Public opinion, crime and the police in Preston, c.1815-1914

Boyle, Christina (1995) Public opinion, crime and the police in Preston, c.1815-1914. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The aim of this research is to explore the nature of the relationship which developed between the Preston Borough Police Force and the public between 1815 and 1914. An attempt is made to determine whether or not the relationship fits either of the two models of nineteenth century policing; the 'conflict' model identified by Robert Storch and the consensus' model proposed by Charles Reith. Attempts are also made to discover whether or not there was a discernible pattern to the developing relationship between police and public similar to that noted by Barbara Weinberger for Warwickshire, and if the objections to the new police, noted by Stanley Palmer, were raised in Preston.
Several issues which affected the relationship are examined These include the influence public opinion had on determining the role of the police, the 'local' versus 'national' control controversy, and the policies on recruitment, discipline, incentives and duties pursued by the Watch Committee in its effort to establish and maintain an acceptable image of efficiency and effectiveness for the force. The validity of this image is examined by a study of the role played by the police in regard to political and industrial radicalism, popular recreation and their use of published crime statistics.
A number of findings have emerged through the course of this study. From the outset the two main objections noted by Palmer towards the establishment of the new police, namely the fear of a military force and the men being strangers were not substantiated in the case of Preston. The activities of the early force did not apparently elicit concern and the transition from 'parish' to 'police' constable was seemingly a cosmetic one. Whilst assaults were committed against the police throughout the period, the police were rarely the direct target of working class grievances and in Preston there is no evidence to substantiate Weinberger's 'rejectionist' notion of policing in the I 830s.
The 1 860s proved to be a significant turning point in the development of the force and its relationship with the public in Preston. Detailed analysis of the Preston force reveals a turbulent period in recruitment, and retaimnent, of a suitable calibre of men during the 1860s, but both prior and subsequent to this decade a reasonable degree of stability was maintained. The policies pursued by the Watch Committee reflect its concern to maintain the force under local control as well as to maintain an acceptable image. As such the role of the police was restricted to that designated by the Watch Committee, although increased government intervention becomes evident after 1856. In policing political and industrial radicalism the force was used mainly to support military forces in controlling popular protest, whilst as regards policing popular recreation a 'hands off approach appears to have been the norm, with police discretion in such matters increasing in importance.
Preston contemporaries perceived changes in the crime rate as evidence of police effectiveness and efficiency and changes in the crime rate had a direct bearing on increases made in the size of the force.
By 1914 the Borough Police Force of Preston was tolerated if not wholly accepted by every class of society. The relationship which developed does not fit the pattern proposed by Weinberger and, whilst on occasion the police may have been perceived as Storch's 'blue locusts' or 'domestic missionaries', Preston does not fit his 'conflict' model. However, neither does it fit Reith's 'consensus' model. The Preston police officer appears to have more closely resembled what Clive Emsley has termed a 'general factotum', and the relationship which developed between the police and the public would appear to lie somewhere between the two extremes suggested by these models of policing

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