Timeline of policing


First police uniform

Sir Robert Peel selected a uniform for the first London police force.

This uniform comprised a top hat, a high-collar uniform swallow tailed jacket with winter issue blue trousers and summer issue white trousers.

Equipment issued included a cutlass, an oil lamp, truncheon and a wooden rattle. Police officers were also firemen, so the rattle was used to call for assistance or to wake people up in burning buildings.

Also worn around the officer’s neck was a stiff leather band often thought to keep the officers head up, but which in fact was to stop the officer from being garrotted.

History timeline

Mary Ball the last woman hung in Coventry

Coventry’s police museum is home to the death mask of a woman called Mary Ball who was hanged in Coventry in 1849.

Death masks were a permanent way of recording the features of corpses, for identification, before the use of photography.

Mary Ball was convicted of killing her husband by poisoning him with arsenic. However, it looks like the victim was far from innocent himself, as it is thought that he was a drunken womaniser who regularly beat his wife.

The gallows were set up in Cuckoo Lane, in the city centre for Mary Ball’s hanging and 20,000 people crowded around to watch.

She was the last person publicly hung in Coventry.

History timeline

The first police helmet

In 1860 early officers had their top hat replaced by a police helmet of a design similar to that which is still worn today.

Slight variations in helmet design between forces were allowed. Helmets needed to be vented at the top to prevent excessive perspiration on the officer’s head, which was done by placing three holes on the top. The holes were covered by a small metal top known as a rose or a small chrome ball on top of the vented top or a raised ridge running from the back to the top known as a ‘cock’s comb’.

Helmets were not reinforced but were made of a strong card covered in felt.  In the first few years some forces did not display a badge on the front of the helmet but by 1875 it was considered that a badge on the front looked smarter and more professional.

History timeline

Heartbroken Henry Hung

A scorned Birmingham lover ended his life on the end of the hangman’s noose after a failed reconciliation attempt with his ex-girlfriend.

In 1884, 53 year old Henry Kimberley followed his former girlfriend, Mrs Harriet Steward to the White Hart Beer House in Paradise Street, Birmingham. She was staying there with her friend and wife of the publican, Mrs Emily Palmer... read more.

History timeline

The pocket notebook

In 1890 officers were expected to make notes at the scene of an incident. Two breast pockets were added to the uniform so that officers could carry paper and pencil, which by 1896 had become a pocket book. Pocket note books are still carried by officers today.
History timeline

The Drunks Blacklist

Back in the early nineteen hundreds, photo albums were not just used to showcase memorable events. In the Police Museum one special photo album names and shames local habitual Birmingham drunkards. The ‘Black List’ album, which featured photographs and descriptions of drunken louts was brought into practice not long after the Licensing Act was introduced in 1902....read more
History timeline

Fire starter murder

Domestic violence is not a new crime. Many a Victorian lady suffered ill-treatment at the hands of a man. Back then there were not the range of charities and support groups to support women in violent situations that there are now and reporting such issues to the police were virtually unheard of. One Victorian lady who decided to meet out her own punishment on her abusive partner was Fanny Gilligan....read more
History timeline

The Old Hag

Lots of prisoners have nicknames, but one Victorian lady we found in our prisoner archives had the least flattering of the lot – The Old Hag. Pale faced and brown haired 52 year old Agnes Walker was a working prostitute. She was prosecuted for keeping a brothel, for which she was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment.
History timeline

The first female officer’s uniform

When police women started in 1916, their uniform was just a female version of the male uniform with skirts and a ladies’ style hat.

History timeline

Fire Hero's Medal

Constable Alfred Parnell was awarded the bronze medal for ‘the protection of life from fire’ after saving a Birmingham family from a house fire. The fire, on the evening of 13 May 1940 on Mac Donald Street, Birmingham left a man, woman and two children stranded on an upstairs ledge of their house. Members of the public were encouraging them to jump. Quick thinking PC Parnell told them not to jump and broke into the house through a window. He overcame the smoke and fumes and ran up a burning staircase to bring the family to safety.
History timeline

Fallen Heroes

April 1941 was one of the worst periods of heavy bombing experienced by the Midlands during the Second World War. It was also a very costly time for the police forces of the West Midlands with Birmingham City Police and Coventry City Police experiencing 11 fatalities between 8th April and 17th May. Read more...
History timeline

Cheeky Chomper Caught

A Lozells man bit off more than he could chew back in 1951 when found guilty of theft from chomping on a chocolate bar. The case of Hugh Creaney Laverty was a rare one in the 1950s because it was his teeth marks that proved his guilt...read more
History timeline

