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Review of Rowan and Mayne: A Biography of the First London Police Commissioners. A guest post by Stephen Twist. 

R_M_360xIn the wake of Cressida Dick’s resignation as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Tony Moore’s excellent history of the Metropolitan’s first two Commissioners, first published in September 2021, makes for a particularly timely read.

That Sir Robert Peel conceived the idea of a police service for Metropolitan London in 1828 and steered the necessary legislation through Parliament a year later is a matter of historic record; but prior to Moore’s excellent biography of Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the fundamental contribution to the shape of modern policing from these first two joint Commissioners was underestimated.

In the course of nearly 400 pages of meticulously researched historic detail from 1782 through to Mayne’s death in 1868, Moore captures not just a biographic timeline of the founders of the Metropolitan service, but importantly, displays their collective ethos and contributions. Rowan, chosen for his sound military background was teamed with Mayne, a barrister, to produce what appears to have been an unlikely but near-perfect historic partnership. Whilst Rowan was responsible for issues of force structure, discipline and operational management, Mayne forged the legal boundaries under which the new constables were to operate. What emerges from Moore’s fascinating account was the apparently seamless way in which the two Commissioners worked together to forge a system of policing that ultimately spread across the English speaking world, influencing current systems of policing.

Tony Moore, formerly a soldier and policeman, demonstrates the attention to detail expected of an academic historian, culling footnoted detail from 26 contemporary national archive sources and special collections, as well as a detailed review of 131 secondary sources. His research into the backgrounds of both Rowan and Mayne informs our understanding of the decisions they took and how they came to make them.

For any historian with an interest in this pivotal period of police reform, or simply in the social changes of the nineteenth century generally, this is a must-read. For police officers with ambition for progress, or even the police recruit seeking to understand how and why the police service developed as it did, Moore’s biography is highly recommended. This reviewer would, however, also commend it to the current Home Secretary and London Mayor charged with agreeing on the identity of Dick’s successor as an essential read before making their next appointment/s. Perhaps, with some historic understanding of the genesis of the Metropolitan Police, they may gain greater insight into the real requirements and role of Commissioner?

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Rowan and Mayne: A Biography of the First London Police Commissioners (390pp) by Tony Moore was recently published by Mango Books with a cover price of £20.
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Review by Stephen Twist, former Metropolitan Police Officer and practising barrister at Dere Street Barristers.

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