As of September 2017, the Met had 40,874 full-time personnel. This included 30,871 police officers, 8,005 police staff, 1,384 police community support officers and 614 designated officers. This number excludes the 2,470 special constables, who work voluntarily part-time (a minimum of 16 hours a month) and who have the same powers and uniform as their regular colleagues. This makes the Metropolitan Police, in terms of officer numbers, the largest police force in the United Kingdom by a significant margin, and one of the biggest in the world. In terms of its police area (primary geographic area of responsibility), leaving its national responsibilities aside, the Met has the 8th smallest police area of the territorial police forces in the United Kingdom.
The Metropolitan Police Service, whose officers became affectionately known as "bobbies", was founded in 1829 by Robert Peel under the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 and on 29 September of that year, the first units of the service appeared on the streets of London. In 1839, the Marine Police Force, which had been formed in 1798, was amalgamated into the Metropolitan Police. In 1837, it also incorporated with the Bow Street Horse Patrol that had been organised in 1805.
The English part of the Royal Parks Constabulary, which patrolled a number of Greater London's major parks, was merged with the Metropolitan Police in 2004, and those parks are now policed by the Royal Parks Operational Command Unit. There is also a small park police force, the Kew Constabulary, responsible for the Royal Botanic Gardens, whose officers have full police powers within the park. A few London borough councils maintain their own borough park constabularies, though their remit only extends to park by-laws, and although they are sworn as constables under laws applicable to parks, their powers are not equal to those of constables appointed under the Police Acts, meaning that they are not police officers.
Metropolitan Police officers have legal jurisdiction throughout all of England and Wales, including areas that have their own special police forces, such as the Ministry of Defence, as do all police officers of territorial police forces. Officers also have limited powers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Within the MPD, the Met will take over the investigation of any serious crime from the British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police, if it is deemed appropriate. Terrorist incidents and complex murder enquiries will almost always be investigated by the Met, with the assistance of any relevant specialist force, even if they are committed on railway or Ministry of Defence property. A minor oddity to the normal jurisdiction of territorial police officers in England and Wales is that Met officers involved in the protection duties of the Royal Family and other VIPs have full police powers in Scotland and Northern Ireland in connection with those duties.
Organisation and structure
The Metropolitan Police Service is organised into the following directorates:
Shared Support Services (part of Met Headquarters)
Each is overseen by an Assistant Commissioner, or in the case of administrative departments, a director of police staff, which is the equivalent civilian staff grade. The management board is made up of the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners and Directors.
The Metropolitan Police Service uses the standard British police ranks, indicated by shoulder boards, up to Chief Superintendent, but uniquely has five ranks above that level instead of the standard three; namely Commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner. All senior officers of the rank of Commander and above are chief police officers of NPCC (previously ACPO) rank.
The Met approved the use of name badges in October 2003, with new recruits wearing the Velcro badges from September 2004. The badge consists of the wearer's rank, followed by their surname.
Following controversy over assaults by uniformed officers with concealed shoulder identification numbers during the G20 summit, Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said, "the public has a right to be able to identify any uniformed officer whilst performing their duty" by their shoulder identification numbers.
The Met uniformed officer rank structure, with shoulder badge features, is as follows:
Police Constable (PC): Divisional call sign and shoulder number. Note that Detective Constables and Police Constables are the same rank.
Sergeant (Sgt or PS): Three pointing-down chevrons above the divisional call sign and shoulder number. An "acting" sergeant, such as a substantive constable being paid an allowance to undertake the duties of a sergeant for a short period of time, displays two pointing-down chevrons above the divisional call sign, and shoulder number. The use of three chevrons by an acting sergeant is technically incorrect. Three chevrons should only be used during a period of temporary (as opposed to acting) promotion or when substantively in the rank.
The prefix "Woman" in front of female officers' ranks has been obsolete since 1999. Members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) up to and including the rank of Chief Superintendent prefix their ranks with "Detective". Detective ranks are equivalent in rank to their uniform counterparts. Other departments, such as Special Branch and Child Protection, award non-detectives "Branch Detective" status, allowing them to use the "Detective" prefix. None of these detective ranks confer on the holder any extra pay or supervisory authority compared to their uniformed colleagues.
