantinople. Moreover, he is always playing a peripatetic game of chess, against some clever antagonist, who is only to be checkmated by profundity of thought and promptitude of decision. And when, like a brillant Queen's counsel, he has risen to the top of the tree, he is one of the few industrious City men who are always having agreeable outings. Not only are all his expenses paid, but for the indispensable necessities of the case he has almost carte blanche. On the spur of the moment he may have to take a special train, or to bid high for a bit of information which may prove invaluable. Generally, the gentlemen for whom his services are retained, advance a considerable sum to begin with; while he can easily obtain any credit beyond that, as everywhere' he is "personally introduced" to the police by presenting his credentials. Then, if anything beyond professional pride is needed to stimulate his energies, he has the hope of a generous gratuity in event of success. Not unfrequently the amount of the reward is named beforehand. As to outlay, he may exercise his own discretion, on the understanding that he is to render a faithful account of his intromissions on his return; and that he is to receive no reward without the approval of the Chief Commissioner. With one exception, the account is believed to have always been fairly given in, and that exception, though remarkable, rather proved the rule. An agent whom the Commissioner believed to be thoroughly honest stood on his dignity, and refused any details as to the sum-total of his bills. As such a breach of discipline could not be tolerated, he forfeited all claim for the repayment of any portion of them. But we think we have said enough to show that the unobtrusive services of the City police are far from being sufficiently appreciated. And the reformers and Radicals who threaten the Corporation and its privileges, will scarcely rest their case on the shortcomings of that department.
ALEX. INNES SHAND.
Blackwoods Magazine, 1886