Police control systems in Britain, 1775–1975

From parish constable to national computer

Police Control Systems focuses on the way that British police institutions have controlled the individual constable on the ‘front line’. This control has been exercised by a variety of different institutions and individuals, ranging from direct day-to-day input from ‘the community’, responsibility under Common Law, through bureaucratic systems built around exacting codes of rules – and the gradual modification of this process to accommodate a growing professionalism – to the real-time control of officers by radio, coupled with the increasing use of surveillance techniques. This is the first book on police history which looks at how police institutions worked on a day to day level. It challenges the idea that the reformed police of the early nineteenth century were automatically ‘professional’, asserting instead that in most respects they were de-professionalised. It describes the role played in police organisations by books, forms, clerks, and telephones, and looks at how some of this technology was derived from military precedents. It argues that at many - but not all – technical milestones in these institutional developments were precipitated by national security concerns. It ends with an analysis of the development of the Police National Computer in the 1960s and 1970s: a milestone in policing and computing history which has never been explored before.

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