London Transport Police
- Date Established:
The first railway police force in Britain was formed shortly after the first passenger railways opened in the 1830s. 'Special Constables' were given jurisdiction over the railway lines across the United Kingdom. Initially their role was limited to facilitating the movement of trains. However, they were soon involved in the investigation of crime.
At the start of the 20th century, many railway forces reorganised, and began to offer comprehensive training to constables. At this time, each of the Underground companies in London had its own police force. Each had jurisdiction on railway property and over offences that affected the railway such as criminal damage to trains.
Following the incorporation of the Underground Electric Railways Company (U.E.R.L.) in 1902, a unified police force was established for the London railways, although the Metropolitan Railway retained a separate force until it joined the London Transport network in 1933.
During the First World War, the railway forces employed female officers for the first time. Most of the women were replaced at the end of the war by returning servicemen. Many of the commanders were ex-army officers.
The increased professionalism of the force influenced the introduction standardised pay in 1919, which was also the year the Railway Police Federation was formed. In 1921, the Railways Act amalgamated over 100 separate companies across the United Kingdom into four groups, each of which had its own police force. These four forces adopted standard organisation similar to that of the civil police, although many non-police duties were retained.
In 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board was created as the main organisation for public transport in London excluding the mainline railways. In 1934, the London Transport Police force (L.T.P.) was formed, headed by a former Metropolitan Railway police superintendent. It expanded to police the buses, trams and trolleybuses.
During the Second World War, the number of L.T.P. constables doubled, and many female recruits joined. The force assisted with evacuations and in patrolling Underground shelters, as well as investigating cases of looting. For the time being, the Railway Executive Committee regulated the force.
The success of this centralised organisation influenced the creation of the British Transport Commission (B.T.C.) in 1947, which unified the nation's public transport system. In turn, a single national force, the British Transport Commission Police (B.T.C.P.), was formed in 1949. London Transport Police then comprised around 100 constables who were sworn in as part of the B.T.C.P, although the force was part of the London Transport Executive.
In 1957, the first B.T.C.P. chief constable was appointed, the first force headquarters set up in Park Royal, northwest London, and wages increased to equal those of civil forces. In 1960, the L.T.P. became part of the B.T.C.P. However, thecuts in funding during the early 1960s greatly reduced the number of smaller railway lines in the United Kingdom, and the number of railway police fell. In 1962, the British Transport Commission was abolished and the B.T.C.P. became known as the British Transport Police (B.T.P.).
For much of the 1960s and 70s, the focus of the L.T.P. was on combating loss of revenues through staff thefts and passenger fare evasion. The emphasis changed to security during the 1980s as violent offences on the transport system increased. The B.T.P. began recruiting more officers and in 1981 moved its headquarters to Tavistock Place in Central London. Growth slowed in the mid-1980s when London Buses and the Docks Board decided to stop using B.T.P. officers.
In the late 1980s, the B.T.P. began to employ non-police staff to take on administrative tasks. This freed officers to deal with major events in the City, including crowd control. Officers also played a key role in emergencies such as the King's Cross fire of 1987.
The B.T.P. was again reorganised in 1992 and divided into eight areas, including the London Underground Area. At the same time, discussions around railway privatisation brought questions over the force's future. However, successive governments have guaranteed the future of the B.T.P.
British Transport Police serving on the Underground have played a vital part in incidents such as accidents and bomb alerts. They continue to provide a valuable service on London's transport system, and in supporting the Metropolitan and the City of London police forces.
- L.T. Police
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