The 1829 Metropolitan Police Act established the Metropolitan Police in central London. They covered an area with a radius of seven miles from the centre of London and it was a radical change in the responsibility for enforcing law and order. The Bow Street Runners continued to patrol in their area, and outside of the seven-mile radius the police had no authority.
Although this law only covered the central part of London it was important as it was the start of the modern police force.
This law extended the area covered by the Metropolitan Police to a 15 mile radius from the centre of London. It also ended the authority of all the other policing in London such as the Bow Street Runners, the River Thames Police and the Watchmen. Numbers quickly grew, and by 1882 there were 11,700 men in the Metropolitan Police.
Once the Government had taken responsibility for policing in the capital through the creation of the Metropolitan Police, attention was turned to the rest of the country.
A series of laws empowered county and borough councils across the country to set up police forces in their area.
Both of these acts were permissive, which meant that they were not compulsory and could be ignored. Only about half the areas that were in a position to establish a police force took advantage of the laws.
These laws led to the setting up of several hundred police forces around the country. The police were not (and are still not) one police force – there were separate police forces for each part of the country.
The only police force that was controlled by the Home Secretary in London was the Metropolitan Police. Each police force had a Chief Constable, officers and constables.
Responsibility for policing now firmly rested in the hands of central and local government departments.