Crime prevention in the growing
industrial cities of the early 19th century was patchy. Newcastle
had an efficient force, under the control of the mayor and
council, while the quarter of a million people in Liverpool
were policed by a mix of watchmen and parish constables, with
another police force for the dock area. Many people argued
the case for a proper police force in the cities, while the
"Captain Swing" violence of 1828-1832 worried the
authorities in rural counties.
However, there was opposition to setting up police forces:
- There was fear that they would
be a military force, crushing freedom.
- There were demands to keep such
forces under local control.
- There was objection to paying
money for them.
The first Acts of Parliament setting up police forces in towns
and counties were therefore "permissive": the 1835
Municipal Corporation Act and the 1839 Rural Constabulary
Act allowed towns and counties to set up police forces if
they wished. By the 1850s only 36 out of the 54 counties had
done so (and some forces only covered part of the county);
many towns still had no police, and some forces were very
small - less than 10 men.
The County Borough Police Act, 1856, compelled all counties
and boroughs to have a police force. These forces differed
from the Metropolitan Police in several ways. The new provincial
police were under the control of local JPs, not central government.
They were smaller - 239 separate forces were set up, with
big variations of pay and service conditions.