Preventing crime, protecting the public and helping those in need
The history of policing in the West Midlands goes back to Victorian times, although West Midlands Police was formed in 1974 following amalgamation. In this section you can find a range of stories from across all eras of our history alongside tales from our police museums. View our History website.
During the early 19th century, policing in Birmingham 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.
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 100 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.
Wolverhampton became a county borough in 1889 and the force also took that title. Wolverhampton County Borough Police was created to serve the people of Wolverhampton and they served under that name from 1848 to 1966. 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, entering from Red Lion Street. In the mid-20th century single men’s quarters were established at Penn Hall.
In 1966 the Borough Police merged with what was then known as the West Midlands Constabulary. This was later amalgamated to create what we now know as West Midlands Police in 1974. The last Chief Constable was Norman Goodchild, CBE. Although he led a comparatively small force, he was very influential in national police matters.
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 over 2.8 million.
The force is headed by a Chief Constable who is appointed by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner. Which is scrutinised and supported by a separate Police and Crime Panel. The West Midlands Police and Crime Panel is made up of 12 councillors from across the West Midlands and two independent members.
The Chief Constable is based 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.
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