During the early nineteenth century, policing in Birmingham was the responsibility of three main authorities:
Street Commissioners - street keepers and nightwatchmen who were given uniforms and sworn in as constables to deal with the protection of the public and property as well as traffic obstructions;
Justices of the Peace - responsible for keeping the peace and enrolling special constables;
The Court Leet - an ancient body made up of the High Bailiff, the Low Bailiff and the Court Leet Jury. They appointed two constables every year who were responsible for suppressing riots and public disorder. They also executed warrants issued by the courts.
Birmingham did not have a regular police force and, following an outbreak of Chartist rioting in the summer of 1839, local magistrates had to call for help from the Metropolitan Police. A contingency of a hundred officers arrived and were sworn in as special constables to help quell the disturbances. As a result of the violent scenes an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the city to set up its own police force and appoint a chief commissioner, empowered to recruit a sufficient number of 'fit and able men' as constables.
On 1 September 1839 local barrister Francis Burgess was appointed as the first police commissioner for Birmingham.
Birmingham City Police took charge of the streets on November 20, 1839, with 260 men. They were paid 17 shillings a week and supplied with a uniform.
The strength of the force grew in relation to the city. In 1891 Saltley, Little Bromwich, Balsall Heath and Harborne were added to the city boundaries. Quinton followed in 1909 and two years later almost 44,000 acres were added with the inclusion of Aston, Erdington, Yardley, Acocks Green, Hall Green, Sparkhill, Moseley, Kings Heath, Kings Norton, Northfield and Handsworth. Perry Barr was added in 1928 followed by Castle Bromwich and Sheldon in 1931. The final additions were made in 1966 when part of Hollywood was included.
In 1974, following the reorganisation of the local authority boundaries, Birmingham City Police was incorporated into the newly formed West Midlands Police.
There was no formal system of policing in Coventry until 1836 when 20 constables, a sergeant and an inspector, were enrolled under the Municipal Corporations Act in 1836.
The Chief Constable was an ex-Bow Street Runner, Mr Thomas Henry Prosser. The force continued to grow in strength and by 1914 there were 137 officers patrolling the streets. In 1969 the force - by now 500 strong - amalgamated with its neighbour, Warwickshire and Coventry Constabulary. The merger lasted four years until Coventry fell victim to another local government reorganisation. In 1974 Coventry and Solihull were incorporated into the newly formed West Midlands county.
West Midlands Police was formed on April 1, 1974, with a strength of 5,282 officers. It incorporated Birmingham City Police, West Midlands Constabulary (Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Oldbury), Coventry, Solihull, Chelmsley Wood, Sutton Coldfield and Halesowen.
Today, it is the second largest force in the country, covering 348 sq miles and a population of 2.63 million.
The force is headed by a Chief Constable who is appointed by a Police Authority, made up of elected councillors, magistrates and independent members.
The Chief Constable is jointly responsible with the West Midlands Police Authority and the Home Office, for running a police service for the area.
The Chief Constable is based at Lloyd House headquarters in Birmingham and is supported by a number of assistant chief constables and a director of resources.
The force is divided into 10 local policing units (LPUs) covering the whole region.