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The Met also has significant national responsibilities, such as co-ordinating and leading on UK-wide national counter-terrorism matters and protecting the Royal Family, certain members of Her Majesty's Government and others as deemed appropriate. As the police force for the capital, the Met has significant unique responsibilities and challenges within its police area, such as protecting 164 foreign embassies and High Commissions, policing Heathrow Airport (the busiest airport in Europe), policing and protecting the Palace of Westminster, and dealing with significantly more protests and events than any other force in the country (3,500 such events in 2016).
As of March 2018, the Met had 40,327 full-time personnel. This included 30,390 police officers, 8,027 police staff, 1,315 police community support officers and 595 designated officers. This number excludes the 2,246 special constables, who work voluntarily part-time (a minimum of 16 hours a month) and who have the same powers and uniform as their regular colleagues. This makes the Metropolitan Police, in terms of officer numbers, the largest police force in the United Kingdom by a significant margin, and one of the biggest in the world. In terms of its police area (primary geographic area of responsibility), leaving its national responsibilities aside, the Met has the eighth-smallest police area of the territorial police forces in the United Kingdom.
The Metropolitan Police Service, whose officers became affectionately known as "bobbies", was founded in 1829 by Robert Peel under the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 and on 29 September of that year, the first units of the service appeared on the streets of London. In 1839, the Marine Police Force, which had been formed in 1798, was amalgamated into the Metropolitan Police. In 1837, it also incorporated with the Bow Street Horse Patrol that had been organised in 1805.
Carved whale bonewhistle dated 1821. 8 cm long. Belonged to a 'Peeler' in the Metropolitan Police Service in London in the early 19th century.
Metropolitan Police officers talk to a seated woman, July 1976.
Helmet of the Metropolitan Police
The area policed by the Metropolitan Police Service is known as the Metropolitan Police District (MPD). In terms of geographic policing, the Met was divided into 32 Borough Operational Command Units that directly aligned with the 32 London boroughs covered. This situation has changed since 2017, as the Met has attempted to save money due to cuts in funding. There is currently a period of transition which will result in the MPD being divided into 12 Basic Command Units made up of two or three boroughs. There is criticism of these changes. The City of London (which is not a London borough) is a separate police area and is the responsibility of the separate City of London Police.
The English part of the Royal Parks Constabulary, which patrolled a number of Greater London's major parks, was merged with the Metropolitan Police in 2004, and those parks are now policed by the Royal Parks Operational Command Unit. There is also a small park police force, the Kew Constabulary, responsible for the Royal Botanic Gardens, whose officers have full police powers within the park. A few London borough councils maintain their own borough park constabularies, though their remit only extends to park by-laws, and although they are sworn as constables under laws applicable to parks, their powers are not equal to those of constables appointed under the Police Acts, meaning that they are not police officers.
Metropolitan Police officers have legal jurisdiction throughout all of England and Wales, including areas that have their own special police forces, such as the Ministry of Defence, as do all police officers of territorial police forces. Officers also have limited powers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Within the MPD, the Met will take over the investigation of any serious crime from the Ministry of Defence Police and to a lesser degree BTP, if it is deemed appropriate. Terrorist incidents and complex murder enquiries will almost always be investigated by the Met, with the assistance of any relevant specialist force, even if they are committed on Ministry of Defence or railway property. A minor incursion into the normal jurisdiction of territorial police officers in England and Wales is that Met officers involved in the protection duties of the Royal Family and other VIPs have full police powers in Scotland and Northern Ireland in connection with those duties.
Shared Support Services (part of Met Headquarters)
Each is overseen by an Assistant Commissioner, or in the case of administrative departments, a director of police staff, which is the equivalent civilian staff grade. The management board is made up of the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners and Directors.
The Metropolitan Police Service uses the standard British police ranks, indicated by shoulder boards, up to Chief Superintendent, but uniquely has five ranks above that level instead of the standard three; namely Commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner. All senior officers of the rank of Commander and above are chief police officers of NPCC (previously ACPO) rank.
The Met approved the use of name badges in October 2003, with new recruits wearing the Velcro badges from September 2004. The badge consists of the wearer's rank, followed by their surname.
