Scotland Yard - The methods and organisation of the Metropolitan Police
by George Dilnot
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Copyright in the United States of America, 1915.








































It is more than probable that since this book was written you have changed your uniform and your beat. You are in the North Sea, in Flanders, in Gallipoli. Nowhere can admiral or general wish a better man.

I have known you long. I have for many years been thrown among you in all circumstances, and at all times. I have known you trudging your beat, have known you more especially as a detective, have known you in high administrative and executive positions. I have seen you arrest armed murderers, have seen you tactfully reproving a drunkard, have seen you solving tangled problems of crime, have seen you charging a mob, have seen you playing with a lost baby. I do not think there is any phase of your work which I have not seen. And I want the public to know you.

You, whether you be Commissioner or constable, occupy a position of delicate and peculiar responsibility. You are poised between the trust and suspicion of those you serve, and you are never quite sure whether you will be blessed or blamed. I, who realise something of your temptations and your qualities, know how seldom you fail in an emergency, how rarely you abuse your powers.

You will forgive me when I say you are not perfect. You have your little failings, and at times the defect of one man recoils on 20,000. There are matters I should like to see changed. But, on the whole, you are admittedly still the best policeman in the world.

The war has claimed you and others of your profession. Astute commanding officers have recognised you as "men who are handled and made," and many a constable of a year ago now wears an officer's stars. There are those of you who have gained other distinctions.

There is no branch of the service here dealt with that has not sent of its best to the fighting line. None will recognise more willingly than you in the trenches that the luck has been yours. We know (you and I) that others have been, by no will of their own, left behind. It is to these, in no small degree, that the safety and equanimity of London have been due. And it is as well that here tribute should be paid to those who have endured without retort the sneers of the malicious and ill-informed as well as the multiplicity of extra duties the war has entailed upon them.

One advantage, at least, the war has conferred on you. It has exploded the ignorance of your profession to those thousands of citizens who have elected to share something of your responsibilities. They at least know something of your work; they at least know that the special constable can never replace, though he may assist, the experienced police-officer. You always understood the Londoner; now the Londoner is coming to understand you.

I have attempted no more than a sketch of the great machine of which you form part. But if it enlightens the public in some degree as to the way they are served by you it will have achieved its purpose.

Yours sincerely,


London, October, 1915.



"By all means let us abuse the police, but let us see what the poor wretches have to do."—KIPLING.



We who live in London are rather apt to take our police for granted. Occasionally, in a mood of complacency, we boast of the finest police force in the world; at other times, we hint darkly at corruption and brutality among a gang of men too clever, too unscrupulous to be found out. We associate Scotland Yard with detectives—miraculous creations of imaginative writers—forgetting that the Criminal Investigation Department is but one branch in a wondrously complex organisation. Of that organisation itself, we know little. And in spite of—or perhaps because of—the mass of writing that has made its name familiar all over the world, there exists but the haziest notion as to how it performs its functions.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this ignorance is that Scotland Yard never defends itself, never explains, never extenuates. Praise or blame it accepts in equal silence. It goes on its way, ignoring everything that does not concern it, acting swiftly, impartially, caring nothing save for duty to be done.

There is romance in Scotland Yard—a romance that has never been written, that may never be written. It concerns the building up, in the face of incredible obstacles, of a vast, ingenious machine which has become one of the greatest instruments of civilisation the world has ever seen.

Imagine an army of 20,000 men encamped over seven hundred square miles, with its outposts in every quarter of the globe—an army engaged in never-ceasing warfare with the guerillas of crime and disorder. Imagine something of the work it does.

In a city of seven million souls, crammed with incalculable wealth, there are less than a thousand habitual thieves—the exact number is 706—and 161 receivers of stolen goods. In spite of all its temptations, there are but seventeen thousand serious crimes in a year, while the number of more trivial offences is only one hundred and seventy thousand. Few of the perpetrators escape justice. Compare this record with that of any city in the world. Ask Paris, ask New York, ask Petrograd, and you will begin to realise how well protected London is.

In a large soft-carpeted room, its big double windows open to catch the breezes that blow from the river, sits the man upon whom the ultimate responsibility for all this devolves, a slim-built, erect man of sixty odd, with moustache once auburn but now grey, grey hair and shrewd hazel eyes—Sir Edward Henry.

Imperturbable, quiet-voiced, quiet-mannered, he sits planning the peace of London. He is playing a perpetual game of chess on the great board of the metropolis with twenty thousand men as his pieces against a cosmopolitan fraternity of evil-doers who never rest. He is the one man in the service who must never make a mistake.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police sleeps on no bed of roses. He must be as supple as willow, as rigid as steel, must possess the tact of a diplomatist, with the impartiality of a judge.

Since the days when Sir Richard Mayne built up the police organisation in its infancy, there has been no Commissioner who so nearly fulfils the ideal of a great police administrator as Sir Edward Henry. Unlike most of his predecessors, practically his whole life has been spent in the study of police science.

It is something more than forty years ago since he entered the Indian Civil Service as assistant magistrate collector. He became ultimately Inspector-General of the Bengal Police, and then commissioner of a division.

It was there that he first established the finger-print system of identification, as a police device for the registration of habitual criminals which he was to introduce later at Scotland Yard, and which has tightened the meshes round many a criminal who would otherwise have escaped justice.

The man in the street knows little of the silent man who is undoubtedly the greatest police organiser in the world. Even on this very matter of finger-prints there is a general confusion with Bertillonage—a totally different thing. The Henry system has practically ousted Bertillonage in every civilised country. If Sir Edward had done nothing but that he would have ranked as one of the greatest reformers in criminal detection. But he has done more—much more.

Fourteen years ago he resigned his Indian post to become Assistant-Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department. Even then the intention was to "try" him for Commissioner. He spent a period in South Africa during the war reorganising the civil police of Johannesburg and Pretoria. In 1903, when Sir Edward Bradford retired, he was appointed Commissioner.

He found that the vast complex machinery of which he assumed control was running a little less freely than it should. The police force was like an old established business—still sound, but inclined to work in a groove. It needed a chief with courage, individuality, ideas, initiative, and the organising powers of a Kitchener. These qualities were almost at once revealed in Sir Edward Henry.

In the force it was soon felt that a new power had arisen. The Commissioner was not only a name but an actuality. Nothing was so trivial as to escape his attention; nothing too wide for him to grasp. He knew his men—it is said that he knows every man in the force, an exaggeration with a great deal of truth in it—and they soon knew him.

Quick to observe, quick to commend or punish, whether it be high official or ordinary constable, he has come to be regarded with unswerving devotion by those under him. The police force as he took it over and as it is now may seem the same thing to the ordinary observer. To those who knew something of its working it is a vastly different thing.

I have passed many years among police officers of all grades and all departments. Many of these have been veterans of from twenty to thirty years' service. They have told me of things done for the well-being of the force, the convenience of the public, and the confusion of the criminal.

Telephone and telegraphic communication have been perfected between stations, head-quarters and provincial police, the system of identification has been revised, young constables are taught their trade with care and thoroughness, higher pay has been granted to all ranks, men are housed in greater comfort, red tape has been ruthlessly cut through, the relations between police and Press have been improved; there is a wider, broader spirit in all. A clean esprit de corps, very different to that which at times long gone by has threatened the interests of the public, has sprung up.

In all these things is to be seen the hand of Sir Edward Henry. Scotland Yard is not yet perfect; there still linger relics of the old conservative spirit in certain directions; but the new method has made itself felt. Initiative is encouraged in all ranks. Suggestions and criticism from without are welcomed.

The Commissioner is a man of instant decision. Let anyone make a suggestion, and he ponders it for a second or so. Then he reaches for a pen. "Yes, that's a good idea. We'll have an order on that." And in a little the suggestion has become an official fact.

Little escapes his eye, but he is a man who makes sure. Every morning a bundle of newspapers and periodicals is delivered at Scotland Yard to be carefully scrutinised and to have every reference to the force marked with blue pencil. Where there is an accusation against a particular man, or a criticism of methods in general, special attention is directed to it. But there is rarely any need for this. The Commissioner has probably read it at breakfast. The point, whatever it is, is usually in a fair way to being dealt with before lunch.

From the moment a constable has been sworn in he is watched and selected for the post that best suits him. A man may do well in a semi-rural district who would be a failure in Commercial Road, E. He may be selected for office work, regulation of traffic, for the Criminal Investigation Department, for the Thames Division, or for routine duty in the street. Wherever he is he is the best man who can be found for the work, and so from top to bottom of the ladder of promotion.

