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My Early Police Days - Part 3

Mervyn Mitton

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I said in Part 1 that Peel House may have been the first Metropolitan Police Training School.
I was right and a little research showed that it was first opened in 1907. Strange that I was
there for it's final two weeks in 1967. I think it may have been kept for Police offices and
was only sold a few years ago for a large new flat development. One has to compare all of
these sales of Police property as 'selling off the family silver'.

Over the years I have seen so many 'bright' new officers arrive - all with one idea - get noticed.
First it was armbands - then an attempt at whistles - then truncheons. These are just the
noticeable ones - but, the effect is the same. When you have changed all the traditions - sold
all the buildings - changed the teaching disciplines - what are you left with. 32,000 men who have
lost their links with an important historical past - and the morale which uniqually made them
one of the most important Forces in the World.

The new Peel House is the Admin. building at the re-built Hendon Police Training College. I am
showing a picture of the very impressive central tower - totally different to the Hendon of my
day - then it was mainly one level buildings and in a smaller area.


click


Built-in the 1930's the first College was the idea of Lord Trenchard who was the Metropolitan
Commissioner at that time. Like very many senior ex-service officers' of that period, it was
thought that only people from 'background' should be officers. He set-up Hendon as an Officers
Training School - along the lines of Sandhurst - but for training officer's of police.

There were quite a number who graduated as Inspectors. However, World War 2 happened and
Hendon was closed. When it re-opened after the War it was for training Constables.

The Police have always promoted from with-in their own ranks - although the Commissioner
and Chief Constables were often brought to the Rank from senior Army officers. When I first
joined the Commissioner was the first to be promoted to that rank from starting as a Constable.
His name was Simpson and he was a very good influence on the Met. and highly regarded.
I think all senior positions from that time have been police promotions - although, often from
other Forces.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is the most senior officer in
England and Wales - he is followed by H. M.'s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and third in
seniority is the Deputy Commissioner. Chief Constables rank below these officers.


WE ARE EVICTED.............

I think my class were the very last ones at Peel House - unfortunately, Hendon was still not
ready for us. We were put into temporary accomodation above a Police Station in North
London - still bussing it daily like a group of uniformed vagrants.

After about five weeks of this nonsense Hendon found us a billet - they had quickly taken
over the Commandant of Cadets house in the officers section, and installed the twenty of us
at 4 per room. One bathroom and one toilet between us - I'm still not sure why I didn't run
away ! I used to get-up at 5 a.m. to have a bath. As for the Commandant of Cadets - I
never did find out what happened to him - they probably had him in a tent in the park......

Life could now settle into a harried routine of classes , studying in the evening and then
preparing uniforms and shoes for early morning parade. How this must 'ring a bell' for all of
the servicemen in the Forum who will have gone through something similar.

One of the larger items we were given with our uniforms was the ' dreaded' Instruction Book.
This probably weighed well over a kilo and had ring binders. A large envelope was attached
with all of the revisions - endless evenings of work. Even worse, we had to learn - word perfect -
the provisons of the various Acts.

When you make an arrest you do so from your knowledge of the Law. Lawyers have the luxury
of being able to prepare their cases with plenty of time. A Police Officer does not have this
- you may have only seconds to make a decision - get it wrong and there will be
serious problems. So, it is vital that a Constable knows his law and understands what powers
he has been given. I should add - that often , having made a decision, you then find yourself fighting them amongst parked cars.

When I joined, the course to become a Constable was thirteen weeks in length - then two years
as a probationary Constable. This was under the supervision of a designated Sergeant, who was
your advisor - and, you also attended for two days a month, for instruction - this was at special
buildings attached to a Divisional Station.

The end of Week 13 had a passing out parade - your official class photograph - and the posting
to your Division. We were allowed to ask for the Division you would like to be posted to - and
we all had our own thoughts on this.

This was still in the future - for now, I was just a number.



