During the early 19th century, policing in West Midlands was the responsibility of three main authorities:
- Street Commissioners - street keepers and night watchmen. They 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.
There was no formal system of policing in Coventry until 1836 when 20 constables, a sergeant and an inspector were sworn in. The Chief Constable was Mr Thomas Henry Prosser.
Birmingham did not have a regular police force, with local magistrates having to call for help from the Metropolitan Police when rioting broke out in the summer of 1839. A contingency of 100 officers arrived and were sworn in as special constables to help stop the disturbances.
As a result of the violence, an Act of Parliament was passed, allowing the city to set up its own police force and appoint a chief commissioner, who could then recruit a sufficient number of ‘fit and able men’ as constables.
On 1 September local barrister Francis Burgess was appointed as the first police commissioner for Birmingham, and on 20 November, Birmingham City Police was born. The force had just 260 men, who were paid 17 shillings a week, (which in today’s money is £37!) and the strength of the force grew in relation to the city.
Wolverhampton County Borough Police was created to serve the people of Wolverhampton. Lt. Col. Gilbert Hogg was hired as the first Chief Constable and reported to a watch committee. The police station and cells eventually moved to the new Town Hall in North Street.
On 1 April 1974, Birmingham City Police, West Midlands Constabulary, plus parts of Staffordshire County and Stoke-on-Trent Constabulary, Warwickshire and Coventry Constabulary and West Mercia Constabulary, all joined together to form West Midlands Police. The first Chief Constable was Sir Derrick Capper QPM.
The force is headed by a Chief Constable who is appointed by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The actions of the force are scrutinised by the PCC and the Strategic Policing and Crime Board. This is made up of the PCC, two assistant commissioners, and eight board members.
The Chief Constable is based in Birmingham and is supported by a Deputy Chief Constable, four assistant chief constables, a director of people and a director of commercial services.