Many romances have been written of Scotland Yard, but imagination has supplied the place of facts, for the tongues of those who have taken part in dramatic episodes, more stirring than any in fiction, are locked.

Yet, in spite of all its cold, business-like atmosphere, the story of the Metropolitan Police is in itself a vivid romance which only a Kipling could write as it should be written. Imagine the Commissioner, whose power is almost autocratic, weaving a net that is spread broadcast to catch within its meshes any person who breaks the King's peace or the King's laws.

And, although now and again the personal factor is discernible in some piece of work, it is mainly cold, precise, business-like organisation which holds the net so close. Telephones, telegraphs, and motor cars link the police stations of London closely—so closely that within less than half an hour 20,000 men can be informed of the particulars of a crime.

As an instance of organisation, it may be interesting to recall that during the Coronation procession, when close on 600 detectives were on duty mingling with the crowds, it was possible for Mr. Frank Froest, the then Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department, in his office, to get a message to or from any one of them within ten minutes. A large proportion of the whole body could have been concentrated on one spot within twenty minutes.

It is organisation that makes Scotland Yard able to carry out its myriad duties, from testing motor omnibuses to plucking a murderer from his hiding place at the ends of the earth, from guarding the persons of Emperors and Kings to preventing a Whitechapel bully from knocking his wife about. The work must go on smoothly, silently, every department harmonising, every man working in one common effort.

The administrative and financial sides of the police are divided, the former being under the Commissioner, the latter under the Receiver, Mr. G. H. Tripp. The maintenance of the Metropolitan Police is naturally expensive, the average cost of each constable annually being L102. The gross expenditure during 1913-14 was L2,830,796; of this, L886,307 was received from the Exchequer, L244,383 was from sums paid for the services of constables lent to other districts, L1,512,072 from London ratepayers, and the remainder from various sources.



The great deterrent against crime is not vindictive punishment; the more certain you make detection, the less severe your punishment may be. The brilliant sleuth-hound work of which we read so often is a less important factor in police work than organisation. Organisation it is which holds the peace of London. It is organisation that plucks the murderer from his fancied security at the ends of the earth, that prevents the drunkard from making himself a nuisance to the public, that prevents the defective motor-bus from becoming a danger or an annoyance to the community.

Inside the building of red brick and grey stone that faces the river, and a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament, there are men who sit planning, planning, planning. The problems of the peace of London change from day to day, from hour to hour, almost from minute to minute. Every emergency must be met, instantly, as it arises—often by diplomacy, sometimes by force. A hundred men must be thrown here, a thousand there, and trained detectives picked for special work. With swift, smooth precision, the well-oiled machinery works, and we, who only see the results, never guess at the disaster that might have befallen if a sudden strain had thrown things out of gear.

In the tangle of departments and sub-departments, bewildering to the casual observer, there is an elastic order which welds the whole together. Not a man but knows his work. The top-notch of efficiency is good enough for Scotland Yard. Its men are engaged in business pure and simple, not in making shrewd detective deductions. The lime-light which occasionally bursts upon them distorts their ways and their duties. Really, they have little love for the dramatic. Newspaper notoriety is not sought, and men cannot "work the Press," as in times gone by, to attain a fictitious reputation.

It is through well-chosen lieutenants that Sir Edward Henry works. There are four Assistant-Commissioners upon each of whom special work devolves. Sir Frederick Wodehouse, for instance, is the "Administrative Assistant-Commissioner." He deals with all matters relating to discipline, promotion, and routine so far as the uniformed force is concerned.

The Criminal Investigation Department is under Mr. Basil Thompson, a comparatively young man who came from the Prison Commission to succeed Sir Melville Macnaghten, and who has successfully experimented with some new ideas to make the path of the criminal more difficult. Mr. Frank Elliott, who was formerly at the Home Office, holds sway over the Public Carriage Office; and the Hon. F. T. Bigham, a barrister—and a son of Lord Mersey, who gained his experience as a Chief Constable of the Criminal Investigation Department—deals with and investigates the innumerable complaints and enquiries that would occur even in a police force manned by archangels. Mr. Bigham is also the Central Authority under the terms of the international agreement for the suppression of the white slave traffic.

There are six Chief Constables, mostly ex-military officers. One of these assists in the administration of the Criminal Investigation Department, the remainder control districts of four or five adjoining divisions. To adopt a military simile, they may be compared to major-generals in command of brigades, with each division representing a battalion, and the superintendents, colonels.

Only once in the whole history of the Metropolitan Police has a man risen from the ranks to the post of Chief Constable, though many, like Mr. Gentle at Brighton, and Mr. Williams at Cardiff, have become the heads of important provincial forces. The post of superintendent in London is at least equivalent in its responsibilities to the average chief-constableship of the provinces. There are metropolitan section sergeants who have as many men under their control as some chief constables of small boroughs.

The unit of the Metropolitan Police is a division which averages about a thousand men. Each is under a superintendent, with a chief-inspector as second in command. Thereafter the ranks run:


{ Divisional Detective-Inspectors. Sub-divisional Inspectors { Central Detective-Inspectors.

Inspectors Detective-Inspectors

Station-Sergeants First Class Detective Sergeants.

Section-Sergeants Second Class Detective-Sergeants

Constables (reserve) Third Class Detective-Sergeants

Constables (according to Detective-Patrols seniority)

These are distributed among close on two hundred police stations in the metropolis, and in twenty-two divisions. Some are detailed for the special work with which London as London has nothing to do. Thus there are: the King's Household Police; divisions guarding the dockyards and military stations at Woolwich, Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham, and Pembroke; detachments on special duty at the Admiralty and War Office and the Houses of Parliament and Government Departments; and men specially employed, as at the Royal Academy, the Army and Navy Stores, and so on. In all, there are 1,932 men so engaged.[1] Their services are charged for by the Receiver, and the cost does not fall upon the ratepayers.

Scotland Yard is run on the lines of a big business. To the intimate observer it is strangely similar in many of its aspects to a great newspaper office, with its diverse and highly specialised duties all tending to one common end. The headquarters staff is a big one. There are superintendents in charge of the departments, men whom no emergency can ruffle—calm, methodical and alert, ready to act in the time one can make a telephone call.

There are McCarthy, of the Central Criminal Investigation Department; Quinn, of the Special Branch which concerns itself with political offences and the care of Royalty; Bassom, of the Public Carriage Department; Gooding, of the Peel House Training School; West and White, of the Executive and Statistical Departments.

Nothing but fine, careful organisation could weld together these multitudinous departments with their myriad duties. It is an organisation more difficult to handle than that of any army in the field. The public takes it all for granted until something goes wrong, some weak link in the chain fails. Then there is trouble.

The Metropolitan Police is the only force in England which is independent of local control. The Commissioner—often wrongly described as the Chief Commissioner—is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Home Secretary, and has wide, almost autocratic powers. It is an Imperial force which has duties apart from the care of London. It has divisions at the great dockyards; it is the adviser and helper of multifarious smaller zones in case of difficulty. It has charge of the river from Dartford Creek to Teddington, and its confines extend far beyond the boundaries of the London County Council.

In one year its printing and stationery bill alone amounts to over L10,000; its postage, telegrams, and telephone charges to another L13,000. Its gross cost is nearly three millions a year. That is the insurance paid for the keeping of the peace. What do we get for it?

We have taught the world that a body of police can be none the less efficient although their hands are clean; that honesty is not necessarily a synonym for stupidity; that law and order can be enforced without brutality. There are no agents provocateur in the London police, and the grafter has little opportunity to exercise his talent.

In one year 17,910 indictable offences were committed within the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police district. For these 14,525 people were proceeded against, and as some of them were probably responsible for two or more of the offences the margin of those who escaped is very low. There were 178,495 minor offenders, all of whom were dealt with.

The machinery of Scotland Yard misses little. How many crimes have been prevented by the knowledge of swift and almost inevitable punishment it is impossible to say, but they have been many.


[1] This was before the War.



Through a little back door, up a stone flight of stairs, into a broad corridor one passes to the offices where are quartered the heads of the most important branch of Scotland Yard—the Criminal Investigation Department, with its wide-reaching organisation stretching beyond the confines of London over the whole world.

It is its business to keep its fingers on the pulse of crime, to watch vigilantly the comings and goings of thousands of men and women, and to bring to justice all those whose acts have made them a menace to society.

No department of Scotland Yard has been more written around; none has been more misunderstood. It does its duty effectually, unswervingly, in the same unemotional spirit that marks the other departments of the service, but with perhaps even a keener eye to its own reputation. The C.I.D. knows how high is the reputation it has won among international police forces, and is very properly jealous of its maintenance.

