Victorian Police Faced a Lot of Abuse
London cops – the officers of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) – are generally respected nowadays. That was not always the case. Organized in 1829 and nicknamed “Peelers” and “Bobbies after” their founder, then-Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, the legitimacy of the first cops and the need for their services was questioned by many. As a result, MPS officers had a correspondingly fraught relationship with the Victorian public they were sworn to serve. Indeed, throughout much of the nineteenth century, the bobbies were despised by much of the public. They were not only routinely derided and disrespected, but were also frequently actively trolled, baited, and attacked for fun.
There was an active anti-police ideology in the Victorian era, communicated through the radical press, which depicted the new force as an unconstitutional infringement on English liberties. The Bobbies were often referred to as “blue locusts” and “blue idlers”. It reflected a perception that they were parasites who did not perform honest work, and who lived off the taxes of honest men. Police were particularly disliked by the lower classes, who resented the suppression of popular recreations and customs such as public drinking, gambling, prize fights, and street games. Routine police work in poorer neighborhoods, such as patrolling and keeping an eye out for trouble, was often viewed by those who had never experienced the such as intrusive and unprecedented surveillance.