One of the Met's BMW 5 Series Roads Policing Unit vehicles
Traffic Units : used to patrol the motorways and are pursuit authorized, enforce traffic laws and encourage road safety.
Protected Carriers: used for public order duties.
Control Units: used for incident command and control purposes.
Armoured Multi-role Vehicles: used for public order duties, airport duties or as required. Staffed by CTSFOs.
General Purpose Vehicles: used for general support and transportation duties of officers or equipment.
Training Vehicles: used to train police drivers under lights and sirens.
Miscellaneous Vehicles: such as horseboxes and trailers.
The majority of vehicles have a service life of three to five years; the Met replaces or upgrades between 800 and 1,000 vehicles each year. As of 2012, the Met has transitioned all new vehicles into the Battenburg markings, which is a highly-reflective material on the side of the vehicles, chequered blue and yellow (symbol of police). The old livery was an orange stripe through the vehicle, with the force's logo. However, these liveries are becoming hard to find, as all new vehicles are being fitted with Battenburg.
A BMW X5 ARV - indicted by the yellow dots around the vehicle
Cost of the service
A Ford Focus IRV responding to emergency call
Annual expenditure for single years, selected by quarter centuries.
In 2014/15, The Met had total expenditure of £3,208m (down from £3,692m in 2011/12), of which £2,475m went on pay (down from £2,754m).
The Metropolitan Police have stated that they will not investigate low level crimes and crimes where finding a suspect is unlikely. Serious crimes like violent offences will still be investigated. This has been criticised as giving the, "green light" to thieves but funding for the Metropolitan Police has been cut in recent years and the force claims it must stay within its budget.
The following table shows the percentage detection rates for the Metropolitan Police by offence group for 2010/11.
Violence against the person
Offences against vehicles
Other theft offences
Fraud and forgery
England and Wales
Diplomatic Protection Group – Provides personal armed protection for the Royal family, Prime Minister and other ministers, ambassadors and visiting heads of state. Special Operation units SO1 and SO14 merged in April 2015, to form RaSP (Royalty and Specialist Protection) which provides the roles above. The Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) is responsible for providing armed officers that guard important residences such as Downing Street, but not Buckingham Palace and other palaces, as RaSP provides this. The Special Escort Group (SEG) are responsible for escorting the Royal Family, Prime Minister and other ministers, ambassadors and visiting heads of state, and occasionally prisoner transport. They use motorbikes to halt traffic, and use armed cars at the rear of the escort for armed assistance and traffic control. Once the escort has passed, the roads are immediately opened, different to how the United States handle police escorts, which tend to close the road off completely. All SEG officers are armed, even the motorbike officers which utilize the Glock 17, and the car officers which utilize the more effective firearms such as the G36 and MP5 semi-automatic carbines.
Roads and Transport Policing Command – Provides policing for the transport network in London. However, the main division, the Traffic Division, patrols the roads, capable of securing Road Traffic Collisions (RTC), pursuing fleeing suspects and enforcing speed, safety, and drink driving.
Specialist Firearms Command – (SCO19) Responsible for providing armed response and support across the whole of London with 3 Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO) travelling in ARVs (Armed Response Vehicles) responding to calls involving firearms and weapons, which may put a unarmed officers at risk. SCO19 has a small number of CTSFOs (Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers), who have a higher level of training.
Dog Support Unit – (DSU) Provides highly trained dogs and police handlers. They are trained to detect drugs and firearms, respond to searches, missing people, and fleeing suspects. There is also a division which has bomb-detection dogs.
Marine Policing Unit – (MPU) Provides policing on the waterways of London, responding to situations in the River Thames and tracking and stopping illegal vessels entering and exiting London.
