A Comparative Analysis of Police Reform Attempts

This paper purposes to provide a critical discussion of why Pitt’s 1785 attempt at police reform failed and Peel’s 1829 attempt succeeded. Of significant to note, is that Pitt attempt was as a result of the Gordon Riot, which marked a significant event in the view of crime, and as such, convinced many individuals that a major overhaul in the crime prevention system was required. In this regard, Pitt introduced the London and Westminster Police bill in the year 1785. This bill purposed to bring forth effective changes and also to structure the system of law enforcement (Evans, 2002). However, it failed, owing to some of the reasons provided below. On the other hand, Peel decided to bring forth his police reforms, owing to the fact that the British government attempted to legislate for various police forces, as well as a strong resistance within and outside parliament. Peel purposed to provide a follow up on the Metropolitan Police Act 1829, with a broad measure towards the police reform. He was pivotal towards establishing the first police force in London. The Metropolitan Police Act had the aim of establishing a uniformity in the manner in which crime was handled across London in the year 1829, and as such, Peel set forth the first most disciplined police service for the entire London (Gash, 1939). It is worth noting that Peel’s bill was successfully passed and accepted by many, owing to some reasons that will be provided in this paper. Overall, this paper first provides a critical discussion of why Pitt’s 1785 attempt failed. Thereafter, it will provide a critical discussion of why Peel’s 1829 attempt succeeded.


Why Pitt’s 1785 attempt failed

Although it is wrong claiming that there was no significant calls for major police reforms prior to 1780, it should be noted that Gordon Riot marked a significant event in the view of crime, which crystalized a latent public concern regarding the rising crime levels, thereby, convincing many individuals that a major overhaul in the crime prevention system was required. Notably, the disturbance could significantly be attributed to the lenity of the government or the relaxation of the magistrates in monitoring citizens and enforcing laws more consistently (Evans, 2002). The convulsion of the 1780 was as a result of the culmination of the rising lawlessness. In this regard, a central question that was often asked was whether the people of any given civilized nation, were as well subject to the disturbance on the highways as the English. This was connected the riots to the increased in the crime rates, in accordance to what writers, as well as politicians such as Madan repeated, and which seemed to fulfill the prophecy of Fielding that “one day, there would be gangs and rogues” (Gash, 1939). Notably, the assailing mob that attacked wealthy foreigners posed as the wake of the riots that made London a permanent home for riots. Volunteer police guards that comprised of “citizens of property” who trained in using weapons and were also coordinated were used in place of the police (Breihan, 1984). It is significant to note that the reflection of the Gordons riots provided the necessity of having an effective force that could be ready to repel against an undisciplined mob. It was clear that such a forced would be better as compared to having a recourse to any standing army. The deployment of an army in 1780 with an aim of stemming the riots posed to convince civilians such as Holcroft that a police force was needed. In this regard, Holcroft noted the following: “it is a good obligation of good citizens, who love their country to think seriously towards establishing a type of police force that would enable them to defend themselves as a county without having to call upon various power aids, with might turn to their destruction” (Mori, 2014).

In response to the above, Pitt introduced the London and Westminster Police bill in the year 1785. This bill purposed to bring forth effective changes and also to structure the system of law enforcement, owing to the fact that since 1285, the Winchester statute had formalized justice systems, with regards to peace and constables. Notably, Pitt’s bill sought towards establishing a system of various stipendiary magistrates, based on the jurisdiction of three commissioners who would significantly have the responsibility for the entire metropolitan region. It was also marked, in accordance with the manner in which various commentators claimed that it provided a sea of changed in the approach to crime, thus offering a comprehensive system of prevention, as well as vigilance rather than a short-slighted policy of hanging and also transportation. It should be noted that even though the creative bow street magistracy had from Fielding time concentrated majorly on crime detention, it is evident that Pitt’s bill purposed to institute an effective system that could enhance crime prevention, having officers that could no longer depend on the income of the fees that they could charge (Breihan, 1998).

Unfortunately, Pitt’s bill failed and as a result, it was withdrawn, from the London City. However, most of its provisions were reintroduced later in the 1790s. It is significant to take note of the fact that the protests, which derailed passing of Pitt’s 1785 bill was majorly owed to the long-standing prejudice, which was laid against the French police. However, it is clear that the more pressing form of objection was laid on the principles of the bill, which according to Lord Major, purposed to establish a defiance of the chartered rights. Notably, Lord Mayor’s thoughts against Pitt’s bill were that the bill provided a police system, which is new and arbitrary in its extremity (Kelly, 1975). He also noted that it created, without significant necessity, new officers that were vested with extraordinary and also dangerous powers, enforced also with heavy penalties, and thus, expressly exempted from such checks. Finally, he noted that the responsibility, which the wisdom of law deems necessary to accompany in all extraordinary powers have been ignored.

Moreover, it is clear that the extent to which Pitt’s bill regarding the new police force was intended to bring forth extraordinary and also dangerous powers, in order to ensure its success was predicted in 1786. In this regard, Samuel Romilly pointed out that the powers bestowed in the bill rendered the individuals who possessed them to be objects of suspicion, and may have been of public detestation. He stressed that the powers would make extraordinary powers to be deemed as necessary, until all the precautions, restraints, as well as severities of the jealous tyranny were established (Aston, 2017).

Rather than having police force that was secretive and also independent of the magistracy, it is evident that Romilly made an argument, which favored the return of the 800 year old tradition that reposed a confidence in people, thus giving them the minister of justice nomination. It was also making every father in a family a guardian of public peace, as well as safety within his little sphere. It is significant to note that although Romilly may have been accused of some hopeless nostalgia whilst advocating for the return of the tythingmen of during the days of Alfred, it is worth noting that Romilly purposed to foresee dangers that were inherent in the police reforms that Pitt provided (Callister, 2017). As such, he made an argument, which was against Pitt’s bills that was provided a system of power to police officers, to be appointed only by crown. In this regard, it should be noted that Romilly stressed that Pitt’s bill was not only on the grounds of personal liberty and also owing to the fact that those powers could be increasing, yet the police powers could make them to be more despised. It should as well be noted that although Pitt had failed in 1785, it is evident that the subsequent decade witnessed many repeated attempts of the governing sought to increase its powers of policing, and at time. This was done under the pretense that the powers were necessary in protecting the liberties of the British from the French radicalism, although on grounds that a new crime system needed to be found. Clearly, the outcome led to a shift from a benevolence of laissez-faire, which structures structured the Fielding responses (Goodwin, 2016).

Why Peel’s 1829 attempt succeeded

A considerable pre-history dating from the seventeens or earlier depict the manner in which the British government attempted to legislate for various police forces, as well as a strong resistance within and outside parliament. Notably, resistance was constant, although diminishing, up to 1856, when county forces establishment became mandatory. In this regard, the first most serious attempts of establishing police forces, especially in the English counties happened in the eighteen-thirties decades, whereby, Peel purposed to provide a follow up on the Metropolitan Police Act 1829, with a broad measure towards the police reform. Notably, Peel was pivotal towards establishing the first police force in London. The Metropolitan Police Act had the aim of establishing a uniformity in the manner in which crime was handled across London in the year 1829, and as such, Peel set forth the first most disciplined police service for the entire London (Gash, 1939).

The police force that Peel first established was based in Scotland Yard. One thousand constables were employed and nicknamed “bobbies.” It is evident that one of the major reasons why Peel’s attempt was successful is because the although the constables were unpopular at first, they proved successful in the manner in which they first purposed to cut crime in the entire London and by the year 1857, all the Britain cities had the obligation of forming their own police forces. Moreover, Peel developed modern policing principles, which significantly defined various ethical requirements, which mandated police officers to follow, in order to be effective (Reiner, 1990). In this regard, in 1829, when Peel was setting forth the policing principles, he declared that the police are the public and vice versa. This declaration was accepted by many and adopted in many practices.

