Since the formation of the first modern police force in 1829, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the social cost of crime control has been a constant feature of the debate on policing. The mere existence of a public body responsible for order maintenance and law enforcement, and entrusted by Parliament with coercive powers for these purposes, has proved to be problematic. Although the structures and methods of the police services of England and Wales1 have been admired, and adopted, throughout the world, their constitutional status is peculiar to English common law. During the course of history the doctrine of constabulary independence has developed to grant modern police services, under the leadership of a chief officer (normally a chief constable but a commissioner for both the MPS and City of London Police), a wide degree of discretion when performing their law enforcement responsibilities. This discretion in operational policing matters is predicated on the independence and impartiality of every police officer that serves in the office of constable. A practical consequence of the doctrine is that responsibility for strategic and tactical policing matters rests with chief officers. Much criticised for the excessive autonomy it allows the police (Brogden, 1982; Dixon and Smith, 1998; Jefferson and Grimshaw, 1984; Lustgarten, 1986; Marshall, 1965) chief officers have argued that constabulary independence ensures the police services operate as accountable organisations which take public opinion into account rather than follow political orders (Alderson, 1973; Mark, 1978; Oliver, 1997). Hypothetically, the doctrine also places the police on
permanent standby in defence of democracy against unlawful rule by tyrannical government (Marshall, 1978).