Mounted Branch – Provides policing on horseback in London. One of their duties is escorting the Royal Guard down The Mall, into and out of Buckingham Palace every morning from April to July, then occasionally through the remainder of the year. They also provide public order support and are commonly called to police football matches in the event of any unrest. All officers are trained in public order tactics on horseback.
Territorial Support Group – (TSG) Highly trained officers, specialised in public order and large scale riots responding around London in marked Public Order Vehicles (POV) with 6 constables and a sergeant in each POV. They aim to: secure the capital against terrorism, respond to any disorder in London, and reduce priority crime through borough support. They respond in highly-protective uniform during riots or large disorder, protecting themselves from any thrown objects or hazards.
The Air Support Unit was formerly a division within MPS, operating 3 EC145 helicopters based at Lippitts Hill, Essex. In October 2015, this was absorbed into the National Police Air Service - responsible for the operation of all police aviation in England and Wales. The staff previously based at the ASU are on full-time secondment to NPAS, still operating with the same helicopters and from the same base.
In addition to the headquarters at New Scotland Yard, there are 140 police stations in London. These range from large borough headquarters staffed around the clock every day to smaller stations, which may be open to the public only during normal business hours, or on certain days of the week.
A traditional blue lamp as seen outside most police stations. This one is outside Charing Cross police station.
Most police stations can easily be identified from one or more blue lamps located outside the entrance, which were introduced in 1861.
The oldest Metropolitan police station, which opened in Bow Street in 1881, closed in 1992 and the adjoining Bow Street Magistrates' Court heard its last case on 14 July 2006. The oldest operational police station in London is in Wapping, which opened in 1908. It is the headquarters of the marine policing unit (formerly known as Thames Division), which is responsible for policing the River Thames. It also houses a mortuary and the River Police Museum.
Paddington Green Police Station, which is no longer operational, received much publicity for its housing of terrorism suspects in an underground complex prior to its closure in 2017.
Non-police Station Reception Officer or Station PCSO who are responsible for interaction with members of the public who enter the front office of the station, along with general administration;
Non-police fingerprinting and identification staff who are responsible for maintaining criminal identity archives;
Police cadets assisting police officers, PCSOs or other police staff in non-confrontational duties; and
CID detectives concerned with criminal investigations.
Most stations have temporary holding cells where an arrested person can be held until either being released without charge, bailed to appear at court on a later date, or remanded until escort to a court.
In 2004, there was a call from the Institute for Public Policy Research for more imaginative planning of police stations to aid in improving relations between police forces and the wider community.
Notable incidents and investigations
Notable major incidents and investigations in which the Metropolitan Police has directed or been involved include:
1888–1891: Whitechapel murders: Suspected to have been carried out by Jack the Ripper who killed at least five prostitutes. No suspect was ever charged with the murders, and the identity of the killer remains unknown.
1975: Balcombe Street Siege: From 6 to 12 December 1975, Provisional IRA members took a couple hostage in their home, while on the run from police.
1975: Spaghetti House siege: The Spaghetti House siege occurred on 18 September 1975 when alleged members of the Black Liberation Army attempted to commit an armed robbery at the Spaghetti House restaurant to gain publicity for their cause. However, the robbery was discovered by police, and the would-be robbers initiated a siege by taking hostages.
1976: Notting Hill Carnival riot: After Metropolitan Police officers attempted to arrest an alleged pickpocket at the Notting Hill Carnival on 30 August 1976, a riot ensued leading to over 100 officers being admitted to hospital.
1978–1983: Muswell Hill murders: Serial killer Dennis Nilsen murdered at least 15 men and boys over a period of five years. He was known for retaining corpses for sex acts, and disposing of body parts by burning them or dumping them in drains. Some remains were found in his home at Muswell Hill when Met officers apprehended him.
1979: Death of Blair Peach: Teacher Peach was fatally injured in April 1979 during a demonstration in Southall by the Anti-Nazi League against a National Front election meeting taking place in the town hall. He was knocked unconscious and died the next day in hospital. Police brutality was never proven to be a contributory factor in his death, but it was claimed that he had fallen to a blow from a rubberised police radio belonging to the Met's now disbanded Special Patrol Group. In 2010, a police report was disclosed that stated that it was likely a Metropolitan Police officer "struck the fatal blow" and attributed "grave suspicion" to one unnamed officer, who it says may also have been involved in a cover-up along with two colleagues.