Following controversy over assaults by uniformed officers with concealed shoulder identification numbers during the G20 summit, Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said, "the public has a right to be able to identify any uniformed officer whilst performing their duty" by their shoulder identification numbers.
The Met uniformed officer rank structure, with shoulder badge features, is as follows:
Police Constable (PC): Divisional call sign and shoulder number. Note that Detective Constables and Police Constables are parallel ranks.
Sergeant (Sgt or PS): Three pointing-down chevrons above the divisional call sign and shoulder number. An "acting" sergeant, such as a substantive constable being paid an allowance to undertake the duties of a sergeant for a short period of time, displays two pointing-down chevrons above the divisional call sign, and shoulder number. The use of three chevrons by an acting sergeant is technically incorrect. Three chevrons should only be used during a period of temporary (as opposed to acting) promotion or when substantively in the rank.
The prefix "Woman" in front of female officers' ranks has been obsolete since 1999. Members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) up to and including the rank of Chief Superintendent prefix their ranks with "Detective". Detective ranks are equivalent in rank to their uniform counterparts. Other departments, such as Special Branch and Child Protection, award non-detectives "Branch Detective" status, allowing them to use the "Detective" prefix. None of these detective ranks confer on the holder any extra pay or supervisory authority compared to their uniformed colleagues.
A Met Police Public Order Vehicle (POV) used by TSG
The Metropolitan Police Service consists of regular police officers and volunteer part-time special constables (both of whom have full police powers), and employed civilian staff and police community support officers. The Met was the first force to introduce PCSOs. Unlike police staff and PCSOs, police officers are not employees: they are servants of the crown. Funding for the Metropolitan police has been cut due to austerity. Changes in the way the government pays for police pensions will lead to further cuts.
One of the Met's BMW 5 Series Roads Policing Unit vehicles
Traffic Units : used to patrol the motorways and are pursuit authorized, enforce traffic laws and encourage road safety.
Protected Carriers: used for public order duties.
Control Units: used for incident command and control purposes.
Armoured Multi-role Vehicles: used for public order duties, airport duties or as required.
General Purpose Vehicles: used for general support and transportation duties of officers or equipment.
Training Vehicles: used to train police drivers under lights and sirens.
Miscellaneous Vehicles: such as horseboxes and trailers.
The majority of vehicles have a service life of three to five years; the Met replaces or upgrades between 800 and 1,000 vehicles each year. By 2012 the Met was marking all new marked vehicles with Battenburg markings, a highly-reflective material on the side of the vehicles, chequered blue and yellow for the police, and in other colours for other services. The old livery was an orange stripe through the vehicle, with the force's logo.
The following table shows the percentage detection rates for the Metropolitan Police by offence group for 2010/11.
Violence against the person
Offences against vehicles
Other theft offences
Fraud and forgery
England and Wales
The Metropolitan Police Service "screened out" 34,164 crimes the day they were reported in 2017 and did not investigate them further. This compares to 13,019 the previous year. 18,093 crimes were closed in 24 hours during the first 5 months of 2018 making it likely that the 2017 total will be exceeded. Crimes not being investigated include sexual assaults and arson, burglaries, thefts and assaults. Critics maintain this shows the effect of austerity on the force's ability to carry out its responsibilities.
Protection Command - This command is split into two branches: Royaty and Specialist Protection (RASP) and Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP). RaSP provides personal armed protection for the Royal family, Prime Minister and other ministers, ambassadors and visiting heads of state. PaDP is responsible for providing armed officers to protect the Palace of Westminster, important residences such as Downing Street and the many embassies found located in London. Royal Palaces are the responsibility of RaSP. The Special Escort Group (SEG) are responsible for escorting the Royal Family, Prime Minister and other ministers, ambassadors and visiting heads of state, and occasionally prisoner transport. They use motorcyclists to halt traffic, and use armed cars at the rear of the escort for armed assistance and traffic control. Once the escort has passed, the roads are immediately opened, different to how the United States handle police escorts, which tend to close the road off completely. All SEG officers are armed, the motorcycle officers carrying the Glock 17, and the car officers which utilize the more effective firearms such as the G36 and MP5 semi-automatic carbines.Their motto is "We lead, others follow".