WPC Florence the female darts champ

WPC Florence Schipper started her career in the 1930s, when female officers were not on an equal footing with their male counterparts. A Staffordshire woman, Florence joined Birmingham Police in 1933. She was paid the grand salary of fifty pence a week – nearly 8p less than her male colleagues. Unlike today, policewomen back in the thirties were given very different tasks to men. Their duties mainly involved child protection, general administration, searching and dealing with female prisoners and the occasional raid on a brothel....read more

The Final Whistle

The last Birmingham officer to summon help with a whistle did so after being stabbed in January 1966. PC Gordon Law was stabbed in the back when he discovered young people stealing lead from the roof of a school on St Luke’s Road in Balsall Heath. As he approached one of the suspects he was stabbed with a sheath knife. PC Law managed to blow his whistle before losing consciousness...read more

Reinforced helmets

Following a series of riots in the 1970s, the reinforced helmet became part of the uniform for West Midlands officers. The reinforced helmet remains part of the uniform today.

History timeline

Search for Police Headquarters

In 1972 the prospect of a new, larger metropolitan force starting in just two years set off a search for a headquarters to replace the previous accommodation used by Birmingham Police at Newton Street. City engineers hoped to build a new headquarters in the legal district, but the site was earmarked for a new magistrates court, forcing them to seek another solution....read more

1974 - West Midlands Police is established


Sir Derrick Capper QPM becomes the first Chief Constable of West Midlands Police

History timeline

Lord Philip Knights becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

The 70’s police motorcycle that was a real ‘Saint’

The Triumph 750cc Saint earnt its name because it ‘Stops Anything In No Time!’ Although officers reported that it was a little more slippery in the wet.

This 1976 version had all the latest ‘mod cons’ including a mobile phone! – Although there was nothing more satisfying than the roar it made when speeding after criminals.

As part of our research for the force’s 40th anniversary last year, we were lucky enough to find some old footage of our very own Triumph Saints being taken for a test spin. The footage was silent but reminded us of a great TV programme from the 70s – Top Gear.

So we have taken the liberty of imagining just what Top Gear might had had to say about our little ‘Saints’ – we hope you like it.

History timeline

Driving the Jam Sandwich

‘Jam sandwiches’ were the nickname for fast police cars back in the 70s. Cars like the Rover 3500 were painted white with a red stripe down the side. However these sandwiches could move.  With a V8 engine they could achieve speeds of around 125 miles an hour and could easily out pace most other vehicles on the road. In fact in the early days the only way an officer could detect a vehicle’s speed was to run alongside it and then read their own speedometer...read more
History timeline

Clipboards - use them!

Crime fighters have always had gadgets. James Bond had his talcum powder tin filled with tear gas, his mini-rocket cigarette and his Union Jack emblazoned pen gun. Back in 1979 West Midlands Police issued officers with their very own crime-fighting, life saving device – in the form of a clipboard! ‘Bullet-proof’ clipboards were issued for use in all police vehicles. Our internal magazine, The Beacon, boasted that ‘They have been extensively tested and are effective against virtually any weapon the criminal is likely to use’....read more
History timeline

Sir Geoffrey Dear QPM becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

Handsworth Riots

Shortly after taking office, Geoffrey Dear had to deal with the Handsworth Riots of 1985 between 9-11 September. The riots were reportedly sparked by the arrest of a man near the Acapulco Cafe, Lozells and a police raid on the Villa Cross public house in the same area. Hundreds of people attacked police and property, looting and smashing, even setting off fire bombs.
History timeline

The first cameras in unmarked cars

West Midlands Police became the first force in the country to fit cameras in unmarked cars. The actions of motorists were recorded onto a video tape and printed out at the same time, together with the speed of the offending vehicle. Chief Supt Bob Stanley, then head of Traffic, said at the time: "The traffic officers like the vehicle and equipment because it shows the real driving environment as opposed to good driving attracted by the marked patrol car."
History timeline

Sir Ron Hadfield QPM becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

Julia Walsh becomes the first black female sergeant in WMP history

History timeline

A year of Royal visits

1991 saw two major Royal visits to the region. Firstly, the Queen Mother came to visit police officers in Birmingham, before her daughter Her Majesty The Queen came to open the new International Convention Centre. Cheering crowds lined the streets of Birmingham to welcome The Queen on 2 April 1991, with the event being expertly policed.
History timeline

From blue to white

1993 saw a big change in the uniform at West Midlands Police. After many years, police officers were asked to stop wearing blue shirts and start wearing white shirts. It has remained a part of WMP's uniform ever since.
History timeline

New Tally Ho! building opens

After extensive renovation work, 1995 saw the opening of the new West Midlands Police Learning & Development Centre. This is still based at the Tally Ho! building, on the Pershore Road in Birmingham. The building was opened by HRH The Princess Royal.
History timeline