1980: Iranian Embassy Siege: Members of a terrorist group calling themselves the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRMLA) took staff hostage in the Iranian embassy. The Met was heavily involved in negotiations, but after six days they were terminated, and the British Army's Special Air Service (SAS) stormed the building. Five separatists and one hostage died.
1981: Brixton riot: During the early 1980s the Met began Operation Swamp which was implemented to cut street crime by the use of the Sus law which legally allowed officers to stop people on the suspicion of wrongdoing. Tensions rose within the black community after a black youth was stabbed, leading to severe rioting on 11 April 1981.
1982–86: The Railway Rapists:John Duffy and David Mulcahy committed 18 rapes of women and young girls at or near railway stations in London and South East England, murdering three of their victims. Metropolitan Police officers and the British Transport Police worked with neighbouring forces to solve the crimes. Duffy was convicted in 1988, but Mulcahy was not brought to justice until almost ten years later.
1985: Brixton riot: Rioting erupted in Brixton on 28 September 1985, sparked by the shooting of Dorothy Groce by police seeking her son Michael Groce, who was believed to be hiding in his mother's home, in relation to a suspected firearms offence. He was not there at the time, and Groce was part-paralysed by the bullet.
1985: Broadwater Farm riot: A week after the Brixton riot, while tensions among the black community were still high, riots broke out in Tottenham, north London, after the mother of a black man whose house was being searched died of a heart attack during the operation. During the riot, PC Keith Blakelock was murdered. Blakelock's murder remains unsolved.
1986: The Stockwell Strangler:Kenneth Erskine carried out a series of attacks in Stockwell on elderly men and women, breaking into their homes and strangling them to death. Most were sexually assaulted before being murdered. In 2009, Erskine's murder convictions were reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after an appeal.
1987: Murder of Daniel Morgan: Daniel Morgan was a private investigator who was murdered in Sydenham (south east London), in March 1987. He was said to have been close to exposing police corruption, or involved with Maltese drug dealers. Morgan's death has been the subject of several failed police inquiries, and in 2011 it was at the centre of allegations concerning the suspect conduct of journalists with the British tabloid News of the World. This unsolved murder has been described as a reminder of the culture of corruption and unaccountability within the Metropolitan Police Service.
1987: King's Cross fire: Metropolitan Police officers assisted the British Transport Police when a fire broke out under a wooden escalator leading from one of the Underground station platforms to the surface at King's Cross. The blaze and resulting smoke claimed 31 lives, including that of a senior firefighter.
1988: Clapham Junction rail crash: Officers assisted the British Transport Police when a packed commuter train passed a defective signal and ran into the back of a second train, derailing it into the path of a third oncoming train. Thirty-five people were killed and 69 others were injured.
1990: Poll Tax Riots: Rioting triggered by growing unrest against the Community Charge, and grew from a legitimate demonstration which had taken place earlier. An estimated £400,000 worth of damage was caused.
1993: The Gay Slayer: Former soldier Colin Ireland tortured and murdered five gay men in a deliberate bid to gain notoriety (he had read an article that said to be a "serial killer" one must have killed five times or more). Ireland was given a whole-life tariff in 1993 and died in prison on 21 February 2012.
1993: Murder of Stephen Lawrence: A series of operations failed to convict the killers of schoolboy Stephen Lawrence, despite substantial evidence. The resulting MacPherson inquiry found that the Met was "institutionally racist". Two men, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted on 3 January 2012 for their role in Lawrence's murder. Their trial was based on newly discovered forensic evidence, following a cold case review in 2007 thar found a tiny speck of Lawrence's blood on a jacket belonging to Dobson and one of Lawrence's hairs on trousers belonging to Norris. The pair were sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 15 years 2 months for Dobson and 14 years 3 months for Norris. In June 2013, the Met were exposed for sending an undercover officer to smear the friends and family of Stephen Lawrence.