There have been critics of the C.I.D. Many have held that the system of recruiting from the uniformed police is wrong in essence—that educated men employed direct from civilian life would be more effective. There is no bar against anyone being appointed direct if the authorities chose—but it has been tried.

Once upon a time—this was a long while ago—an ardent reformer held the reins of the detective force. He made many valuable changes, and some less valuable—among the latter the experiment of "gentlemen" as detectives. There were six of them, and the full story of these kid-glove amateurs would be interesting reading. They were, in the euphemistic words of the reformer himself, "eminently unsatisfactory." "There is," he added, "little doubt that the gentlemen who have failed in one of the professions which they usually adopt are less trustworthy, less reliable, and more difficult to control than those who enter a calling such as the police in the ordinary course."[2] So the only approach to Sherlock Holmes that Scotland Yard has ever seen was killed for good and all, though there is still no legal bar to anyone being appointed directly a detective.

Six hundred and fifty picked officers, all of whom have worn the blue uniform and patrolled the streets at the regulation pace, form a mobile army scattered over the metropolis.

Quiet and unobtrusive men for the most part, dogged, tactful, and resourceful, they must always be ready to act at a moment's notice as individuals or as part of a machine. For it is the machinery of Scotland Yard that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred calls check to the criminal's move. It is long odds on law and order every time.

The administrative work of the department is carried out by the Assistant-Commissioner and the Chief Constable. It is on the shoulders of two superintendents—curiously enough, both Irishmen—at the head of the two main branches of the department that the executive work chiefly devolves.

Superintendent John McCarthy—who for several years has held the reins of the Central C.I.D., to which the main body of detectives are attached—is a blue-eyed, soft-voiced man who governs with no less tact and firmness than his predecessor, the famous Frank Froest. In a service extending for more than thirty years he has accumulated an unequalled experience of all classes of crime and criminals, and has travelled widely in many countries on dangerous and difficult missions. Tall and neat, he gives an impression of absolute competence. And competence is needed in the organisation he has to handle.

Nothing can ruffle him. He sits at a flat-topped desk in a soft-carpeted room, working quietly, methodically. By the window stands a big steel safe containing hundreds of pounds in gold, at hand for any emergency. Ranged on shelves are reference books—"Who's Who," "The Law List," "Medical Directory," "A.B.C. Guide," "Continental Bradshaw," and others. Behind the office table are half a dozen speaking tubes and a telephone.

It is for Mr. McCarthy to enlist the aid of the Press on occasion. It is sometimes necessary to give wide publicity to a description or a photograph. Then skilful diplomacy is necessary to avoid giving facts which, instead of helping, might hamper an investigation. Only of late years has this co-operation been sought—and credit is due to Mr. Froest for the manner in which he helped to initiate and apply the system. Swift publicity has often helped to run down a criminal, notably in the case of the murderer Crippen.

Immediately associated with Mr. McCarthy at headquarters are four Chief Detective-Inspectors—Ward, Fowler, Hawkins, and Gough—all men of long experience and proved qualities. Most of their names are familiar to the public in connection with the unravelling of mysteries during the last decade. One Chief Detective-Inspector—Mr. Wensley—has his headquarters in the East End.

One or more of these is always available in an emergency. Is there an epidemic of burglary at some district in London? A chief-inspector is sent to organise a search for the culprits, taking with him a detachment from Scotland Yard to reinforce the divisional detectives. Problems of crime that affect London as a whole are dealt with by them.

Some have specialist knowledge of particular classes of crime or particular districts, though each must be competent to undertake any investigation, no matter what it may be. Or a provincial police force may ask for expert aid in, for instance, a baffling murder mystery. One may be sent by the authority of the Home Secretary to assist in its solution.

To each of the twenty-two divisions into which the Metropolitan Police is split up are assigned between twelve to thirty detectives, under a divisional inspector. In ten of the larger divisions there is a junior inspector to assist in the control of the staff. Except in a few of the outlying districts there are one, two, three or more detectives to every police station. They deal with local crime, make it their business to know local thieves, and reinforce other divisions or are reinforced as occasion demands. They have special duties allotted to them, and have to keep a record in their diaries of the manner in which their time is spent.

Yet individuality and initiative are not sacrificed by too rigid a discipline. If a man learnt, for instance, while watching for pickpockets in the Strand that a robbery was being planned at Kennington, it would be his duty to make at once for the scene. He would stay for nothing, gathering assistance, if possible, as he went, but, if not, going alone.

Usually, it is found that the divisional men can deal with any matter needing attention in their districts, but occasionally London is startled by some great mystery. It is then that the C.I.D. moves swiftly, with every nerve strained to achieve its ends.

There is no actual "murder commission," as there is in some foreign countries, but every person and device likely to be of assistance is quickly concentrated on the spot. Not a second of time is lost from the moment the crime is discovered. First on the spot are the divisional detective-inspector and his staff. Telephones and the chattering tape machines tell the details in ten score of police stations.

Mr. Basil Thompson, the Assistant-Commissioner, and Mr. McCarthy will probably motor in haste to the spot. Specialists are summoned from all quarters. Not a thing is moved until a minute inspection has been made, plans drawn, photographs taken, notes made, and finger-prints sought for. It may be necessary to get certain points settled by experts, by Dr. Wilcox, the Home Office analyst, Dr. Spilsbury, the pathologist, by a gunsmith, an expert in handwriting, or any one of a dozen others. The very best professional assistance is always sought.

The danger of amateur experts was exemplified some years ago, when a woman who committed suicide tried to destroy every mark of identity on her clothes. She missed one detail—a laundry mark worked in red thread on her dressing jacket. The mark was read as E.U.X.A.O.Z., and these letters were advertised far and wide. Then the President of the Laundry Association examined the garment, and conclusively showed that the marks really represented E.48992. It was, he declared, not a laundry mark at all, but a dyers and cleaners' mark. And this was what it proved to be.

While the experts are busy the divisional inspector and his men are no less so. They are making a kind of gigantic snowball enquiry, working backwards from the persons immediately available. A. has little to say himself, but there are B. and C. who, he knows, were connected with the murdered person. And B. and C. having been questioned speak of D. E. F. and G.; and it may be that a score or more persons have been interviewed ere one is found who can supply some vital fact. I have known a murder investigation held up a couple of hours while search was being made for someone to supply the address of some other person who might know something.

All very tedious this, and very different from the methods of the detectives we read about. But then the detectives of fiction somehow avoid the chance of the flaws in their deductions being sought out by astute cross-examining counsel.

If a description of the suspected murderer is available a telegraphist working at Scotland Yard will get it, with the letters "A.S." (all stations) attached. As he taps his instrument the message is automatically ticked out simultaneously at every station in the metropolis.

The great railway termini are watched, and men are thrown to the outlying stations as a second safeguard. Should the man slip through this net he will find England locked from port to port. The C.I.D. have their own men at many ports, and at others the co-operation of the provincial police is enlisted. He is lucky indeed if he gets away after the hue and cry has been raised.

There are no chances taken. Everything is put on record, whether it appears relevant or irrelevant to the enquiry. In the Registry—a kind of clerical bureau of the Criminal Investigation Department—every statement, every report is neatly typed, filed in a book with all relating to the case, and indexed. It remains available just so long as the crime is unsolved—ten days or ten years. The progress of the case is always shown to within an hour.

No effort is spared to get on the track of the murderer while the scent is still warm. Scores of men work on different aspects of the case. The Finger-print Department may be trying to identify a thumb-print from among their records; in another part of the building the photographers have made a lantern slide of certain charred pieces of paper, and are throwing a magnified reproduction on a screen for closer scrutiny; a score of men are seeking for a cabman who might have driven the murderer away.

It may be that these steps will go on for days and weeks with dogged persistence. This stage of investigation has been aptly likened to a jig-saw puzzle which may fall from chaos into a composite whole at any moment. Once the hounds have glimpsed their quarry it is almost hopeless for him to attempt to escape. His description, his photograph, specimens of his writing are spread broadcast for the aid of the public in identifying him wherever he may hide. Men watch the big railway stations, out-going ships are kept under surveillance, for the C.I.D. has two or three staff men resident in many parts. They are also maintained at ports like Boulogne and Calais.

The co-operation of the provincial and foreign police is obtained, and the wide publicity of newspapers. The whole-heartedness with which the public throws itself into a hunt of this kind has disadvantages as well as advantages. A score of times a day people will report someone "very like" the wanted man as seen almost simultaneously in a score of different places. All these reports have to be immediately investigated.

