One year ago today, British & Commonwealth Forces posted this lovely video on their Facebook page, with the following commentary:
The British Policeman (1959) – a Public Information Film produced for the Colonial Office.
This portrait of a British Policeman was commissioned by the Colonial Office to promote Britain’s Police Service to the colonies and Commonwealth states.
Released in 1959, this film upholds one of the Central Office of Information’s (COI) founding principles and the reason for its commitment to producing Public Information Films. In December 1945 the incumbent Prime Minister Clement Attlee stated it was important “a true and adequate picture of British institutions and the British way of life should be presented overseas” through such films.
Following a ‘typical’ day in the life of Police Constable Jack Edwards, the film shows his ‘typical’ duties over an eight-hour shift. The film portrayal of PC Edwards as a guardian of law and order in 1950s Britain, understandably looks dated, when compared to today’s modern Police Service.
This film made available courtesy the UK National Archives.
How times have changed – and not particularly for the better, either!
Nota Bene: Why are British policemen known as “Bobbies”? Why, ’tis an affectionate and respectful nod to Sir Robert Peel, their founder:
“The concept of modern policing has its roots in pre-Victorian England, when the British home minister, Sir Robert Peel (1778-1850), oversaw the creation of London’s first organized police force. Before Peel’s 1829 reforms, public order had been maintained by a mix of night watchmen, local constables and red-coat-wearing army soldiers, who were deployed as much to quell political troubles as to deal with local crime.
“In creating London’s Metropolitan Police (headquartered on a short street called Scotland Yard), Peel sought to create a professionalized law enforcement corps that was as accountable to everyday citizens as to the ruling classes. When Peel’s opponents complained that the creation of the new police force would restrict personal liberties, Peel responded, ‘I want to teach people that liberty does not consist in having your house robbed by organized gangs of thieves, and in leaving the principal streets of London in the nightly possession of drunken women and vagabonds.’
“Instead of the resented red coats, Peel’s patrolmen wore black jackets and tall wool hats with shiny badges. They went out armed only with a short club and a whistle for summoning backup, walking regular beats and working to gain the trust of the local citizens. Robert Peel’s system was a success, and by the mid-19th century large American cities had created similar police forces. In London, the policemen were so identified with the politician who created them that they were referred to as ‘Peelers’ or—more memorably—’Bobbies,’ after the popular nickname for Robert.”