It is also worth noting that most of the early historians of the police provided a Whiggish perception, which swept away the 18thc judicial ineptitude by Peel’s police reforms. In this regard, the authority to enforce public order was then shifted from the antiquated and frequently perverse magistrate (militia partnership). As such, the unpopular modernized police (brought forth by Peel’s reforms), which had been initially unpopular, significantly won the trust of most working, as well as lower and middle class citizens, thereby, ushering in a significant era, characterized by social orderliness at the end of the 19thc (Reynolds, 1989).

Order Now

In the course of the 1970s, researchers claimed that any form of populace pacification, which may have been achieved, was owing to the outcome of the police’s heavy-handedness, covert surveillance, as well as legislative crackdown of various traditional amusements, and also activities associated with laboring classes. It should be noted that Peel, having improved the 1829 Metropolitan act, in togetherness with the Vagrancy Act 1824, purposed to make the poor to be the focus of the state supervisions. This was in order to enhance a great protection of the entire bourgeoisie, and also to promote lower orders embourgeoisement, or even to force them into accommodation with the issue of capitalism. It is evident that Peel would constantly rese slavery arguments in the course of him passing his 1829 Act, and surely, in the event when his bill passed, the supporters of his legislation such as journalist Albany Fontblanque wrote that “liberty that we have to enjoy of having been robbed at the discretion of our honors (the thieves)” (Broeker, (1961). Arguably, a legislation, which is similar to that of Peel, had failed in the year 1785, owing to outrage on the attempt of centralizing the policing in London (fighting control from the parishes and giving it to the government). It is notable that Peel cleverly decided to leave the city out of his draft bill, thus circumventing a particular vested interest. Evidently, he overcame fears that the new police force could be a militarized body that could be imposed from above. As such, he stressed on the opinion that the Metropolitan police could only bear firearms in exceptional circumstances, and they would put on uniforms, which could be close to those of civilians as possible. Nevertheless, it is clear that ‘Peel’s private army’ posed as one of the many slang names, which many Londoners referred to the new force whilst the weekly despatch newspaper could as well refer to them as the ‘police soldiers’ (Miller, 1987).

It should be noted that moral reformists had the desire that the poor could benefit from stability and order, which Peel’s principles of the new police reform could foster. A good example is a writing in the 1780, whereby philanthropist Jonas noted that not having a significant and effective police force was like enslaving British men as well as women, who were then preys to villains of all kinds, and as such, were vulnerable in the society whenever civil disorder took place. Notably, a body of trained and paid civil soldiers that were drawn from the citizenry would be called upon to protect against the violence that could be visited on various individuals during many criminal acts, or order breakdown. However, it is evident that such organizations could obviate the necessity for local militia, or even a standing army to be called upon in the course of the unrest. In this regard, the significance of Peel’s police reforms were noted to be of significance as they could bring forth stability and order, without the involvement of the paid and trained civil soldiers who could be derived from the citizenry (Machin & Davis, 1984).

Overall, it is significant to take note of the fact that there was much mystery surrounding what Peel had intended to put across by establishing the new police, which made many people to accept it and it be successful. In the year prior to him introducing his legislation, he was baffled by the modern British heterogeneity, and thus, questioned the following: “what do I need to do with the police as it has appeared to me that this country has finally outgrown various police institutions? I want to provide general rules, which will apply to the entire society” (Machin & Davis, 1984). Clearly, Peel’s bill had the interest of only London. However, it is observed that other urban areas and even rural districts would purpose to modernize their police forced, in line with the requirements of the metropolis, based on various mechanics (Goodwin, 2016). Amongst other things, it is evident that Peel acted whilst dodging to make realistic costings on the new police, and as such, it is uncertain of the extent to which he intended the new force to act as a tool of control, on the poor and also an agency of improving police forces’ habits. Ultimately, it can be deduced that Peel’s police reforms purposed to treat all people in all ranks of the society fairly and with courtesy. This made his reforms to be accepted by many, thereby, making them successful.


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