Sir Edward Crewe becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

Inspector Vanessa Carroll dies in service

Vanessa Carroll started her career with West Midlands Police in 1977 as a 16 year old cadet. She was kind and polite and quickly developed a passion for the job. Her cross country running skills helped earn her the nickname of ‘thief taker’ as she out ran and arrested more than her fair share of criminals across Solihull....read more 
History timeline

Euro 96

Football came home in 1996, with officers in the force deployed to games around the country to help police the tournament. There were notable games at Villa Park such as the Czech Republic’s shock quarter final win over Portugal, but the game many remember is the game between Scotland and the Netherlands. Despite finishing 0-0, fans of both sides provided fun and colour, and the match passed off without major incident. Sgt Paul Dobbinson certainly got into the spirit of things!
History timeline

Two global events in one big week

Between 9-17 May, two major global events descended on the city of Birmingham. First, after Katrina and the Waves' victory in 1997, the Eurovision Song Contest was held at the National Indoor Arena on 9 May. The UK would take second place. Then, less than a week later, the 1998 G8 Summit was hosted at the International Convention Centre. Both events garnered praise for the way they were expertly policed.
History timeline

Sir Paul Scott-Lee QPM becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

2003- Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis are murdered

Four months after becoming WMP’s new Chief Constable, Sir Paul Scott-Lee had to deal with the shooting of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis. Both were innocently shot dead on 2 January 2003 whilst leaving a party, as part of a feud between two Birmingham gangs. Four men were convicted of murder and attempted murder in 2005, and were sentenced to 132 years combined in prison. Furthermore, the two mothers, Marcia Shakespeare and Beverley Thomas, have actively helped us campaign against gun crime and gangs since the tragic event.
History timeline

DNA cracks Dixon murder case

“I always knew we’d get justice…we just didn't know how long it would take. I thought in the end DNA would trap someone." Those were the words of Rita Dixon outside Warwick Crown Court in November 2003 having seen Colin Waite convicted of murdering her 17-year-old daughter, Nicola, in Birmingham almost seven years earlier...read more
History timeline

Tornado hits Birmingham

On 28 July 2005, Sparkbrook and other regions of Birmingham suffered one of the worst tornadoes in UK history. Thankfully there were no fatalities, but the damage was estimated at around £40 million, making it the most costly tornado in British history. Officers helped provide a reassuring presence to communities affected as residents got their possessions repaired and their lives back on track.
History timeline

Chris Sims QPM becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

Pope Benedict XVI visits Birmingham

Around 55,000 people converged on Cofton Park for a two hour ceremony, as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass before taking to his popemobile to tour a stretch of the Hagley Road, where he was greeted by around 20,000 well-wishers. More than 2,000 officers were on duty to ensure the Pope had a safe, trouble-free passage from Cofton Park via Hagley Road to Birmingham Oratory, Oscott College and finally on to Birmingham Airport. As he left, the cat-loving Pope even paused to stroke explosives sniffer dog Jake, a black Springador.
History timeline

England Riots

The summer of 2011 will be remembered for the England riots. Following disorder in London the previous weekend, young people across the country looted shops, set fire to buildings and vans, and caused disruption to the lives of everyday people. Officers were deployed across the region, particularly in central Birmingham and Wolverhampton, as the mindless disorder spread. Young people were arrested through CCTV images and forensics, with courts sitting through the night to punish those who took part.
History timeline

2012- A year of celebration

2012 was a big year for WMP and the UK as a whole, with three massive public events and a new elected official holding the Chief Constable to account. Read more
History timeline

Christina Edkins murdered

On 7 March 2013, 16-year-old Christina Edkins was stabbed to death on a bus near Fiveways in Birmingham. The Hagley Road was closed for much of the day, and a large manhunt took place to find the killer. Later on that afternoon, Philip Simelane, aged 22 at the time, was arrested and a week later he was charged with her murder. Some seven months later, he was able to formally plead guilty to the offence of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The judge sentenced Simelane to an indeterminate hospital order.
History timeline

Launch of 101

The new way to contact police was launched nationally in 2013. 101 is used to contact police officers in the UK when it is less urgent than a 999 call, for example if you are giving information on a crime in your area. To find out more information, please click this link.
History timeline

David Jamieson elected PCC

After the sudden death of Police Crime and Commissoner Bob Jones, a by-election was called to determine the next PCC for the West Midlands. Labour's David Jamieson beat Les Jones to win the contest and took office in August 2014.
History timeline

Dave Thompson QPM becomes Chief Constable

History timeline

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *