The origins of the police force go back to Saxon times. However, the foundations of modern day British police forces were setup in the 19th century.
The metropolitan police force was setup in 1828 by Robert Reed. In 1879, methods into dealing with murder cases had changed. These adjustments were made by Charles Vincent, director of Criminal Investigations. Such changes included that “the body must not be moved; nor nothing about it or the room or the place of discovery”. Although these changes were revolutionary, they were equally useless. In a time before forensics and even fingerprinting, the only way of catching a murderer is seeing him do it or catch him doing it. As one can see, it would be quite hard to catch a murderer and many murder cases would be left unsolved, the Whitechapel murders included.
The police themselves had very little training. Most training was military. Therefore we can learn that murder investigation was not the expertise of the police force at the time. The theme of the metropolitan police at the time was prevention of crime, rather than detection of crime. Thus, the whitechapel murders occurred in a time where investigation of homicide was still in its youth.
The force was not only improperly trained, but they were also vastly outnumbered. Statistics showed that in 1885 the population of London stood at 5,255,069 people. The police force stood at 13,319 officers of all ranks. This would indicate that there were 395 persons for every police officer. Even more shocking is that on any given day, there were only 1,383 PCs on beat duty. This meant that on any given day there was an astounding 3800 persons per PC.
The reputation of the police force was disintegrated by a series of events that made them out to be violence loving enforcers. Such incidents included the 1984 parade of Orangemen and Cumberland. This parade turned ugly when the police started beating people with batons. Another unpleasant occasion was the election demonstration in Nottingham. The result was the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham police charging the demonstrators. The report on the incident said: “the police disobeyed instructions as to the use of truncheons and behaved intemperately”. These knockdowns did not help matters.
On 13th of November 1987, the most serious incident took place: Bloody Sunday. The police stampeded a demonstration held by the Metropolitan Radical Federation. This incident instigated an inquiry, ordered by the House of Commons. The purpose of the investigation was to see if the police favoured the upper and middle classes over the lower and working classes. This, in turn, caused police work in poor class areas more difficult. One of those areas included the East End of London, the area where the majority of the Whitechapel murders took place.
The police force was still young at the time of the Whitechapel murders. Modern day methods were unheard of. Technology was still primitive compared to the present. Therefore murder investigations were quite ineffective .The only way someone could be caught is if the were seen in the act. It was rather hard to commit a crime as there were a lot of policemen on the beat, but a criminal with a lot of determination could not be stopped.
The police worked in different ways. Pick pocketing and street theft dropped dramatically with the patrolling. However, burglary rose sharply in the years 1875-95. This was because the police force was there for the prevention of crime, rather than detection.
Detectives were not regarded as a policing priority by Chief constables. This was especially so in London as there were less detectives here than in most major cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham (as of 1885). Also training for detectives was very basic. This would mean that there would be a lot of murder investigations left unsolved, the Whitechapel murders included.
Statistics showed that crime was indeed decreasing. The reason, however, may of not been of the metropolitan police force’s doing. The reason may have been that people were becoming less poor and the inner city slums, where so much crime was taking place, were being rid of. In conclusion, yes the Metropolitan police were a key to decreasing the crime rates. In spite of this, the other, and more important key was social and area improvement.