chapter  4
POLICING
Pages 15

In 1834 a group of distinguished politicians was appointed to assess the results of Robert Peel's experiment in turning the control of London's streets over to a professional police force. Their conclusion was that it had been a success beyond almost everyone's expectations, although they acknowledged that in the five years since Parliament had agreed to create the Metropolitan Police, mistakes had been made under the pressure of severe trials. Liberal-minded critics had been sensitive to incidents in which individual freedom had been unnecessarily curbed, radicals had reacted vigorously when the police appeared to be acting to suppress dissent, and conservatives had resisted the intrusion of centralized bureaucracy into traditional and communal ways of controlling crime and violence. Yet, the Committee remarked, nothing had been done which was "not entirely consistent with the fullest practical exercise of every civil privilege, and with the most unrestrained intercourse of private society." They expressed satisfaction that the exercise of this new kind of authority in public spaces so closely associated with the very essence of English liberties could take place without sacrificing "that perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference which are the great privileges and blessings of society in this country."!