While you’re living in London and indeed even in your own country, you notice people and services that have been influenced, aided and developed by one of the most famous Londoner’s of all time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that an entire part of our entertainment today has been influenced by this man. Without him, we’d have no CSI, no Law and Order, no 24, and very possibly we’d never have seen Don Johnson starring in Miami Vice in the 1980’s. Okay the last one probably isn’t a huge loss, but the modern police force and investigation techniques are the work of one outstanding man: Sir Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel
With a diverse background and a myriad of interests this man is the founder of the Metropolitan police Force and Prime Minister of England bringing about great social reforms in working conditions, industry and prisons. Born in 1788, this great Londoner has had a far reaching effect on the modern police force across the globe, as well as being active in politics and social reform until his death in 1850. A statue stands in Parliament Square right outside the Palace of Westminster.
Peel helped create the modern police force and to this day, London uniformed police officers are known as “Bobbies” as a tribute to Sir Robert. The other less affectionate term is “Peelers”, but unless you’re on the other side of the law, you’ll only ever see them as Bobbies on the Beat, patrolling the streets of London in their unique uniform and proudly acting as ambassadors for their city and their country.
One of the most important aspects of the police reform that Sir Robert placed into action concerned the ethics of behavior and investigation. This was the forerunner of the exacting standards in forensic investigation that have to be used before a person can be arrested of a crime. “The police are the public and the public are the police”, Sir Robert was fond of saying.
As a politician, Sir Robert Peel is most famous for his Factory Act. This Act of Parliament cam down strongly against wealthy industrialists who had made their fortunes on the backs of children and sweat shops. The Act regulated the amount of hours that children could work, and introduced the first basic machinery safety standards. In his second term in office as Prime Minister, he repealed the Corn Laws which protected the landowners by restricting foreign imports. Despite knowing that it could bring about the end of his political career, Peel forged ahead and broke the monopoly that had been one of the causes of the Irish Famine.
To be a police officer during the time of Sir Robert was an exacting position and required you to wear your uniform both on and off duty. London police were equipped with a wooden baton, a pair of handcuffs and a wooden rattle to raise an alarm if need be. The rattle was later replaced by a whistle.
To this day, uniformed police officers are not armed in the United Kingdom, which is a testament to the respect that many people have for the police force. His legacy will remain for as long as there are Bobbies on the beat, fighting crime and helping you back to your new apartment after you’ve lost your way. Go on I dare you, just ask a Bobby for directions and you’ll see how friendly and professional they are.