And with the search for the culprit the ceaseless search for evidence goes on. It is no use to catch a murderer if you cannot adduce proof against him. The enthusiasm of the investigators is not called forth by a blood-hunt. It is all a part of the mechanism. The C.I.D. and its members are merely putting through a piece of business quite impersonally. "A murder has been committed," they say in effect. "We have caught the person we believe responsible, and this is the evidence. It does not matter to us what happens now. The jury are responsible."

It once fell to the lot of the writer to see an arrest for a murder with which the world rang. The merest novice in stage management could have obtained a better dramatic effect; the arrest of a drunken man by an ordinary constable would have had more thrill. It was in a street thronged with people passing homewards from the city. A single detective waited on each pavement. Presently one of them lifted his hat and the other crossed over. They fell into step each side of a very ordinary young man. "Your name is so-and-so," said one. "We are police-officers, and we should like an explanation of one or two things. It may be necessary to detain you." A cab stopped, the three got into it, and as it drove away there were not two people among the thousands in the street who knew that anything out of the ordinary had happened.

That is typical of the way arrests for great crimes are effected if possible. Yet, sometimes circumstances force melodrama on the detectives. Another arrest which was watched by the writer took place at dead of night in a dirty lodging-house in an East End street. A house-to-house search had been instituted by forty or fifty armed detectives. They expected desperate resistance when they found their quarry. And at last they came upon the man they sought sleeping peacefully on a truckle bed. A giant detective lifted him bodily. A great coat was bundled over his night shirt, and he was sent off as he was, under escort, into the night.


[2] Sir Howard Vincent, first and only "Director of Criminal Investigations," said, in 1883: "It has been urged more than once that better and more reliable detectives might be found among the retired officers of the army and younger sons of gentlemen than in the ranks of the police. Willing, as I hope I shall always be, to give every suggestion a fair trial, six such recruits have been enrolled in the Criminal Investigation Department with a result, I am sorry to say, eminently unsatisfactory. There is, I fear, little doubt that the gentlemen who have failed in one of the professions which they usually adopt are less trustworthy, less reliable, and more difficult to control than those who enter a calling such as the police in the ordinary course."

Sir Charles Warren, in the course of a magazine article which had tremendous effect on his reign as Commissioner, said, referring to the detective service: "Some few candidates have been admitted direct to a great number examined and rejected. Of those admitted, few, if any, have been found qualified to remain in the detective service. It seems, therefore, that although the Criminal Investigation Branch is open to receive any qualified person direct, as a general rule no persons, for some years past, have presented themselves sufficiently qualified to remain. And there are indications of the advantages of a previous police training in the uniform branch in the fact that the most successful private detectives at present in the country are those who have formerly been in, and originally trained in, the uniform branch...."



Primarily, the great function of the police is to prevent crime; secondly, when it has happened, to bring the offender to justice. How do they work? Not by relying on spasmodic flashes of inspiration, like the detective of fiction, but by hard, painstaking work, and, of course, organisation.

Crime is divided into two classes—the habitual and the casual. Every habitual criminal is known. Numbers vary, but the latest available figures show that there are 957 habitual criminals in London, of whom 706 are thieves and 161 receivers. Now, each of these thieves has a distinctive method. A crime occurs. It is reported to the local police station, and a detective is sent to the scene. Perhaps he is able to say off-hand: "This job was done by so-and-so." Then, having fixed his man, he sets to work to accumulate evidence. Scotland Yard is reported to, and thence word is sent to every police station to keep a look-out for Brown, or Jones, or Smith—that is, if he has left his usual haunts. Every detective—strange as it may seem—makes it a point to keep on good terms with thieves. It is his business. Sooner or later the man "wanted" is discovered, unless he is exceptionally astute.

There are, of course, a hundred ways of finding the author of the crime. The good detective chooses the simplest. Subtle analysis is all very well, but it is apt to lead to blind alleys. Imagine a case such as occurs every day:

A burglary has been committed and reported to the police. The first steps are automatic. The divisional detective-inspector in control of the district sets his staff to work. Men get descriptions of the stolen property, and within an hour the private telegraph and telephone wires have carried them to every police station in London. The great printing machine of Scotland Yard reels off "Informations" four times a day, and in the next edition the story of the crime is told, and each of the 650 detectives in London, as well as the 20,000 uniformed police, have it impressed upon their minds.

Swift, unobtrusive little green motor cars carry "Pawnbrokers' Lists" to every police station to be distributed by hand. The Police Gazette goes out twice a week to the whole police forces of the British Empire.

Every honest market in which the booty can be disposed of is closed. If the thief has been unwary enough to leave a finger-print it is photographed, and should he be an old hand the records at Scotland Yard show his identity in less than half an hour.

All this is a matter of routine. It is "up to" the detectives still to find their man. Should there be nothing tangible to act upon the detectives—who know intimately the criminals in their district, and many out of it—will try a method of elimination. "This," they will say in effect, "is probably the work of one of half a dozen men. Let us see who could have done it, and then we shall have something to go on. A. and B. are in prison; C. we know to be in Newcastle, and D. was at Southampton. Either E. or F. is the man."

The personal factor enters into the work here. A detective is expected to be on friendly terms with professional criminals, although he must not be too friendly. The principle can be illustrated by an anecdote of Mr. Froest, the famous detective.

Once or twice he had arrested a notorious American crook who was carrying on operations in this country, and whom I will call Smith. In one of his occasional spells of liberty, Smith, who was a reputed murderer in his own country, met Froest. "Say, chief," he drawled after a little conversation, "I'd just hate to hurt a man like you. I always carry a gun, and there are times when I'm a bit too handy with it. If ever you've got to take me never do it after six in the evening. I'm a bit lively then."

It is the business of a detective to know thieves. Without an acquaintance with their habits of thought and their social customs, he may be lost. The "informant" plays a great part in practical detective work, and the informant, it follows, is often a thief himself. Of the manner in which he is used, I shall have more to say later.

So it is among the friends (and enemies) of E. and F., that the detectives set to work. It is a task that calls for tact. E., we will suppose, is at home, and all his movements about the time of the crime are checked and counter-checked. F. has vanished from his usual haunts. This is a circumstance suspicious in itself, but rendered more so by the fact that his wife is uncommonly flush of money.

Often it is harder to connect together legal evidence of guilt than to catch a criminal. The most positive moral certainty is not sufficient to convict a man, and English detectives may not avail themselves of methods in use abroad to bring home a crime to the right person.

Perhaps a detective pays a visit to F.'s wife. With the remembrance of many kindly acts performed by the police during her husband's involuntary absences, she is torn between a stubborn loyalty to him and her wish to be civil to her visitor. He is sympathetic—cynics may not believe that the sympathy is often genuine—but he has his duty to do. He does not expect her consciously to betray her husband, but his eyes are busy while he puts artless questions. An incautious word, the evasion of a question may give him the hint he seeks, or, on the other hand, she may be too alert and his mission may be fruitless.

Meanwhile a description and photograph of F. have been circulated by what may be called the publicity department of Scotland Yard. It may be even given to the newspapers, for your modern detective realises the advantage of deft use of the Press.

Remember, F. is a known criminal, and even in so vast a place as London no man who is known can hide himself indefinitely. A striking personal instance may be cited. The writer, in the course of an aimless walk through obscure streets, accompanied by a well-known detective, was greeted by no fewer than eight officers. I believe there is no instance on record of a definite person being "wanted" where the police have failed to find him. He may have escaped arrest for lack of evidence, but he has been found.

The wide-flung net will, sooner or later, enmesh F. He may be seen and recognised or, what is more likely, he will be betrayed by one of his associates. It does not follow that he will at once be arrested and charged. He may be merely "detained," which means that the police have him in custody for not more than twenty-four hours, at the end of which time he must either be brought before a magistrate or set at liberty. He must not be questioned, but he is given to understand why he is held, and may, if he likes, volunteer a statement.

If any of the stolen property is found on him the matter at once becomes straightforward, and if he is believed to have hidden or disposed of it to any particular person search warrants are procured to bring it to light.

Another instance of the methods employed by the C.I.D. to establish identity may be recalled. Two Americans in Frankfort tried to rob a man of L30,000. One was arrested, and the other got away. The C.I.D. was asked if it could make any suggestions to the Frankfort police.

Very courteously, Scotland Yard said in effect: "Yes. If the man left in a hurry, he probably left something behind. Go to his hotel and see."

Frankfort did so, found some luggage in the cloakroom, and among them shirts with the name of a London maker. A Scotland Yard detective went to the address, and found the name of a certain American "crook" as having his shirts made to measure there.

