New technology made many changes to the
way the police did their work in the 20th century. Some discoveries,
such as fingerprinting, 1901, and, right at the end of the
century, DNA testing, were new ways of catching criminals.
Most were ways of allowing police to move faster and communicate
with each other more quickly. Police began to use bicycles
in 1909, radios in 1910, cars in 1919 (although it was not
until the 1930s that cars and motorbikes were used regularly).
Closed circuit TV has changed police supervision of difficult
areas as well as speeding and other traffic offences.
As Sir John Fielding realised back
in the 1750s, (see Gallery Crime
Prevention 1750-1900), information
is crucial in identifying criminals. In the late 20th century,
computers opened up enormous opportunities to hold and search
far more data than could ever be done manually. The National
Police Computer holds records on 25 million people and can
be searched in all kinds of ways, including the criminal's
way of operating. This has led to some concerns about how
far ordinary citizens should be allowed to see what information
the police hold about them.
Although the police constable on the
beat still looks very much the same as 150 years ago, greater
use of firearms by criminals has led the police to carry guns
more often. Tough public order situations have led to police
being provided with riot gear which makes them look like the
armed soldiers Sir Robert Peel was so careful to avoid in 1829
(see Gallery Prevention