ABSTRACT

Why were the police unpopular in the nineteenth century? Historians have offered a number of explanations ranging from popular hostility to the police as agents of a repressive government to ratepayers' resentment at the expense. Explanations have varied according to the problem and period under consideration, but what emerges quite clearly from the historiography and the evidence are the fluctuating levels of police unpopularity. These reached unprecedented heights in the 1830s and early 1840s, and in the 1870s, but dropped to considerably lower levels in the intervening decades. The unpopularity of the new police had numerous causes and was expressed in different forms, some of which were more clearly articulated than others. The main roots of unpopularity lay in: suspicion of the police as an alien force outside the control of the community; resentment at police interference in attempting to regulate traditionally sanctioned behaviour; objections to the expense.