When the man, all unconscious that his connection with the robbery was known, stepped out of the train at Charing Cross Station a few hours later he was arrested.

Individual initiative is encouraged in every officer. Luck, too, often aids justice. Some years ago it was learnt that an absconding bank cashier would probably try to leave England by a certain liner.

A detective, whom we will call Smith, went armed with a description of the man to effect an arrest. When he got on board he scrutinised the passengers closely. Only one man resembled the description. Smith drew him aside.

"I have reason to believe your name is X.," he said. "I am a police officer, and I hold a warrant for your arrest."

Highly indignant, the man denied that he was the person described. His indignation was obviously not assumed, and there were minor discrepancies between his appearance and the description.

Smith shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well. If you are not X., and can prove it, you have nothing to fear. In that case I presume you will have no objection to my looking through your luggage."

X. paled, stuttered, fumed, and protested that he would never consent to such an outrage.

No conduct could have been more calculated to make the officer determined. He searched the luggage. In a small handbag he discovered, hidden away, a mass of notes and gold. Triumphantly, he conducted his prisoner ashore and had him locked up in the nearest police station.

Then he telephoned to his superior officer, "I've got X."

"No, you haven't," came the startling reply. "We've got him here. He was arrested at King's Cross half an hour ago."

Utterly bewildered, Smith told of his capture and the compromising gold and notes.

There was five minutes' silence.

Then the voice at the other end of the telephone said quietly: "Oh, that's all right. The man you've got is Y., a rate collector, who made a run from Glasgow a day or two ago."

That was the luck of the service.

Two of the cases in which Mr. Froest was concerned may be recalled, as illustrating how appearances may sometimes lead to wrong conclusions.

In one, an unknown man was found head down in a water-butt outside a country bungalow. There was an ugly bruise on his forehead, and the provincial police who were investigating the case made up their minds that there had been foul play.

They asked for help from Scotland Yard, and Mr. Froest was sent down. He looked over the scene, and his eyes twinkled.

"This is not a case of murder," he said. "That man was a tramp. He hurt his head in climbing through the fence—he was probably going to break into the house—and went to bathe it in the water-butt. As he put his head down he slipped and fell in."

One of the listeners heard this explanation with a sceptical grin.

"That couldn't be so," he protested, and, going near the water-butt, lowered his head to demonstrate the impossibility of such an accident.

The next instant there was a smothered scream and a mighty splash. A pair of feet waved wildly in the air. As the sceptic was pulled out of the barrel he extended his hand to Mr. Froest with a sad smile.

"I believe you are right," he said.

In the second instance the crews of two Cardiff tramps had joined in an effort to "paint the town red" at Bilbao, the Spanish port.

They returned to the quayside with their pockets stuffed full of biscuits, which they ate as they rolled along. At the quay they were able to clamber down into the boats, except one fireman, who was almost completely "under the weather." So a mate of the other boat fastened a rope round his chest and lowered him to his companions.

Then the mate returned to his own ship. In the morning he was arrested for murder. The fireman had been dead when taken aboard, and his appearance showed that he died of strangulation. It was suggested that the mate had, instead of putting the rope under his arms, put it round his neck, and drawn him up and down, in and out of the water.

A conviction followed the trial, but, luckily, friends of the convicted man asked Scotland Yard to make an independent investigation. Mr. Froest went to Cardiff, where the crews of the two vessels concerned had then arrived. The more he went into the case the deeper became his conviction that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. He went back to Scotland Yard.

"I don't believe the fireman was murdered," he said. "He was eating a biscuit, and a piece probably stuck in his throat and choked him. As to his being wet through, it was raining hard at the time."

The Spanish authorities were informed of this theory, and the body of the "murdered" man was exhumed. Still in the throat was the biscuit which had choked him.

There was, too, the case of an old woman murdered at Slough. Chief Detective-Inspector Bower, now head of the Port of London Authority police, ultimately arrested a man against whom there was nothing but suspicion, as apart from legal proof. And on the suspect was found a slip of crumpled paper in which coins had apparently been wrapped. The marks of the milling were plainly discernible. Mr. Bower wrapped twenty-one sovereigns—the amount of the money stolen from the victim—in another piece of paper. The marks corresponded, and it was mainly on that evidence that the prisoner was convicted.



The detective net drawn round London is close and complete. Within the last two or three years the headquarters staff at Scotland Yard has completely changed, although there is no man with less than twenty years' service among the five chief detective-inspectors who act as Mr. McCarthy's chief-lieutenants.

These are the men who meet in special council when some great crime stirs London, and whose wits are bent to aid the active efforts of those deputed for the actual investigation. With them at Scotland Yard are some seventy or eighty subordinate detectives. Crime that affects London as a whole is usually dealt with direct from headquarters.

Every division of police in London has its detective detachment of from twelve to thirty men under divisional inspectors. Except in a very few of the outlying rural districts of London, there is no police station without one or more detectives. They are expected to hold local crime in check. But the machine is adaptable to contingencies. The "morning report of crime" sent to headquarters shows daily the ebb and flow of crime. A sudden wave of burglaries, for instance, might be met by reinforcements from another district or from the Yard itself.

Twice a month the big Council of Crime meets—a gathering at New Scotland Yard at which thirty or forty of the senior detectives of the metropolis, heads of districts, and headquarters men meet in conference and compare notes. The movements of criminals are checked, particular mysteries discussed. A. is puzzled by certain peculiarities in a robbery at Hampstead; B. remembers that similar peculiarities were present in an affair in which he arrested Bill Smith, at Brixton, some years ago. Resolved unanimously that Bill's recent movements will bear looking into. Opinions will be discussed of the identity of a swindler who has been duping furniture dealers by selling them furniture from houses or flats he has rented. Many a fraud has been detected by these informal discussions in that bare green-painted room.

One of the greatest difficulties that beset a detective of real life—it does not so much affect the detective of fiction—is the securing of evidence that is legally convincing. It is one thing to be morally certain of a person's guilt; it is quite another thing to prove it to the satisfaction of a jury. Especially is this so in case of murder. There is probably no other great city in the world which can boast of no murder mystery in which for two years the perpetrator remained undiscovered.

There were twenty-five cases of murder in 1913—the last year for which figures are available—and twenty-four in 1912. In each one, in 1912, the guilty person was known. The 1913 cases were thus disposed of. Eleven arrests were made—one of a man who committed two murders—and in nine the murderers committed suicide. Three of the other cases were caused through illegal operations, which were not immediately reported to the police. The remaining case was that of an Italian who fled abroad.

The real detective is a common-place man—common-place in the sense that you would not pick him out of a crowd for what he is. He assiduously avoids mannerisms. You will find him genial rather than mysterious. He does not wear policeman's boots, and he is not always weaving a subtle network of deductions. He is a plain business man of shrewd common-sense who has been carefully trained to take the quickest and most accurate way to a desired end. You can almost fancy him drawing up an advertisement:

"Criminals (assorted) for disposal. Large selection always available. Special orders executed at the shortest notice. Apply Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard, S.W."

And on occasion he takes, so to speak, your burglar, your pickpocket, or your forger off the shelf, carefully dusts his label, and dispatches him, carriage paid, with a neat parcels note, for conveyance to his ultimate destination by the old-established firm of transport agents in the Old Bailey.

The London detective grows up in an atmosphere of business. Romance, adventure are incidental—and rare. Before he can bring off any big coup he has thoroughly to understand the handling of the big machine of which he forms part. And above all he must have courage—not merely physical courage, but a courage that will assume big responsibility in an instant of stress.

Melville, sometime of the Special Branch, for instance, once committed a flagrant illegality when he decoyed a dangerous Anarchist into a wine cellar and locked him in while a great personage was passing through London. And Mr. Frank Froest, when he snatched a noted embezzler from the Argentine after all attempts to obtain his extradition had failed, gave an example of the same kind of courage. Another detective, in a case where the body of a murdered man had been hidden, did not hesitate to arrest the murderer on the flimsy charge of "being in unlawful possession of a pickaxe" to prevent flight while he continued his search. In each case these men deliberately adopted risks to attain their ends which nothing but success could warrant.

There are 650 men attached to the Criminal Investigation Department, and they have all learned their trade by tedious degrees. They all started, even the superintendents at their head, as constables on street duty.