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The towers at Hendon Police College are no longer functional and have been empty verging on derelict for several years. There were three towers which functioned as accommodation blocks for the college. This area of the estate is in the process of being sold for redevelopment which I believe has caused some problems in itself as the land was original MOD part of RAF Hendon which was given to the police so there have been issues as to ownership.

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"The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is the most senior officer in
England and Wales - he is followed by H. M.'s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and third in
seniority is the Deputy Commissioner. Chief Constables rank below these officers.
"

Mervyn,

I'm sorry but you are wrong. This is a common misconception amongst members of the public and the media. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is of equal rank to the provincial Chief Constables. The Deputy Commissioner is of equal rank to the Deputy Chief Constables. You are even further adrift with the Inspectorate of Constabulary. They have in the past been retired police officers who on appointment become civil servants. In recent years several have been appointed without previous police experience. They do not have any police powers and cannot and never have been able to give directions or orders to the Chief Police Officers Indeed, the current Chief Inspector of Constabulary has never even been a police officer. Their role is to advise the Home Secretary and to inspect and report on the efficiency of police forces in England & Wales. So, they fall completely outside your supposed rank structure and do not even form part of the English & Welsh Police Service.

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I beg to differ. I think Mervyn is spot on with regards the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Deputy Commissioner being the Senior Police Officers in England and Wales. But I will defer the HMIC top job considering the person now in post.

You just have to look at the rank insignia to see the difference. Chief Constables in fact wear the same rank as Assistant Commissioners in the Met. I accept a Chief Constable has autonomy in his/her policing area but how can you assess that the Commissioner with National Policing responsibilities including Counter Terrorism and a staff of over 50,000 is on par with a Chief Constable who may have a total of 1500 staff in their force area? The Commissioner never even used to be a member of ACPO as he is appointed by the Home Secretary.

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I beg to differ. I think Mervyn is spot on with regards the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Deputy Commissioner being the Senior Police Officers in England and Wales. But I will defer the HMIC top job considering the person now in post.

You just have to look at the rank insignia to see the difference. Chief Constables in fact wear the same rank as Assistant Commissioners in the Met. I accept a Chief Constable has autonomy in his/her policing area but how can you assess that the Commissioner with National Policing responsibilities including Counter Terrorism and a staff of over 50,000 is on par with a Chief Constable who may have a total of 1500 staff in their force area? The Commissioner never even used to be a member of ACPO as he is appointed by the Home Secretary.

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In my day, neither the Commissioner nor his Deputy were police officers, they were justices of the police. Has this changed then? I remember that the Deputy Assistant Commissioner was always considered as being at the same level as a Chief Constable - they wore the same insignia. Not sure where Assistant Commissioners fitted in though?

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Mervyn seeks to set out a "seniority structure" which is in effect non existent. It is a fact that we don't have one senior police officer in England and Wales, we have 43 of them. Another fact which you have wrong is that the Met. Commissioner ceased to be appointed by the Home Secretary many years ago. He is appointed by the Queen upon the recommendation of the Metropolitan Police Authority. I have checked archive copies of the Police & Constabulary Almanac stretching back to 1942 and can tell you that the Met. Commissioner etc has been a member of ACPO since its formation and before that was a member of its predecessor organisation "The County Chief Constables Club". I am not sure that the rank insignia is particularly significant. The City Commissioner uses the same insignia as the Met. Commissioner yet the City Chief has a force which is smaller in strength than any of the provinces. A further relevant point is that niether the Commissioner nor his Deputy are attested police officers, so on that basis I fail to see how they can be regarded as the most "Senior Police Officers in England & Wales".

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Dave

The MPA no longer exists it is now MOPAC. The selection of the Commissioners post I can assure you is a joint decision between the Mayor and the Home Secretary it is a matter of semantics who recommends the post to the queen. Also legislation has now been passed that opens the Commissioners post to foreign nationals. I am not going to die in a ditch over this the reality is the Commissioner of the Metropolis is the most sought after senior police position in England and Wales. As I previously said each chief constable has autonomy in their own force area the Met Commissioner has no authority over them per se. But i simply do not see how you can argue the Met Commissioners post is on par with all other Chief Constables the Met has national responsibilities outside policing just the London area. Also I will think you will find both the current Commissioner and deputy Commissioner have warrant cards and I assume that as they are career police officers the powers of Constable.

