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Crime and Punishment
  Crime Prevention in the 20th Century Main page

Did police work change dramatically in the 20th century?

The BIG QUESTION in this strand asks about key turning-points in crime prevention in Britain. The 20th century brought enormous changes to nearly every aspect of life, so police work was bound to be affected.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were still 181 police forces in Britain. Many were very small: 41 of them had less than 50 policemen. Different forces worked in different ways and there was little contact or co-operation between them. There was no central criminal record-keeping. Greater mobility of criminals and the need to make use of new technology led to amalgamations of police forces: by 1946 there were 120 forces and by 2000 there were only 41.
In 1900 there were 60,000 police; by 2000 there were over 125,000. Over the century they became a much better-trained force. In 1900 new recruits learnt the job by doing it; now each has 14 weeks training. A National Police College was set up in 1947 to provide further training. Pay and conditions, with grievances dating back to Victorian times, led to police strikes in 1918 and 1919. Police are now banned from striking, but pay and conditions are good. The first women joined the police in 1920. The first women Chief Constable was appointed in 1996.
Some aspects of police work have changed much less. British police are still normally unarmed, and their uniform, though altered regularly, still looks much the same as it did in 1900, especially the helmet. One of the biggest changes of the later 20th century, taking police off the beat and putting them in cars, has not been popular and in many places the walking beat has been restored.
20th century technology was adopted in order to meet new needs and to improve police work. There are now many different specialist units, from dog handlers to police laboratory staff. But has it led to a better police force? Judge for yourself after looking at Case-Study 1.
However, all this must be set in the context of the post-1960 massive increase in crime -see Gallery
Crime in the 20th Century. This has been accompanied by a much more critical attitude towards the police on the part of the public. These changes, and police responses to them, are explored in Case-Study 2.

Two Case-Studies:
1. Police work and New Technology
2. Public attitudes to the police.

How To Work
1. Work through each of these Case-Studies. Read and analyse the Sources in each. There are HINTS in each Case-Study to help you get the most out of the Sources.
2. At the end of your Case-Study, fill in some of the Gallery Worksheet.
3. Move on to the next Case-Study. You will only be able to answer the Key Question when you have done most or all of the Case-Studies.

Case Studies











Source 1 Source 2 Source 4 Source 3 To Crime, 20th Century End To Punishment, 20th Century Case Studies To Prevention, 1750-1900 Case Study 1, The police and new technology Case Study 2, Public attitudes to the police Worksheet Game