Roads and Transport Policing Command - Provides policing for the transport network in London. However, the main division, the Traffic Division, patrols the roads, capable of securing Road Traffic Collisions (RTC), pursuing fleeing suspects and enforcing speed, safety, and drink driving.
Specialist Firearms Command - (SCO19) Responsible for providing armed response and support across the whole of London with 3 Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO) travelling in ARVs (Armed Response Vehicles) responding to calls involving firearms and weapons, which may put a unarmed officers at risk. SCO19 has a smaller number of CTSFOs (Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers), who have a higher level of training.
Dog Support Unit - (DSU) Provides highly trained dogs and police handlers. They are trained to detect drugs and firearms, respond to searches, missing people, and fleeing suspects. There is also a division which has bomb-detection dogs.
Marine Policing Unit - (MPU) Provides policing on the waterways of London, responding to situations in the River Thames and tracking and stopping illegal vessels entering and exiting London.
Mounted Branch - Provides policing on horseback in London. One of their duties is escorting the Royal Guard down The Mall, into and out of Buckingham Palace every morning from April to July, then occasionally through the remainder of the year. They also provide public order support and are commonly called to police football matches in the event of any unrest. All officers are trained in public order tactics on horseback.
Territorial Support Group - (TSG) Highly trained officers, specialised in public order and large scale riots responding around London in marked Public Order Vehicles (POV) with 6 constables and a sergeant in each POV. They aim to: secure the capital against terrorism, respond to any disorder in London, and reduce priority crime through borough support. They respond in highly-protective uniform during riots or large disorder, protecting themselves from any thrown objects or hazards.
In addition to the headquarters at New Scotland Yard, there are many police stations in London. These range from large borough headquarters staffed around the clock every day to smaller stations, which may be open to the public only during normal business hours, or on certain days of the week. In 2017, there were 73 working front counters open to the public in London.
A traditional blue lamp as seen outside most police stations. This one is outside Charing Cross police station.
Most police stations can easily be identified from one or more blue lamps located outside the entrance, which were introduced in 1861.
The oldest Metropolitan police station, which opened in Bow Street in 1881, closed in 1992 and the adjoining Bow Street Magistrates' Court heard its last case on 14 July 2006. The oldest operational police station in London is in Wapping, which opened in 1908. It is the headquarters of the marine policing unit (formerly known as Thames Division), which is responsible for policing the River Thames. It also houses a mortuary and the River Police Museum.
Paddington Green Police Station, which is no longer operational, received much publicity for its housing of terrorism suspects in an underground complex prior to its closure in 2017.
In 2004, there was a call from the Institute for Public Policy Research for more imaginative planning of police stations to aid in improving relations between police forces and the wider community.
Officers killed in the line of duty
The sculpture on the grave of Constable William Frederick Tyler, Abney Park Cemetery, London
The Police Memorial Trust lists and commemorates all British police officers killed in the line of duty, and since its establishment in 1984 has erected dozens of memorials to some of those officers.
^The Thin Blue Line, Police Council for Great Britain Staff Side Claim for Undermanning Supplements, 1965
^Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1952. Included 35 Chief Superintendents (including one woman), 12 Detective Chief Superintendents, 62 Superintendents (including one woman), 16 Detective Superintendents, 128 Chief Inspectors (including five women), 64 Detective Chief Inspectors (including one woman), 20 Station Inspectors, 465 Inspectors (including four women), 140 Detective Inspectors (including one woman), 441 Station Sergeants, 202 1st Class Detective Sergeants, 1,834 Sergeants (including 32 women), 414 2nd Class Detective Sergeants (including six women), 11,951 Constables (including 310 women), and 615 Detective Constables (including 27 women). The official establishment was 20,045.
^Raymond B. Fosdick, European Police Systems, 1915. Figures at 31 December 1912, including 33 Superintendents, 607 Chief Inspectors and Inspectors, 2,747 Sergeants and 17,142 Constables.