Consider the precautions that are taken in recruiting the department. The candidate has passed the stringent tests of character and physique applied to all metropolitan police officers. He has been watched, with unostentatious vigilance, for defects of temperament or intelligence. A few months he has on street duty in uniform, and then he may apply for transfer to the C.I.D. He may be recommended then by his divisional superiors to Mr. McCarthy—the blonde blue-eyed Irishman who rules the Central C.I.D.—who himself interviews and makes a rapid judgment of the aspirant before he is passed on to an examining board of two veteran chief detective-inspectors sitting with a Chief Constable. Some of the questions he will be expected to answer run like this: "How may you utilise the photographs of persons suspected of crime, and what precautions would you take?" "What is meant by a 'special enquiry'?" "Give examples of the use special enquiries can be put to in detecting offenders against the law."

These examinations, it may be said, are compulsory at every step in promotion in the detective service, in addition to educational examinations carried out independently by the Civil Service Commissioners. Here is a question put at an examination for promotion to detective-sergeant which might form the skeleton of a detective story.

"A night-watchman, in going his rounds, discovers two men attempting to break open a safe on the premises. Both men make good their escape by a window, but one of them receives a blow on the head from the watchman which causes blood to flow, while the other leaves his jacket behind.

"The watchman can give a fair description of the men. In the jacket left behind, which bears no maker's name, are found the following:—(1) A return-half ticket to Birmingham from London; (2) A snapshot of a lady having the appearance of a music hall performer, signed 'Kitty,' but with no photographer's name; (3) a letter (no envelope) as follows:—

"King Street.

'DEAR TOM.—I hope you are coming up on Tuesday. Things are bad here since Bill got his three months. 'MARY.'

"State as fully as you can what steps you suggest should be taken to trace the offenders. How could the articles found be made use of in the enquiry?"

The preliminary examination is only the first step. The young man who passes finds himself a "patrol on probation," with the knowledge that if he does not justify himself he will be returned to the blue-coated ranks. He is put to school again—the little-known detective school that is maintained at Scotland Yard, with Detective-Inspector Belcher at its head. There are lectures on law, and even lantern lectures. He is taught the methods of criminals, from gambling sharps to forgers, from pickpockets to petty sneak-thieves. The Black Museum primarily exists for his instruction. He is shown jemmies, coining implements, shop-lifting devices, and the latest word in the march of scientific burglary—the oxy-acetylene apparatus. All that ingenuity and experience can suggest for the confusion of the criminal is taught him. He is shown where an expert must be called in, and where his own common-sense must aid him. He is taught something of locks, something of finger-prints, something of cipher-reading. He learns the significance of trivialities, and the high importance of method.

I have said that the detective must know when to call in the expert. Science plays no inconspicuous part in many investigations, and there is a little corps of consulting specialists whose aid is always available. It was the work of the analyst that proved the guilt of men like Seddon and Crippen. The microscopist has brought more than one forger to justice. A murder was proved because a tool-maker's aid was enlisted to decipher some scratches on a chisel. A blackmailer was captured because a paper manufacturer identified a peculiar make of paper on which a letter was written. And, of course, the help of the medical jurisprudent is a commonplace of criminal investigation.

The finger-print experts are on the staff; so, too, are the photographers. There is a big magic lantern used in connection with the latter department which has made clear more than one mystery by the enlargement of some photograph. In one case an envelope with a blurred post-mark was picked up on the scene of a robbery. It was enlarged, and so the name of a town was picked out. In an hour or two the criminal was under arrest.



Outside fiction, the real detective does not disguise himself in any elaborate or melodramatic fashion. He will not wear a false moustache or a wig, for instance. But the beginner is taught how a difference in dressing the hair, the combing out or waxing of a moustache, the substitution of a muffler for a collar, a cap for a bowler will alter his appearance. They keep a "make-up" room at headquarters, its most conspicuous feature being a photograph of a group of dirty-looking ruffians—detectives in disguise. But it is a disguise the more impenetrable because there is nothing that can go wrong with it. Yet not half a dozen times in a year is the make-up room used.

The kind of case in which a disguise is useful may be illustrated. Some thieves had broken into St. George's Cathedral, at Southwark, and then rifled the Bishop's Palace. The booty they secured was worth some three thousand pounds, and they left not the faintest trace behind. The officer charged with the investigation resolved on a long shot. He dressed himself—I quote a newspaper report—"in a long overcoat and slouched hat, sported a heavy chain, smoked a big cigar, and was well supplied with gold." In this attire he made himself conspicuous about Vauxhall. Among the "crooks" of that neighbourhood, it soon became known that a Jew receiver—one Cohen, of Brick Lane, Whitechapel—was about, and in a very short while the "receiver" knew all that he needed to arrest the thieves and recover the stolen property.

"Shadowing," too, is a matter of experience. Let anyone who doubts its difficulties try the experiment of keeping sight of a person in a frequented thoroughfare. When a suspect knows or guesses he is being followed—as he inevitably does, if it is continued for a day or two—it becomes ten times more difficult. Unless incessant watchfulness is maintained, a shadowed person will be lost sight of in five minutes. Shadowing is, when possible, always done by detectives in pairs, sometimes in threes. Detective No. 1 shadows the suspect, detective No. 2 shadows his colleague. Then if the suspect stops or turns suddenly No. 1 walks innocently on and No. 2 takes up the chase. It is a wearisome task when a person has to be watched incessantly, for it may not be possible to assign a spot with any certainty for reliefs to continue the trail.

When the young detective begins his career he will carry a virgin drab-coloured diary in his breast pocket, wherein he will be expected to record every moment spent on duty, every penny he spends. If any illusion remains in his mind that he will be turned loose on the streets to catch thieves or murderers, it is quickly destroyed. Hard labour is his portion. Small enquiries at pawnbrokers', searching directories to verify addresses, running errands for his superiors, and doing all the small odd jobs are his immediate concern.

Only now and again is he called upon to play a minor part in an arrest. But all the while he will be learning and improving his acquaintance with the thieves in his district. All his painfully acquired knowledge goes for little unless he can cultivate a certain friendship with the rogues in the vicinity of his sphere of duty.

The "informant" plays a big part in the workings of Scotland Yard. If the old phrase, "Honour among thieves," had any truth in it, London would be a poor place for honest men to live in. But gossip of the underworld is easily attainable to ears that wish to catch it.

One of the problems which beset the architect of New Scotland Yard was this same problem of the informant. An inconspicuous entrance had to be arranged by which access could be unobtrusively gained by a person too shy to be seen walking publicly up the main entrance of the headquarters of police.

A great detective once told the writer how, in his early days, he set to work to learn the world, and gained valuable acquaintance with the deliberation that a young student might apply to the pursuit of an exact science. He took a room in Jermyn Street, and began his studies in every moment he could spare off duty. "I haunted night clubs; I went to gambling houses; I was a frequenter of any resort where one was likely to meet rogues or tricksters. I stored my memory with faces, and made myself friendly with all sorts of people—waiters, barmen, and hall-porters. So it was that I got hints that I should never have got by any other method, and scores of times, years afterwards, I received information from the channels I had formed when I began. To show the value of some of these acquaintances I may tell you that when some idea of my identity leaked out at one of these clubs an American crook—he was drunk—declared openly that he would shoot me at sight. The waiter contrived to draw the cartridges from his revolver, and to give me a hint as I entered. And sure enough my man stood up, took aim, and pulled the trigger of the empty weapon. I hit him on the jaw, and let it rest at that. But if I hadn't treated that waiter right, I might have been a dead man now."

The personal factor is an important one in dealing with informants. There is not very often ill-feeling between criminals and detectives. A slight straining of red-tape will sometimes have wide-reaching results. A detective, conveying a prisoner from Liverpool to London, offered the latter a cigar. "You're a good sort," exclaimed the man impulsively. "Tell you what; I'm in for it, I know. But I can do you a bit of good. It was X. and Z. who did that Hatton Garden business." And so was provided a clue to an apparently insoluble mystery.

At the end of three months, the probationer, if he has qualified, finds himself a fully-fledged "detective-patrol." Thereafter he has to pass an examination whenever he is promoted, and may pass upwards through the grades of third, second, and first class detective-sergeants to second, first, and divisional inspector, and even eventually to chief detective-inspector.

The everyday duties of the C.I.D. are legion. There are "Informations" passing between headquarters and the different stations daily, almost hourly. Stolen property has to be traced, pawnbrokers visited, convicts on licence watched, reports made, inquiries conducted by request of provincial police forces. It means hard, painstaking work from morning to night.

As I have said, so far as is consistent with his duty, a man keeps on good terms with those criminals he knows. It is a point of policy. They know that the average detective does not wish them harm. If he has to arrest them they know he will be scrupulously fair when it comes to giving evidence. Often a detective will help a man out of his own pocket when he knows that a case is really a necessitous one. He has no animus against any person he arrests. His duty is merely to place in safe custody the person he believes to be responsible for a breach of the law. Conviction or acquittal matters nothing to him after that. He has done his duty.

