Rotten boroughs: the crisis of urban policing and the decline of municipal independence 1914–64

Williams, Chris A. (2007). Rotten boroughs: the crisis of urban policing and the decline of municipal independence 1914–64. In: Moore, James R. and Smith, John eds. Corruption in Urban Politics and Society, Britain 1780–1950. Historical Urban Studies Series. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 155–175.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315259192

Abstract

This chapter examines the story of police 'reform' in the context of urban history, and shows that a key moment in the process occurred in the 1950s, when the position of urban police was called into question by a number of scandals. The Home Office was able to use the air of widespread corruption to redefine the limits of local independence. In 1854 and 1856, the Home Office's attempts to pass police bills that limited the rights of boroughs to control their own police forces were defeated in a 'furore of municipal agitation'. In Nottingham, the scandal was presented as one that revealed corruption within the council: it unequivocally showed the gap between de facto and de jure divisions of responsibility between Chief Constable, watch committee and Home Office. The Association of Municipal Corporations (AMC), having recognised that the 'battle' was over and lost, were exhorted at their police conference to 'knuckle down' and help make the new system work.

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