THE ORGANISATION OF POLICE FORCES
The British Police
The British police officer is a well-known figure to anyone who has visited Britain or who has seen British films. Policemen are to be seen in towns and cities keeping law and order, either walking in pairs down the streets ("walking the beat") or driving specially marked police cars. Once known as 'panda cars' because of their distinctive markings, these are now often jokingly referred to as 'jam sandwiches' because of the pink - fluorescent stripe running horizontally around the bodywork. In the past, policemen were often known as 'bobbies' after Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the police force. Nowadays, common nicknames include 'the cops', the fuzz', 'the pigs', and 'the Old Bill' (particularly in London). Few people realise, however, that the police in Britain are organised very differently from many other countries.
Most countries, for example, have a national police force which is control1ed by central Government. Britain has no national police force, although police policy is, governed by the central Government's Home Office. Instead, there is a separate police force for each of 52 areas into which the country is divided. Each has a police authority - a committee of local county councillors and magistrates.
The forces co-operate with each other, but it is unusual for members . of one force to operate in another's area unless they are asked to give assistance. This sometimes happens when there has been a very serious crime. A Chief Constable (the most senior police officer of a force) may sometimes ask for the assistance of London's police force, based at New Scotland Yard - known simply as "the Yard".
In most countries the police carry guns. In Britain, however, this is extremely unusual. Policemen do not, as a rule, carry firearms in their day-to-day work, though certain specialist units are trained to do so and can be called upon to help the regular police force in situations where firearms are involved, e.g. terrorist incidents, armed robberies, etc. The only policemen who routinely carry weapons are those assigned to guard politicians and diplomats, or special officers who patrol airports.
In certain circumstances specially trained police officers can be armed, but only with the signed permission of a magistrate.