A wide knowledge of human nature is necessary to his calling, and he never forgets that the power of a police officer has its limitations. A man who brings discredit or ridicule on the department has a short-lived official life.

There is another part of the Criminal Investigation Department which has duties entirely distinct from that of the main body of detectives. That is the Special Branch, under Superintendent Quinn, M.V.O.—a section which, with the war, has suddenly become of great importance, for it has now largely to do with the spy peril. Of its methods and organisation little can be said, for obvious reasons.

In ordinary times it concerns itself solely with the protection of high personages, from the King and Queen and Cabinet Ministers to distinguished foreign visitors. The Special Branch in the days of suffragette outrages was the chief foe of the vote-seekers. It deals, too, with all political offences which need investigation.

There is a special squad of officers who deal with the white slave traffic. These are assisted by a lady appointed by the Home Office. She makes enquiries from women and children where victims might be reluctant to confide in a man, and has other similar duties.

The department is practically self-contained, working side by side with the uniform branch under its own officers. The point of contact is at superintendents of divisions, who exercise a supervising control.



Many high authorities have argued that the best way to prevent crime is to keep all known criminals under lock and key, as we do lunatics. The theory may be right or wrong, but it is not yet possible to put it into practice.

So Scotland Yard does the next best thing, and exercises a quiet, unwearying, persistent surveillance on those hundreds of persons who are likely to resume their depredations on society when they are released from prison.

For over fifty years—since 1862—there has been accumulating a library of biography on which prison governors and police officials have worked, which must by now include every living criminal by profession who has enjoyed the hospitality of the State.

The files—immense, dirty brown covered albums—each containing 6,000 photographs—overflow through room after room and corridor after corridor. There are smaller volumes with duplicate photographs, 500 in each, which give particulars of marks or physical peculiarities. Hundreds of thousands of records are kept, mostly illustrated by the inevitable full and side face photographs, and each is kept up-to-date with scrupulous care.

The Convict Supervision Office, with its subsidiary Habitual Criminals Registry, has within the last year or two been amalgamated with the Finger-print Section under the general title of the Criminal Record Office. Although the two departments work in unison and are, to a certain point, interdependent, their work has to be conducted in sub-departments.

The Habitual Criminals Registry—I retain the old title for convenience—is a sort of British Museum of crime. It is a central bureau that is constantly being consulted from all parts of the kingdom, and not seldom from all parts of the world. It has to be ready at any moment to lay its hands on the record of any criminal that may be demanded, and in this it is immensely helped by the Finger-print Department, which can usually identify the person and supply the number by which he is known.

It sometimes happens, however, that no finger-prints are available. Then search has to be made under the old system. The records are grouped by the height of their subjects and the colour of their eyes and hair. Thus, if a prisoner on remand is five feet nine, with blue eyes and brown hair, the margin of search is limited to those indexed under those characteristics.

The records include photographs, descriptions, and particulars not only of licence-holders and supervisees, but of every person who has been convicted twice or more times of any crime, with a few exceptions, and of all persons sentenced to hard labour for a month or more.

They are a veritable "Who's Who" of the criminal world, and go even further than that useful work of reference in supplying intimate details of the appearance and idiosyncrasies of their subjects.

But the keeping of recidivist records is only one part of the business of the Criminal Record Office. This is the department which is responsible for keeping a watchful eye on those people the public love to call "ticket-of-leave men," but who are officially known as licence-holders or supervisees.

These are convicts who, through good conduct in prison, have been released before the expiration of the full term of their sentence, or persons ordered at the time of their conviction to undergo a period of police supervision after they leave prison. This class is composed very largely of an elusive gentry, and to keep track of their comings and goings is no simple matter when they have reason to vanish for a season.

There are usually about a thousand of these in London; the exact number in 1913 was 811. Strict regulations are laid down, which they must observe for the protection of the community; but, in practice, they are afforded every facility for earning an honest living.

Ever and anon the old myth recurs that "ticket-of-leave men" are hounded and harassed by the police so that ultimately they are thrown back to their old life in sheer despair.

Listen to what the "Police Code" says:

"It is of great importance to avoid giving licence-holders and supervisees any ground for alleging that they are being interfered with by the police, or in any way prevented from leading an honest life. When it is necessary to make enquiries at their addresses or places of business it is desirable, if possible, that they should be made by officers in plain clothes who are not known in the district, and great care should be taken that the nature of the inquiry should not be disclosed to anyone other than the licence-holder or supervisee himself."

That regulation is carried out with a rigid regard for both the spirit and the letter.

The relations of the detective force with the men they watch are quite friendly. It is a matter of policy that they should be so. Yet the situation has its humours at times.

There is a fund maintained at the office from which many ex-convicts have been provided with a fresh start in a straightforward career. No inconvenient enquiries are made, and the bare word of the applicant is often accepted—within limits, of course.

Does he want to sell flowers? A stock is provided. Is he a workman needing tools? He is supplied. Another cannot get a berth because his clothes are in pawn; a detective is sent to redeem them.

There is no bother or fuss. Scotland Yard knows the class too well. It knows that it is often cheated by liars; on the other hand, prompt help may really redeem a man. Every chance is given a man to run straight, however often he has fallen. And most of those who are helped do not forget.

There are, however—as there must be—many who take advantage of the system. One man had his clothes taken out of pawn. He thanked the office—and promptly went and hypothecated them at another place. There was another coolly impudent scoundrel, with a turn for carpentry, who made all sorts of odds and ends out of soap boxes. He always had some plausible story. He wanted tools or materials, or his rent was in arrears, or there was a doctor's bill to pay. Surprise visits to his rooms in the East End always bore out his story. But, ultimately it was discovered that he was doing the same thing with many charitable societies—the Church Army, the Salvation Army, and others. He made quite a good thing out of it while it lasted.

But usually Scotland Yard is not imposed on twice by the same person.

Police science has evolved the Criminal Record Office very gradually. The problem of the incorrigible offender is one that many years' study has not yet completely solved. When the licence system was first initiated the police were instructed by the Home Office not to interfere with the ticket-of-leave men, and, not strangely, these men found opportunities of crime made easy for them.

But prison reorganisation and police organisation went on hand in hand until, in 1880, the Convict Supervision Office was established. Then, as now, its chief work lay in classifying the records and photographs of habitual criminals, compiling the "Rogues' Gallery," which is still of inestimable value in the prevention of crime.

The finger-print system is, of course, of enormous aid in identification, and, as I have said, is a complete safeguard against the possibility of a wrongful conviction. The ordinary detective is most often engaged in tracing a criminal after a breach of the law has been committed. The Criminal Record Office has the more delicate duty of trying to prevent crime.

It is a distinct sociological force, incessantly watchful that none of those persons who are allowed out of prison on probation (which is really what the licence system amounts to) drift back into the evil ways or among evil associates. By this means it is endeavoured to cut at the very roots of crime in this country, for it is a proved fact that the larger proportion of serious offences which are brought before the courts are the work of the habitual criminals.

Thus, of 10,165 persons convicted of serious crime at assizes and quarter sessions throughout the kingdom during 1913 nearly 70 per cent. were recognised as having been convicted before—a significant fact which emphasises the necessity of the eternal vigilance of the C.R.O.

While I was gathering material on this subject I was prepared to find that the police acted with severity. I was agreeably disappointed. I found that they go as far as possible to the other extreme.

In effect, the law says that a licence-holder or supervisee shall produce a license when called upon, shall not habitually associate with persons of bad character, shall not lead an idle or dissolute life, shall report themselves monthly to the nearest police station (this regulation does not apply to women), and report any change of address.

But the law is carried out with a broad appreciation of the variations in human nature—even criminal human nature. There are dangerous men who must be watched closely; there are others it is unnecessary to keep under close surveillance.

A licence-holder, as distinct from a supervisee, is not necessarily likely to become a criminal again. A trusted clerk in a City office who has forged his employer's name, a solicitor absconding with trust funds, a man who has committed manslaughter are not to be classed in this respect with burglars, jewel thieves, or coiners.

It is true that either class may hold licences, but the former are not often sentenced to police supervision. They are not, in that sense, habitual criminals. So the circumstances of every case are taken into consideration.

Sometimes a man is allowed to report himself by letter instead of in person. Nor is a detective attached to a district, who might be known as a police officer, allowed to make inquiries when the mere fact of his calling might make things unpleasant for a licence-holder. A stranger from Scotland Yard is sent. This applies especially when a man is in a workhouse, a hospital, a Church Army labour home, and such places.