1995: Brixton riot: A large gathering protested outside Brixton police station over the death of a local man in police custody, leading to a riot. Three police officers were injured and a two-mile exclusion zone was set up around Brixton. Later reports showed that the male in custody died of heart failure, said to be brought on because of difficulties restraining him.
1999: The London Nailbomber: David Copeland carried out a series of hate attacks on ethnic minority areas and on a pub frequented by the gay community.
1999: Carnival Against Capitalism: Previously peaceful anti-capitalist demonstrations ended with disorder in the City of London, which caused widespread damage, particularly to businesses identified with global capitalism.
1999: Shooting of Harry Stanley:Harry Stanley, was shot dead 100 yards from his home by Metropolitan police officers in contentious circumstances.
2001: May Day protest: In an attempt to control crowds, the Met employed the tactic of "kettling", and were criticised for detaining bystanders for long periods of time.
2001: Thames murder case: The dismembered body of a young boy believed to have been between the ages of four and seven was spotted floating in the River Thames, named by police as Adam in the absence of a confirmed identity. During the investigation, a police commander and a detective chief inspector met with Nelson Mandela. The case was never solved.
2002: Operation Tiberius An internal report found that "Organised criminals were able to infiltrate Scotland Yard at will by bribing corrupt officers".
2004: Pro-hunting protests: Demonstrators protesting against the Hunting Act 2004 outside parliament were involved in violent confrontations with Metropolitan Police officers.
2005: 7 July bombings: Four suicide attacks occurred across central London after which the Metropolitan Police worked to a major incident plan to provide co-ordination, control and forensic and investigative resources.
2006: Transatlantic aircraft bomb plot: Alleged plot to detonate liquid explosives on transatlantic aircraft and other related terrorist activities by militant Islamists were foiled by British police, including some from the Metropolitan Police.
2006: Operation Mokpo: Officers from Operation Trident made the Met's largest ever seizure of firearms after a series of raids in Dartford, Kent.
2007: Attempted car bombings: Attempted car bombings in central London. One of the devices, in a car outside a nightclub, was initially reported by a London Ambulance Service paramedic dealing with an unrelated incident nearby. Met bomb disposal officers defused this device and another located in an underground car park. Subsequent investigation led to convictions of those involved.
The Met deployed some of their specialist riot vehicles, similar to this one pictured, to the 2009 G-20 protests.
2008: National Black Police Association boycott: Declared against the police force on the grounds of racial discrimination. This followed high-profile controversies involving high-ranking black officers, including allegations of racism made by Tarique Ghaffur – the highest ranking Asian officer in the Met – against commissioner Ian Blair.
2009: G-20 summit protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson: The Met used the "kettling" technique to contain large numbers of demonstrators during the G-20 protests. Ian Tomlinson, a bystander to the protests, died from internal bleeding after he was struck with a baton and pushed to the ground by a police constable of the Territorial Support Group. The jury at the inquest into Tomlinson's death returned a verdict of unlawful killing and the officer who pushed Tomlinson was later acquitted of manslaughter. Following a separate incident, a sergeant in the Territorial Support Group was suspended after being filmed striking a woman's face with his hand and her leg with a baton, but he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Metropolitan Police officers overseeing the "Protest the Pope" rally on 18 September 2010.
2010: Pope Benedict XVI's visit: In September 2010, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to undertake a state visit to the UK. Around 10,000 people demonstrated on the streets of London when the pope's tour of England and Scotland arrived in the capital.
2011: Anti-cuts protest: 201 people were arrested, and 66 were injured, including 31 police officers, as up to 500,000 people demonstrated in central London against planned public spending cuts. It was described as the largest protest in the United Kingdom since the 15 February 2003 anti-Iraq War protest and the largest union-organised rally in London since the Second World War.
