How to look for records of... Police
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to help you with your research. Only the records of the Metropolitan Police, the Royal Irish Constabulary and a few relating to the Transport Police are held at The National Archives. Surviving records of other police forces are held either by local archives or the relevant force. Not all police staff records have survived.
What do I need to know before I start?
What records can I see online?
What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
What records can I find in other archives and organisations?
What other resources will help me find information?
Did you know?
Police forces as we now understand them did not exist until the 19th century. Before that policing was carried out by locally employed watchmen, constables and magistrates.
The first modern police force in England was the Metropolitan Police Force, created in 1829. Provincial police forces in England and Wales did not begin until after the County Police Act of 1839.
Nearly all the Metropolitan Police staff records detail:
- warrant number
- dates of appointment and removal
The Irish Constabulary (Ireland) Act 1836 created a single, unified police force responsible for the whole of Ireland, except Dublin. In 1867 it was renamed the Royal Irish Constabulary. This was disbanded in 1922. From 1922 to 2001 the police force in Northern Ireland was the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Records of other police forces (except the Royal Irish Constabulary) are not public records. Those which survive are held either by:
- the appropriate local record office
- the force itself
It might help when searching for records for Railway and Transport police to know that:
- following the Railways Act 1921 the four largest railway groups had their own police force controlled by a Chief of Police
- during the Second World War the railways were run by the Railway Executive Committee, under which was the Police Committee made up of the four Chiefs of Police
- after the war the railways were nationalised and a national railway police force was established
- in 1949 the British Transport Commission Police was created, incorporating the old four railway police forces as well as several minor canal and dock forces
- in 1958 the London Transport Police was absorbed into the British Transport Police