Scotland Yard – Old Precedents and New Innovations

by CherrellT on August 28, 2011

Scotland YardThough many folks still think this infamous crime lab is in the country of Scotland, it actually refers to the Metropolitan Police Service of the greater London area—whose headquarters used to back up to a courtyard named the Great Scotland Yard. The courtyard was part of a medieval palace that housed Scottish royalty when they would visit London. Even though the new headquarters are no longer located adjacent to the Great Scotland Yard, the name has stuck. The new headquarters is called “New” Scotland Yard.

The Legends

Many recognize the name of Scotland Yard from stories such as “Sherlock Holmes” or “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Scotland Yard detectives are often depicted as no-nonsense types in knee-length trench coats and rounded police helmets. Assistant Commissioner Sir Ronald Vallance, a detective in the James Bond novels, worked for Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard was even turned into a board game that requires a team of “police” to locate a “criminal” on the board that looks like a map of London.

Charles Dickens was actually a close pal with one of the officers, Charles Frederick Field. Dickens even commemorated Field in a short essay and used him as a muse for the character Inspector Bucket in his novel “Bleak House.”  The Yard continues to be depicted in modern crime novels, television shows, and movies. If you mention Scotland Yard to just about anyone, they most likely have heard of it (but most likely think it is in Scotland, too.)

The History

Created in 1829, the police force was created mainly to protect significant members of the community and patrol the area. Before that, a system of watchmen, called the Bow Street Patrols, were kept in place to ensure the area remained safe from crime. Home secretary Sir Robert Peel established the “Yard”, which is why policemen in London are nicknamed “bobbies.”

In 1842, the Yard sent out the first “undercover cops;”  plainclothes police officers who patrolled the streets and kept London safe. Although the public was wary of these officers, fearing that they would be spied upon by law enforcement, they eventually grew to respect and appreciate the Yard detectives.

Although some of the head detectives were accused of working with criminals in a betting scheme in 1877, Scotland Yard’s reputation was not completely tarnished. New director Howard Vincent reorganized the Yard, resulting in the creation of the Criminal Investigation Department.

The Famous Cases

Police officers from Scotland Yard were on the scene during the infamous “Bloody Sunday” riots in 1887. Two thousand officers stormed a demonstration of the Social Democratic Foundation in Trafalgar Square, where three protesters were killed and several more were beaten.

The negative attention this brought to Scotland Yard dissipated shortly afterward, when the Yard became involved in solving the case of serial killer Jack the Ripper. At the time, forensic technology to test for DNA and other incriminating factors did not exist. Officers of the Yard attempted to identify the killer based on facial characteristics described by witnesses. However, this infamous case was never solved.

The Yard Today

The headquarters currently reside in a modern structure in the Westminster area, and the number of officers has increased to approximately 30,000. Scotland Yard is famous for its investigative methods; the fingerprinting techniques used since the 1800s by its Criminal Investigation Department have been adopted by the FBI.

New Scotland Yard uses a national IT system developed for major crime inquiries by all UK forces, called Home Office Large Major Enquiry System, more commonly referred to by its acronym “Holmes” (which recognizes the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes).  The training program is called “Elementary,” after the detective’s well-known phrase, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”  The officers who work for London’s Metropolitan Police Service protect the area surrounding the city and have done so for more than 100 years.

London resident and history buff, Guy Patterson is a personal finance consultant and content contributor for companies offering a bad credit credit card approvals for those people who have lost their businesses, or otherwise suffered from damaged credit during this down economy.

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