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Interesting comments. The Chief Constables are appointed by their Watch Committees. Until

recently when some autonomy was passed to the Mayor of London the Metropolitan Police came

directly under the Home Secretary.

The Commissioner wears the rank badges for a full general - as does the Ch.Insp. of Constabulary.

The Dep. Asst. Comm. wears rhe badges that would be for a Lieut. Gen. in the Army*. Therefore, on

a protocol level they will automatically be senior. Also, as Tom points out the Met. have 32,000

serving officers + some 15/20,000 civilian staff. The nearest in size that I can think of is the West

Midlands Force - which is probably less than 5000 ? (* + a second star)

The first Commissioners in 1829 were both appointed as Magistrates - this gave them the authority

to call on other units. The tradition continued and with the Riot Act it was necessary for a Magistrate

to read it publicly in front of the assembly. The Comms. were usually the only ones brave enough.

Both the Comm. and the Dep. Comm. are still sworn-in - unless yet another tradition has been dropped.

With regard to them being Police Officers - having come through the ranks they are most certainly

Police Officers with a power of arrest. They would have attested on joining.

Chief Inspector's of Constabulary ,may now have become a political appointment. My blog is set

when I first joined and the one I saw on a visit wore uniform and the same badges as the Comms.

Mervyn

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It is my understanding that the Met. Commissioner, the Deputy and the Assistant Commissioners upon appointment loose any "Constable" only powers including those relating to arrest. This was certainly the case during the period when they were ex officio Justices of the Peace, it being incompatible for a Justice of the Peace to also be a Constable. Mervyn's comment "...having come through the ranks they are most certainly Police Officers with a power of arrest", is largely meaningless if on appointment to the ranks mentioned, legislation removes those powers from them.

I have always found this forum to be very informative and a very good source of information. That said, I sometimes wonder how accurate that information is. I believe it should be so, otherwise readers will be mislead. I will set myself a task and get to the bottom of this Met. Commissioner business once and for all. There seem to be varying differing opinions in respect of his constitutional position i.e. Is he the UK's most Senior Police Officer, does he hold the "Office of Constable" and another "does he or doesn't he" still carry a silver token! Various individuals (including myself) give their views but those on the sidelines reading these comments will still scratch their heads and ask "Well, that's interesting but who's right?" As a retired Merseyside Police Officer, I'll contact the current Commissioner, Sir Bernard (former Chief Constable of Merseyside) and I'll ask him if he would be kind enough to give me answers to the questions posed. I'll let you know what he says. Mervyn, here in the UK Watch Committees were abolished in 1974 (nearly 40 years ago) when the Hull City, Bradford City, Leeds City and Birmingham City Police forces ceased to exist.

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I would be interested to hear what he has to say. My thoughts are that as the Justice of the Peace issue is now long assigned to history by the 1986 Public Order Act , The Commissioner DC and ACs will still be serving police officers with the powers of constable. They do have warrant cards and I believe the Silver tokens are now given on retirement and not carried any longer as a badge of office and identification.

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Wasn't it the reforming Commissioner in the 1970's - Sir Robert Mark - whose book was

entitled - 'In the Office of Constable' - or, something similar ? That would indicate a power

of arrest.

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The commissioner does have the power of arrest - he arrested someone for theft not too long ago during a radio interview. Its a widely held misconception that he is not a Police Officer - he still is and looses no power when he becomes Comm. 

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pt09ps    -  thankyou for your comment  -  which brings clarity to this issue.     We have an active British Police Forum + one for overseas Police.

I hope you will join us with some posts on your experiences.     Mervyn

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