Jack the ripper source based questions

Essay by emmajohn July 2004

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'Describe law and order in London in the late nineteenth century.'

In 1829 Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary, set up a police force called the Metropolitan police. But in 1800 there were two other police forces set up, the Bow Street Runners and the Thames River police. The Metropolitan police force over took them as the Metropolitan police force was popular. It is so popular it still exists today. They were designed to carry out the work of watchmen and special constables. They would patrol the dimly lit streets and tried to tackle crime. They unlike the watchmen and parish constables they could deal with riots. When they required help they were backed up by the army. The army used to wear red which was disliked by the people of Britain. The Metropolitan police force was made to wear blue uniform with a tail coat, a top hat and as few badges as possible.

They were also armed with a truncheon. Watchmen also carried them. Constables however, were given cutlasses. The inspectors in the Metropolitan police began to carry revolvers from the 1840s and 1850s.

During the nineteenth century, the early recruits were sacked because of heavy drinking problems which were another problem in Whitechapel. The second reason was the police force was unpopular because of the way they dealt with crowd control. Thirdly there was lack of changes to policing in other parts of the country. The Metropolitan police decided to use horses which ruled out the Bow Street Runners in 1839.

In 1839 the Rural Constabulary Act allowed magistrates to choose if they wanted to set up a police force in each county, and by the mid 1850s, twenty-two counties had not done anything. In 1856 things were changed and the act made all counties create police forces.