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The London Police.
IN what respect does the Police of London differ from that of America? This is a question naturally asked by intelligent minds interested in the welfare of society, both among Englishmen and Americans. It would be more just to inquire how far the Police arrangements of New York and London resemble cach other. That question, however, would not be sufficiently broad; because, while the Police of London gives a distinct character to all that department, in all the colonies of Great Britain, that of New York cannot fairly be taken as a criterion for all the nation of the United States.
In considering the Police of America, properly speaking, we are to survey all the principal cities, from Portland on the East to Chicago on the North; from San Francisco on the West to New Orleans on the South. In all these places there is a wide diversity of population, yet all governed by the same Republican laws. Taken as a whole, however, the aggregate returns enable us to strike a just balancesheet, and form a correct estimate as to the merits of the Police System of the United States. In all the New England States it is very nearly the same. In New York it has commingled with its administration, though not with its municipal laws, a large and powerful foreign element. In the more southern and western cities this is generally the case. The working of the system, therefore, is, to a considerable extent, controlled by the changes produced by emigration, and its effects on the more stable relations of society, are to be judged accordingly.
Underlying the whole framework of government in America is the foundation of general education among the people. This organic fact controls the administration of police law, and is felt in all the applications of direct and indirect force. It is very seldom that sufficient allowance is made for this fact in Europe. It is not perceived, as it should be, correctly to understand all the workings of American society, that the government is the people and the people are the government in the American Union. Hence every good citizen has a direct interest in a perfect Police System in America; and he will not rest satisfied, if he is true to his country, until he has made the necessary legal changes, by means of his suffrage, to secure it. Once
secured, and fairly tested by practice, such a system will always work harmoniously with the best interests of the Republic.
Every just American has a personal and patriotic concern in learning and making known the advantages and disadvantages of the Police System of London, the great metropolis of the world. That which to the Englishman may appear common-place, an every-day matter with which he is almost too familiar, becomes, by change of circumstances, of great value to the American, when applied to the well-being of America.
The London Police comprises, in round numbers, ten thousand We speak of this aggregate as including the regular and irregular, the public and secret, the armed and unarmed. Of the whole body there are two divisions-the "City" and the "Metropolitan.” Americans not familiar with London cannot readily understand this distinction, but experience will soon make them acquainted with it— they will be quick to discover that a man may live in London and yet never see "the City."
In London proper there is a Police Force of eight hundred men, under command, in 1867, of COLONEL FRASER. There are at least two hundred secret policemen in this division.
The Metropolitan Force consists of seven thousand five hundred public and five hundred private officials. All these are in command of SIR RICHARD MAYNE, who acts in concert with COLONEL FRASER, and both officers are under the supreme control of the Home Secretary of the British Government.
The average age of a London policeman is thirty-five years. The average compensation, for the "City," is twenty-five shillings sterling per week; for the "Metropolis" it is twenty-two shillings. The reason for this difference of compensation between the two divisions is not given; but it is supposed to be owing either to the greater honour of belonging to the Old Corporation, or to the increased danger of duty in the more ancient thoroughfares, or to the higher prices paid by the "City" officials for the necessaries of life.
The Metropolitan Police Force is changed once a month from day to night, or from night to day. Two-thirds of the entire body of this portion of the Force are ordered on duty for the day, and one-third for the night. The City Force does not make this change: the day man remains on his post during the day, and the night man during the night. One City policeman, whom we met inside of dear old Temple Bar-the haunt of GOLDSMITH, and JOHNSON, and SHAKESPEARE
-told us that he had been on one day beat for eight successive years.
Every London policeman is furnished with a uniform: it is fair to say that it is a good one. If there is any ground of complaint, it is in the boots, which lack the essential quality of being waterproof.
The distinctive marks of the uniform of the "City" policeman are yellow buttons, bearing the Corporation shield and dagger on the surface, with a red armlet on the sleeve of the coat. The "Metropolitan" has a white button, with the insignia of the Crown, and the letters "M.P.," a somewhat uncertain designation in the presence of a Member of Parliament. The helmet is the same in all cases, and a very creditable article it is. Nothing better adapted to its purposes, or more becoming, can be found in any similar force in the world. is said to have been introduced into the London Police by the Prince of Wales. If this be so, it is a mark of credit on the score of His Royal Highness.
