Instead of detective or officer, a member of the London’s Metropolitan Police force is referred to as Bobby. What is the origin of the term? What is the history of the Police Officers in London? Read on to find out.

The term Bobby was used in honor of Sir Robert Peel, the man who started the police force

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel, the British home minister, proposed the creation of a professional police force by the government who will guard and patrol all of metropolitan London except the City of London. Despite opposition, The Metropolitan Police Act was passed on the same year. Since the police officers during that time were so identified with Robert, they were referred to as “Bobbies” from Robert’s nickname or sometimes even “Peelers” from his surname.

Bobbies were tasked to detect and prevent crimes

Before the official police force was organized, public order was maintained by night watchmen, local constables, and intimidating red-coat-wearing soldiers. Upon the establishment of the police organization, the Bobbies were primarily tasked to detect and deter crimes. There were times, however, that they took on the responsibilities of night watchmen such as watching for fires and lighting lamps.

Bobbies initially wore uniforms that distinguished them from the military

To emphasize to the public that Bobbies were not a military force, they initially wore a blue tailcoat uniform with a top hat. Members of the police also did not carry guns. They were armed only with a short club and a whistle so that they can whistle for back up if they needed to.

Bobbies were instructed to follow the Peelian Principles

Robert’s vision was to create a professionalized law enforcement group that will serve the interest not only of the ruling class but ordinary citizen’s as well. For this reason, Robert made sure that Bobbies follow the Peelian Principles (essentially Robert Peel’s principles) which instructed officers to behave in a manner that will gain them honor, respect, and cooperation of all members of society regardless of class.

Bobbies were assessed based on outcome or impact and not output

While most people will define the success of a police force on the number of arrests (output), Robert’s Bobbies were assessed based on the absence or presence of crime and disorder in their area. Considering this principle, Bobbies were emulated by other countries as they were proven effective in deterring crimes.