West Indians: Forefathers of the Metropolitan Police

West Indians: Forefathers of the Metropolitan Police

Beginning in October 2016, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the West India Committee began a project on the history of the Thames River Police. Now known as the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Policing Unit, the Thames Police are recognised by UNESCO as the oldest continuously serving police force in the world. The Committee was in an unparalleled position to carry out a project as they had founded the Thames Police in 1798 to protect trade ships carrying goods from the West Indies when they arrived into the River Thames. The committee used its own unique resources from its archive, together with material from a variety of other sources to deliver several outcomes including a dedicated website on the history of the Thames Police, a short documentary film and an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands.

The project was carried out with help from a variety of partners including the Thames Police Association, The Marine Policing Unit and the Metropolitan Police, Inside Time and the Museum of London Docklands. Special thanks must be given to Mr Robert Jeffries, honorary curator of the Thames Police Museum at Wapping Police Station, without whose help the project would not have been possible.

The project provided opportunities for engagement with the wider community. Volunteer Police Cadets from Tower Hamlets and Interns recruited from the Prince’s Trust took part in heritage workshops and produced educational posters and a heritage walking trail, both available for download from the website. The Committee also wrote a series of four articles on the history of the Thames Police that were published in Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners.

The first few months were dedicated to research and work on the production of an e-book began in late January 2017. This e-book can be found on the dedicated website, as well as more information on the programmes involving the Volunteer Police Cadets and the Prince’s Trust, more information of how the project was carried out, several photo galleries and historical documents from the Thames Police’s over two-hundred-year history. At the same time production began on a short documentary film, which featured interviews from Robert Jeffries, Inspector Stewart Simpson of the Marine Policing Unit, Trevor Phillips and the West India Committee’s own CEO, Mrs Blondel Cluff, and President, Lord Ashcroft.

The exhibition opened on 13th October 2017 and featured the premiere of the short film. Speakers included Mrs Blondel Cluff, Chief Superintendent Victor Olisa of the Metropolitan Police, Leah Alexander the Project Manager and Dr. Boyan Radoykov of UNESCO. The exhibition closed on 14th January 2018, but can still be viewed through the dedicated website: http://westindiacommittee.org/thamesriverpolice/

Photos from the launch event can be found on our Twitter page: https://twitter.com/WI_Committee/status/921377563901087745

UNESCO also produced a press release for the launch event, which can be found here: https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-attends-opening-ceremony-west-india-committee-s-exhibition-london

Using the information gathered during the project, David Wells, the Committee’s resident Research Fellow, wrote a detailed book, The Thames River Police: Forefathers of Modern Policing, which is available to purchase from the Committee. Please contact the following email address for purchase: davidwells@westindiacommittee.org


Author: David Wells

30 January 2018