The National Archives Public Information Films
Print page Close window

The British Policeman


Police Constable Jack Edwards is a British policeman. He is married and has 2 children: Susan aged 5 and Robert aged 3.

He and his family have just finished their mid-day meal and he is about to go to the police station where he will report for duty.

Constable Edwards joined the police force when he left the Army and has now served in the police for more than 6 years.

Although it is his duty to enforce the law, he himself must also obey it, and he shares with his neighbours all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Today, his 8-hour period of duty will last from 2 o'clock until 10 tonight. During this time he will be patrolling his area - it's called a beat, maintaining law and order, helping those who require help, and giving advice to those who seek it.

At a quarter to 2 he parades with the other policemen who are on duty at the same time. Each of them is given his orders for the day. PC Edwards is told the area he must patrol. He is shown a photograph and given a description of a girl aged 16 who is missing from home in another town, and is believed to be making her way to this city. And he is also asked to make a note of a building that is being used for a dance that evening.

Then they all have to show the Inspector that they are carrying their truncheons and handcuffs. The British policeman does not carry a gun. A truncheon is his only weapon of defence and, because of the respect that all people have for his uniform, it is quite exceptional for it to be used. In fact, if a policeman draws his truncheon, he must later report this action to his superior officer.

In Great Britain there is an average of 1 policeman to every 650 persons. In this city, there are 400 policeman of which about 100 are on duty at any one time. The A team that you see here are about to go out on foot patrol. Others will be out on cars and on motorcycles, some will remain behind to staff the station itself.

On this particular day, PC Edwards has been given a beat near the city centre and after taking over from one of his colleagues, starts out on his tour of duty.

The railway station lies on his beat, so he calls there first to enquire whether anyone answering the description of the missing girl has been seen there during the day.

The ticket collector cannot help him, so he continues on his way, patrolling his beat.

In addition to the railway station, his beat includes one side of the market place, a street of lock-up shops and warehouses, a school, part of the city park and a row of houses - as much ground as he can easily cover from one end to other in 30 minutes.

At fixed times the policeman has to report to his headquarters by telephone from one of several police pillars. Police headquarters can always get in touch with him at these points.

If he does not report on time, it is taken as a sign that something might have happened.

These fixed times also give a chance for the policeman and his superior officer, the Inspector, to meet so that information can be exchanged. After the Inspector has suggested a likely line of enquiry in the search for the missing girl, they go on their respective ways again.

Meanwhile, at the market place, some boxes have fallen off a moving lorry, fortunately without injuring any passers-by. And a crowd has quickly gathered round, thus blocking the traffic.

It is one of a policeman's duties to see that the roads and pavements are kept clear. A softly spoken "move along there, please" from the policeman is enough to send the people on their way.

The policeman also has to make sure that the public obey the traffic laws. In this case, the driver, having given his particulars to the policeman, is told that in future he must take greater care in tying down the boxes which he carries on his lorry.

One of the objects of putting a policeman in uniform is the prevention of crime. For although much of his duty on a one-man beat is very hard work - which is often dull, by his mere presence and by keeping alert he will deter many would-be wrongdoers.

The British policeman is a friend to all, except the criminal. He is taught that the police are the servants, not the masters, of the public. And it is their duty to be ready at all times to protect and befriend all those who need help. Whatever the trouble is, people know that the policeman will deal with the situation efficiently and without fuss, so they turn automatically to the police for help. And advice is readily sought from them on a variety of personal problems, even on the correct way in which an old-age pension form should be completed - nothing is too trivial, nothing is too serious for his attention. And he thereby becomes a good friend of the people. They have learnt to trust and respect him.

Between 5 and 6 o'clock the many people who have come to the city centre to work go home to the outskirts of the city, where they live. The roads are therefore beginning to fill up with cars and bicycles as people make their way home. And it is part of the policeman's job to see that all the traffic is kept moving.

It is during this busy time that accidents are most frequent, so Constable Edwards keeps a careful watch to see that motorists do not park their cars close to corners, where they might interfere with the smooth passage of traffic.

At half past 6, PC Edwards has his evening meal at the police station. It is the one break that he gets during his 8-hour period of duty. The policeman who has just finished his meal is going to help at a children's cycle riding class. Every policeman has to perform duties like this, now and then, for, at a time when roads are more crowded with cars than ever before, it is important that young people are able to handle their bicycles safely as early as possible.

After his evening meal, PC Edwards stops at the bus station to continue with his enquiries for the missing girl, but with no success.

However, as he walks off, he sees a girl whose appearance and clothing agree with the description given him earlier in the day.

Realising he was mistaken, Constable Edwards apologises and resumes his patrol.

Much of a policeman's time on duty is spent preventing crime, by removing temptation from the would-be criminal. The people who work in the city centre have now gone home, so PC Edwards tests the doors of all unguarded buildings and makes sure they are properly locked up for the night.

If he finds a door that is unlocked, he calls the police station to report it so that the owner can be told.

The owner is picked up by a police car and brought to the building as quickly as possible.

A dog-handler and his highly-trained police dog have also been brought along.

Police dogs are used for tracking criminals and for searching buildings which may have been unlawfully entered. The dog has been trained to find any suspected persons, hold them at bay and bark to attract the handler's attention.

Satisfied that no one has broken into the store, the owner carefully locks the door and our policeman once more continues his tour of duty.

The police will always take action. Then, when they are needed for more serious police duties they know that people will always call for them, without hesitation.

Many emergency calls are made by telephone. The caller dials 999. The telephone operator immediately asks which service the caller needs: fire, police or ambulance? If police aid is needed the caller is switched straight through to the Police Information Room. This room at police headquarters is manned day and night. From here, the Duty Officer can send wireless messages to the patrol car nearest the scene of the incident. The cars are so placed that it is seldom more than 2 or 3 minutes before the police are dealing with the problem on the spot.

Apparently, a woman has seen someone moving about near the back of her neighbour's house, and as she knows that the owners are at the local cinema, she has rightly called for the police, realising that it is her duty to do so.

The Duty Officer may also switch on a flashing light at the police pillar to warn the policeman on whose beat the incident has occurred, so he can help those in the police car.

At police headquarters, there is always a Police Sergeant on duty. Any person brought in and accused of a crime is told what the offence is and why he has been arrested. He is then cautioned and asked if he wishes to make a statement. He is also told that he does not have to say anything if he does not wish to. Any statement he may make may be used in evidence when he appears in court the next morning.

Back on his beat again PC Edwards is approached by the owner of a coffee stall. The stall-owner tells him that there is a young girl about 16 years old at his coffee stall who says she has run away from home.

Our policeman immediately recognises her as the girl reported missing earlier in the day. He takes her over to a nearby telephone booth and phones through police headquarters.

They send a policewoman in a police car to bring in the missing girl. The policewoman will take the girl to a hostel, where she will be given a meal and a bed for the night, before being sent home in the morning.

At 10 o'clock, PC Edwards's period of duty is over, and he hands over his beat to one of his colleagues, having told him all that has happened in the area.

And so the tour of duty goes on throughout the city, night and day, in rain, snow or sunshine, the policeman are out on their beats, friendly and helpful and being firm where firmness is called for and being kind to those who seek aid. The policeman is a friend of the people and he knows that they will always turn to him, without fear or restraint, in their time of need.


  Print page Close window