Photograph of two policemen with a man on a stretcher, 1884 (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/369)

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?

    • Try to find out:

      • which police force the officer served in
      • the dates of joining and leaving the police force
      • the police officer's warrant number
  • What records can I see online?

    • Metropolitan police registers (1829-1958)

      Search Metropolitan police registers in MEPO 4/31-32, MEPO 4/361-477 and MEPO 4/352-477 if you have the officer's warrant number. The records are arranged in order of warrant numbers.

      If you do not know the warrant number, search:

      •  the Metropolitan police registers of leavers in MEPO 4/339-351 (arranged by date)
      •  registers of joiners in MEPO 4/333-338 (arranged alphabetically within ranges of warrant numbers)
    • Returns of deaths for Metropolitan Police personnel (1829-1889)

      Consult MEPO 4/2 for returns of death which gives the cause of death.

  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • Metropolitan police entry books (1829-1836)

      Browse the entry book in HO 65/26. This records is particularly useful if you do not know the officer's warrant number. The entry books give dates of promotion or demotion.

    • Metropolitan Police pension records (1829-1890)

      Before 1890, pensions were granted on a discretionary basis. Browse correspondence and papers in MEPO 5/1-90 (1829-1859) for:

      • personnel who had a right to a pension after 25 years' service 
      • those deemed medically unfit for service

      Search Discovery, our catalogue, in MEPO 21/1-19  for records of Metropolitan Police pensioners who retired or resigned between 1852 and 1890 and who received a police pension.

      Please note, this is a search across the entire catalogue description of each record, not just the name. A search for someone called Barnes, for example, may give some results for people born in Barnes.

      Narrow your search by using quotation marks to find a person's full name, such as 'John Williams'.

    • Metropolitan Police pension records (1891-1993)

      Browse our catalogue in MEPO 21/21-210 for records after 1890, which are arranged by date of retirement. This may be found by referring to the registers of leavers in MEPO 4/339-351 referred to above.

    • Kings Police medal records (1909-1951)

      Browse HO 45, MEPO 2/1300, MEPO 22/2 and MEPO 7 for mentions of officers who received the Kings Police medal.

    • Metropolitan Police orders (1829-1989)

      Browse our catalogue in MEPO 7 for police orders.

      Items included are:

      • staff news
      • promotions
      • awards
      • retirements
      • dismissals

      Note that the records are closed for 50 years. If you already know the date of a particular event these might give you more information.

    • Selected police files of distinguished officers in the Metropolitan Police Force (1858-1933)

      Locate joining papers of a number of distinguished officers in MEPO 3/2883-2921. The covering dates are for dates of service. These personal files are subject to closure for at least 75 years.

    • Royal Irish Constabulary service records (1816-1922)

      Browse in HO 184 for service records of the Royal Irish Constabulary from 1816 to 1922. Find the service number in J Herlihy, The Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of Officers and men, 1816-1922 (Four Courts Press, 1999), then use our catalogue to find the appropriate piece number in HO 184.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Women police officers

      Locate names and records of service of women police officers from 1919 to 1986 at the Metropolitan Women Police Association.

    • Women police patrols

      Consult records of service and photographs of the women police patrols employed from 1919 at the Metropolitan Historical Collection.

    • Colonial police forces

      Records of the forces may well have been deposited in the archives of the country to which they relate.

    • British Transport Police

      Contact the British Transport Police; the organisation holds several thousand staff record cards dating back to the 1860s.

    • The City of London Police registers (1832 onwards)

      Consult registers of The City of London Police. These list every member of the force since warrant numbers were introduced in 1832, together with personal files on 95% of officers who have served since that date. They are held by the Corporation of London Record Office.

    • Local police forces

      Contact the relevant police force for records other than those of the Metropolitan Police or the Royal Irish Constabulary. For contact details use Find an archive.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Look through the history pages of the Metropolitan Police website for organisational history on the force as well as information on the Metropolitan Police's own archives, which include records of individual officers.

      Browse the National Police Officers Roll of Honour for details of 4,000 UK police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

      Consult A guide to the archives of the police forces of England and Wales for details of the records that each police force holds.

    • Books

      Consult The Royal Irish Constabulary. A Complete Alphabetical List of Officers and men, 1816-1922, by J Herlihy (Four Courts Press, 1999).

    • Name indexes

      An incomplete name index of officers, largely drawn from the Metropolitan Police records listed above, is available in the paper version of MEPO 3 series list at The National Archives for consultation.

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:

  • name
  • rank
  • warrant number
  • division
  • 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