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The Bobby

The Bobby
A British police officer © TopFoto.co.uk/UPP

Conceived by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel in the 1820s, the foundation of the police service represented one of the great advances of the 19th century. It replaced the haphazard and largely ineffective system of watchmen that was widely seen as failing by that time, and introduced a new class of public servant to the national life, one whose duty was to protect people from the criminal classes.

Iconic throughout the world for their courteous helpfulness, which extends even now to not carrying a loaded firearm, the ordinary bobby is an internationally recognised figure (all the way up to that helmet). Portrayed in countless TV dramas, the everyday duties of the police officer have never failed to stir our imagination, whether it be the hard-nosed cynicism of The Sweeney or the homespun reflections of Dock Green's very own Sgt Dixon.