ABSTRACT

This assertion, however, has been challenged. Maitland, for instance, argues that ‘a full history of the new police would probably lay its first scene in Ireland, and begin with the Dublin Police Act passed by the Irish Parliament in 1786’.3 Similarly, Palmer contends that the Irish model provided a prototype for British colonial authority.4 Others, however, question these assertions and point to the early development of colonial police forces and the varied and complex manner in which they developed.5 More recently, this debate has gone one stage further and assumed a British dimension with Scotland

being championed as having pioneered modern police reform.6 As Dinsmor argues:

There seems to be a tendency to dismiss any policing organisation before 1829 as not being ‘real’ policemen, just a collection of old night watchmen or bumbling parish constables. It may, therefore, come as a surprise to those dazzled by the radiance of Peel’s police reforms in London, that preventative policing was evolving successfully in the majority of the 11 Scottish cities and towns who had their own Police Acts, prior to 1829.7

Similarly, Grant, in his book on the Glasgow Police, devotes a chapter to ‘The Oldest Force’, claiming ‘there is good reason for believing that the City of Glasgow Police Force is the oldest police force in Great Britain … preceding the London Metropolitan Police Force by twenty-nine years’.8