Two-thirds of the entire Force are single men. The most careful inquiries are made with regard to their induction into the service. Men with families are long known to the authorities, and their characters are well established. Of this class the highest terms of praise may properly be employed. They are usually assigned to duty near where their families reside. These are the staid and solid men who move quietly about in the night, in darkness, and in storm, when the merchant is far absent from his office, when the great majority of the inhabitants are slumbering in their beds, and test by personal inspection the security of the fastenings of every place of business. This is done every night by every man on duty. Without a word, or nod, or look to any one, with a firm and steady tramp, he marches his evening or midnight round, and through all the hours of darkness, until the break of day, watches for neglects, peers for strange lights, listens for unwonted noises, from street to street, from lane to lane, from court to court, until he can truly say, as a sworn guardian and custodian of the vast wealth he surveys, "All is well."
Attached to convenient portions of each division is a mess-room. Here the men who are without families supply their own rations. No one but a sworn member of the Force is allowed to partake. From each one of these points the policeman goes forth to duty. He is expected always to be found sober on his post, and is liable to be discharged if seen entering a public-house for purposes of drink, or is detected in a state of intoxication. He may enter any place on official business,
but may not loiter there, nor spend any portion of his public time in purposes of recreation.
Of the regular Police of London, six hundred are mounted men. They are all, apparently, good horsemen, and present an imposing appearance on duty. Their simple uniform (plain scabbards and helmets) gives them an aspect of military drill that is more impressive in the preservation of order than if they were trained troops. This body all carry cutlasses, but no pistols. Their clubs, or staves, are made of the hardest kind of wood, sheathed in strong waterproof leather cases, like short swords or bayonets.
The whole Force moves like a machine-in perfect harmony. No one can see a single squad marching to its rendezvous without being struck with the precision of its movements. There is no appearance of show-no purpose to attract attention-but the system, the tact, the obedience are shown to be perfect, and in strict accordance with rules that at every moment govern every man of the entire Force. The arrangements of the London Police at the different gatherings of the people are all that could be desired. At the Houses of Parliament the appearance of these policemen is remarkable. You are at once struck with their quiet yet decided manner, and yield to the majesty of the law with pleasure when it is put forth in a manner so unpretending and yet effective. At churches, courts, places of amusement, celebrations of national festivals, this almost ubiquitous Force is ever present, as if never wearied of the same things, always looking out for disorder, and yet seeming to expect that none will occur; at races, regattas, and reviews, still the same calm and yet firm man ; at home everywhere; familiar with everybody; official, yet not officious; the true policeman of the class we are describing well earns his honours. As an American, who has noticed the Force in different nationalities, we are happy to bear our testimony to the excellence of the London Police.
The proportion of the number of the Police to the population is less in America than it is in England-much less than it is in France, Germany, and some other parts of Europe. The contrast is very striking, when compared with the large armed force of the French capital. The same is true of Vienna, Rome, and St. Petersburg. In the uniforms and general bearing of the Police Force, that of America has a striking resemblance to that of Great Britain. The coats, belts, staves, and marks of distinction are almost exactly the same-the principal difference being a slight one in the shape of the helmet. There is less
of reserve and dignity in a large part of the centrally-located Police of New York, than there is in the same body in London. But if we carefully survey the Union, as a whole, we must admit that human life and property are as safe in the principal cities as in any other quarter of the world. There are occasional outbreaks and riots; but they are no worse than are as frequently occurring in other civilized countries, and are readily put down without a too frequent appeal to military force.
The moral effect of the constant presence of the Police of London is remarkable. It inspires a feeling of quiet and security that no language can describe. It is the living embodiment of constitutional law. The citizen, surrounded by his family and all his household effects, the treasures of his ancestry and of his own acquisition-the stranger and traveller sojourning for a few days or weeks in the Great Metropolis of the world, whose teeming millions are well known to contain a large body of the reckless, the idle, and vicious, the masses of the vile and even murderous villains who infest every civilized society-lies down at night, or walks abroad in darkness or in daylight, with a sense of safety and composure which must be realized in such a spot to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Every right-minded American must always feel a pleasure in doing justice to the Police Force of London.