A Chat With the Police History Society

Mike Vince (MBE MA) joined Thames Valley Police in 1973 and served in Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Police Headquarters, Kidlington. During his 30 years of predominantly uniform service, he carried out; foot patrols, a stint as an emergency response vehicle officer, dealt with licensing and firearm certificate enquiries, and supervised patrols as a Sergeant and Inspector.

On promotion to Chief Inspector, Mike reviewed all files subject for prosecution and facilitated re-investigation where required, liaising directly with the Crown Prosecution Service. Before retiring in 2003, his titles were Head of Community Safety Department, Partnership Liaison and the Force Mental Health Liaison Officer.

Mike now devotes much of his time to voluntary organisations – Police History Society, International Police Association and the Army Cadet Force. He enjoys motorcycling and walking his dog. Mike spoke to Historical Honey about the changes in the force, his rewarding work for the Police History Society, and kindly gives his advice for joining the Police Force.

 peeler1Manchester Police in the 1880s

Source: flickr.com

Historical Honey: You retired from policing after a thirty year career. From the day you entered to the day you left, what would you say the biggest change has been? 

Mike Vince: The work load has increased exponentially, where today’s police officer will have problems satisfactorily completing each allocated job. Today there seems to be less people pro the police, whereas when I joined there was much more respect given by the public towards police officers doing their job. Society has changed so much in the last 30 to 40 years; the police are expected to deal with much more than law and order issues, because they are a 24/7 organisation.

HH: How has modern technology changed the way policemen go about their day-today operations?

MV: With the advent of computerisation, and the ability for mobile communications in police vehicles fitted with laptop computers, police officers are able to gain more information when dealing with incidents. When taking crime reports from members of the public, the information is uploaded direct to various crime management systems which can lead to quicker outcomes and detections. It is now possible to scan a person’s fingerprint and electronically determine their identity.

Although we did have personal radios issued in my first year of service (1973), on night duty it was a regular occurrence for a town foot-patrolling police officer to have keys to enter into the local authority vehicle licensing offices. If a motorist was stopped by a police officer, and we needed to know who the owner was, this required the vehicle records to be checked. This was likely to be the request from another police force who would telephone through to the police force where the vehicle was registered. The motorist held at the roadside would wait for upwards of an hour whilst the check was made. Today, vehicle checks are made with almost an instant response through radio and computer with access to the national records, rather than the previous local records.

HH: If you were thrown in the cells tomorrow, how would it differ from your early days in the force? 

MV: A police cell is necessary for short term detention of a suspected offender and will have the basics of a fixed bed and a toilet. Today, the cell has to be of the highest safety standard to ensure no self-harm can come to the detained person. Improvement over time means that there will be better lighting, better floor surface and perhaps means of temperature control.

HH: If the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 had never been introduced, how different do you think the UK would be today?

MV: 1829 was the start of the “new police” under the guidance of Sir Robert Peel. He did not want a military type force dealing with the populus. If this Act had never been introduced, the pre-1829 system of policing would have remained, which was very localised, and people were paid to act as watchmen. There would have been no standard for dealing with law breakers. The military had been used to quell rioting with disastrous effect, as in the 1819 Peterloo massacre, Manchester.

439px-Robert_Peel_PortraitA key influence: Sir Robert Peel

Source: de.wikipedia.org

HH: Is there a particular case in policing history that fascinates you?

MV: For many years, as an arm-chair “Ripperologist”, I have followed the numerous books on “Jack the Ripper”; who carried out dastardly murders in Whitechapel, London during 1888. It is an enduring mystery. If in 1888, modern forensic techniques had been applied to the crime scenes, it is most likely that “Jack” would have been brought to justice.

HH: As a member of the Police History Society, what sort of work do you undertake?

MV: The Police History Society is a charitable organisation bringing together people from all walks of life that have an historical interest in policing. The object of the Society is to advance the public education in police history.  In the furtherance of that object, the Society aims to act as a focal point and network for all who are interested in the subject, to encourage the preservation of relevant police archives and artefacts, promote the accessibility to the general public and to forge and maintain strategic links with relevant academic institutions. It is also our intention to encourage research into all aspects of police history and to publish the useful results of such research.

One of my roles is to answer questions received through our Society website, mainly on family history where people are researching their police ancestors. It is very satisfying helping with this sort of research.

HH: What advice would you give for a young person wishing to enter the police service?

MV: If you would like a varied job, not knowing in advance what your day will bring, and you have good inter-personal skills, then working for your local community to uphold law and order is just for you. To prepare yourself for this career, I recommend attending a college which offers a policing studies course and as a condition of entry to that course you may be asked to become a Special Constable which is a voluntary appointment. Or you may consider taking up paid employment as a Police Community Safety Officer as a stepping stone to becoming a paid Police Constable.


Source: © Mike Vince
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