11 October 2012
Last updated at 01:05
In November 41 police and crime commissioners will be elected in England and Wales. The initiative is the latest in a series of reforms policing in Britain has undergone. In the 18th Century night watchmen, who were widely criticised for being corrupt and inefficient, were tasked with keeping the peace.
The Bow Street Runners marked a move away from private sector thief-takers, who would solve a crime for a fee, towards a professional force attached to a magistrate's office and paid for by central government funding. The force ran from 1749 to 1839.
In 1819 the military was sent in to break up workers in Manchester calling for political reform. The soldiers' tactics resulted in "the Peterloo Massacre" which saw up to 15 deaths and hundreds injured. News of the massacre sparked a public outcry and led to the government setting up a civilian force to police gatherings.
In 1829 the then Home Secretary Robert Peel persuaded the House of Commons to pass the Metropolitan Police Act, which led to a uniformed police service being set up in London. In 1856 the County and Borough Police Act led to other areas having forces. The constables were known as bobbies or peelers after the MP.
The new force investigated a number of high profile crimes including the case of Jack the Ripper, who killed five, or possibly six, women in the East End of London in 1888 and was never brought to justice.
As well as policing public gatherings and investigating crimes, Victorian policemen managed traffic.
In the 1970s and 80s the police faced criticism over a number of issues including deaths in custody, corruption, racism and their role in controlling protests and industrial disorder. In 2004 the Independent Police Complaints Commission was set up to investigate complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police.
In 2010 proposals for a shake-up of policing in England and Wales were announced by the Home Secretary Theresa May. Among the changes were plans to scrap police authorities and replace them with elected police and crime commissioners.