2011: Conviction of the Night Stalker:Operation Minstead concluded after 12 years on 24 March 2011 with the conviction of the Night Stalker. Delroy Grant raped and assaulted elderly victims over a period of 17 years from 1992 to 2009 across south London, Kent and Surrey. He was found guilty of 29 charges, including burglaries, rapes and sexual assaults, but officers linked him to over 200 different offences during the 1990s and 2000s. Grant was given four life sentences and ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years in prison.
2011: Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton: Around 5,000 Metropolitan Police officers were deployed to police the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011. In advance of the event, assistant commissioner Lynne Owens said: "People who want to come to London to peacefully protest can do that but they must remember that it is a day of national celebration". Approximately one hundred people were pre-emptively arrested in advance of the wedding and were detained without charge for the duration of the wedding, with the apparent aim of suppressing protest. Other protestors were arrested on the day of the wedding; some were detained at railway stations on arrival. The Metropolitan Police said that one million people were present in London to watch the wedding procession.
2012: London Olympic and Paralympic games: The games were the largest ever police deployment in the UK, with up to 10,500 Met officers deployed during the busiest days.
2013: Lambeth slavery case: In November 2013, officers from the Met's human trafficking unit arrested two suspects in Lambeth who were alleged to have enslaved three women in a house for over 30 years.
2013: Project Guardian: A joint initiative with British Transport Police, City of London Police, and Transport for London to reduce sexual harassment on public transport and increase reporting of sexual offences.
2017: Grenfell Tower fire: The worst fire in London since World War II involved officers using riot shields to protect firefighters from falling debris. The devastating fire led to an extensive forensic and criminal investigation involving around 250 officers. Commander Stuart Cundy said "I would like to reassure everybody that we will be looking at all criminal offences that might have been committed by any individual or any organisation."
2018: Chemical agent incident in Wiltshire, in which two couples were hospitalised over the course of three months. The investigation led by the Counter Terrorism Command.
In response, Peter Hain stated: "That the special branch had a file on me dating back 40 years ago to anti-apartheid and anti-Nazi League activist days is hardly revelatory. That these files were still active for at least 10 years while I was an MP certainly is and raises fundamental questions about parliamentary sovereignty."
Officers killed in the line of duty
The sculpture on the grave of Constable William Frederick Tyler, Abney Park Cemetery, London
The Police Memorial Trust lists and commemorates all British police officers killed in the line of duty, and since its establishment in 1984 has erected dozens of memorials to some of those officers.
Since 1900, the following officers of the Metropolitan Police Service are listed by the Trust as having been killed while attempting to prevent, stop or solve a criminal act in progress:
Year of death
Stabbed by a suspect causing a street disturbance
Arthur John Wilkins Healey
Fell through roof while searching a premises
James Frederick Macey
Collapsed and died after an arrest
Collapsed and died during an arrest
Thomas William Perry
Collapsed and died after an arrest
William Percy Croft
Fatally injured in a fall while pursuing burglars
William Frederick Tyler
Shot dead while pursuing robbery suspects
Alfred Edward Deeks
Collapsed and died while dispersing a nuisance crowd
^The Thin Blue Line, Police Council for Great Britain Staff Side Claim for Undermanning Supplements, 1965
^Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the Year 1952. Included 35 Chief Superintendents (including one woman), 12 Detective Chief Superintendents, 62 Superintendents (including one woman), 16 Detective Superintendents, 128 Chief Inspectors (including five women), 64 Detective Chief Inspectors (including one woman), 20 Station Inspectors, 465 Inspectors (including four women), 140 Detective Inspectors (including one woman), 441 Station Sergeants, 202 1st Class Detective Sergeants, 1,834 Sergeants (including 32 women), 414 2nd Class Detective Sergeants (including six women), 11,951 Constables (including 310 women), and 615 Detective Constables (including 27 women). The official establishment was 20,045.
^Raymond B. Fosdick, European Police Systems, 1915. Figures at 31 December 1912, including 33 Superintendents, 607 Chief Inspectors and Inspectors, 2,747 Sergeants and 17,142 Constables.
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