To a limited extent the work of the department has been lightened by the scheme which resulted in the establishment of the Central Association for the Aid of Discharged Convicts—an amalgamation of various prisoners' aid societies—which may recommend that a discharged prisoner should be excused reporting to the police in certain cases. The result has been that one man in every ten has been freed from the obligation to report.

There is a little row of figures in the last issue of "Judicial Statistics" which affords a striking illustration of the work of the department. It shows that during the year 1913 the number of persons under police supervision in the Metropolitan Police district was 1,197. This is what happened to them:

Supervision expired 229 Supervision remitted by Home Secretary 3 Removed to other districts 111 Sent to prison 133 Missing 49 Left England 30 Died 7

No less than 421 were known or believed to be living honestly, and those who were suspected of continuing their old career of roguery, but were not convicted, numbered only 95.

The management of the office is vested in Chief Detective-Inspector Thomas—a shrewd, able man, with a wide experience, in which he has gained a keen and extensive knowledge of criminals of all types—who deals with those who come under his jurisdiction with a firm and tactful hand. He has a staff of twenty-two assistants, which includes the only two women detectives—if they are strictly detectives—in the service. In point of fact these ladies are employed by the Home Office and attached to Scotland Yard, so that strictly they must not be considered "policewomen."

These ladies are necessary in carrying out the policy of the department, and their duties are wide. No man is allowed to visit a female licence-holder or supervisee, mainly for the reason that his identity might be suspected. So the women detectives take this in hand, and with feminine tact manage to know all about their protegees, to give a warning here, sympathetic advice there, in a way that would be difficult for any man to do.

Their work takes them at times into some of the worst quarters of London, and all their pluck and firmness are sometimes needed, for habitual women criminals are usually worse subjects to handle than the habitual male criminal.

For criminals, as for experts in other trades, all roads lead to London. Your expert criminal, whatever his branch of rascality, sooner or later tries his hand in the metropolis, and so there is a continual inward and outward flow of persons the office must keep in touch with.

This is done by the co-operation of the provincial police, and by the issue of the "Habitual Criminals Register," which gives detailed particulars of persons entered in the files of a department. This is sent to every police force in the kingdom.

There is another very useful publication which has brought about the downfall of many an ambitious rascal. It is called the "Illustrated Circular," and its subject is travelling criminals.

These form a clever, mobile fraternity who operate swindles and robberies in one part after another, dodging in and out of various police districts. They are as slippery as eels, and, without some means of codifying information as to their movements and delinquencies, many of them would defy justice with impunity.

The "Illustrated Circular" forms a link between the police jurisdictions in this respect. It gives descriptions and particulars of the latest known movements of itinerant criminals, and publishes photographs of them, to enable police officers to recognise them wherever they may go.

Every movement made by a travelling criminal is recorded in the "Circular." Men who have found themselves too closely watched by the Bristol police may, for example, hope to find Cardiff less vigilant. But the "Illustrated Circular" tells of their departure from Bristol, and Cardiff is on the alert. There is little hope of escape from that all-pervading vigilance.

The Police Gazette, too, is issued by this department twice a week, not only to all the police forces of the kingdom, but to the Colonies and the nearest European countries. This is the latest police move to checkmate the operations of the more widely travelling rogues.

No less important are the "Special Release Notices" or, as it is now called, the Weekly List of Habitual Criminals. Since 1896 prison officials have furnished to Scotland Yard, every week, a list of prisoners about to be released who are habitual criminals. This list, which gives a detailed description of each man, and his index number in the records, is sent to every police force in the country. It is so made easy to draw a conclusion should an outbreak of burglaries commence in a district wherein a burglar has lately been released.

In a corner of one room in Scotland Yard is piled a miscellaneous heap of thieves' equipment—jemmies, chisels, scientific safe-breaking implements, and other oddments. The office periodically destroys these, though their fashioning has probably cost skilled workmen much time and trouble. Only a new invention is spared, and that so that it may be placed in the Black Museum for instructive purposes.

In other rooms is kept the personal property of the prisoners still undergoing sentence. It was, I think, David Harum who remarked that there was as much human nature in some folks as there is in others—if not more. A glance round this mixed assortment proves the truth of the truism.

A bag of golf clubs, a fishing rod, cameras, books, clothes, rings, watches, jewellery—all give an index to the temperament of the individual owning them. Money, too, is often kept here by the wish of the convicts themselves. Personal belongings are restored at the expiration of a sentence, but valuable articles—and many find their way to the store-room—are not restored except on absolute proof of ownership. When a claim is doubtful the matter is referred to a magistrate, and on his order the disposal of the property rests.

The department plays no small part in tightening the meshes of the net that keeps evil-doers within bounds. It does its duty with kindliness, but without fear or favour; but the difficulties of the work are so enormous that they could hardly be exaggerated.



Once upon a time a wily burglar sat in his cell at Brixton awaiting trial. He knew that conviction for his latest escapade was inevitable.

That troubled him little. As he would probably have said, he could do the sentence he was likely to get for a first offence "on his head." But it was by no means a first offence. Stored away at Scotland Yard was a long list of little affairs in which he had been concerned which would not incline the judge to leniency.

John Smith—that is not his real name, but it will serve—knew that presently warders would ask him to press inky fingers on a white sheet of paper, so that the resulting prints should be sent to Scotland Yard. Inevitably then his previous ill-doings would be disclosed. They might make all the difference between a nominal sentence as a first offender and five years' penal servitude as an habitual criminal, to say nothing of police supervision afterwards.

John Smith thought hard, and at last got an idea. He broke a tag from his boot-lace and began to skin the tips of his fingers until, as he thought, every trace of a pattern by which he could be identified had been obliterated.

Notwithstanding his bleeding hands, he smiled cheerfully when he was reported for prison hospital treatment. The sequel affords a saddening reflection on misplaced ingenuity and endurance. He had only penetrated the outer skin, and it began to grow again.

They nursed his bandaged hands with infinite care, for a conclusion as to his record had become obvious. And then officers took his prints after all—and discovered that he was none other than Bill Brown, with a criminal history to which an Old Bailey judge listened with unaffected interest. Bill—or John—got his five years after all.

I have told this little story because it affords an excellent illustration of the work of the finger-print department at Scotland Yard—a department which serves not only the Metropolitan Police, but every police force in the kingdom.

There is a great deal of confusion in the public mind between Bertillonage and the finger-print system. Even responsible London newspapers fell into the error, when M. Bertillon died, of ascribing to him the invention of the system—with which he had nothing to do.

To many people has been ascribed the discovery that finger-prints are an infallible method of identification. The knowledge however was of little use till the inventive genius of one man worked out a simple method of classification for police purposes, so that prints could be compared almost instantly with those on record. That man was Sir Edward Henry, long before he came to Scotland Yard, when he was in the Indian police service.

The Henry system has almost entirely superseded the Bertillon system throughout the world, and there is little doubt that it will ultimately become universal. Thousands of criminals who would otherwise have escaped a full measure of punishment for their misdeeds curse its author. It is in this department that police science has been brought to its highest pitch of perfection—a perfection begot of organisation.

Every prisoner for a month or longer nowadays has his prints taken a little before he is discharged. These prints, if they are not already in the records of Scotland Yard, are added to them, and a number gives the key to the man's record in the Habitual Criminals Registry.

In this manner there has accumulated since 1901, when the system was first put in force, a collection of more than two hundred thousand prints. It is all a matter of system, of scientific and literal exactness, and there is no margin of error. A mistake in identification by finger-prints is literally impossible.

As everyone knows, the ridges at the tips of the fingers maintain their formation from birth to death, and even after. Nothing can change them. It is a possibility, though I believe it has never been known to happen, that there are two people in the world who have the markings on one finger-tip exactly alike. But even that incredible chance is guarded against, by taking the markings of the whole ten fingers. It will be realised how great a miracle it would be for two persons to have exactly the same lines, broken in exactly the same way, in exactly the same order on their two hands. That fact is the root principle of the finger-print work.

It is necessary to point out that the existence of the department is not so much for the purpose of detecting crime as of detecting criminals. In the administration of justice a judge takes the past career of a prisoner into consideration when passing sentence. The main work of the department is to furnish the clue to a past career by scrutinising the finger-prints of persons on remand to discover whether they are habitual criminals or not.

A thousand aliases will not help a man, no change of appearance, no protestations of mistake, if his prints correspond with those in the files. But it is all so simply done. There is nothing spectacular, nothing imposing about the process. Practically all that is needed is a piece of tin, some printer's ink, and a sheet of paper. Within a few minutes afterwards his record can be known.

Compare this with the old Bertillon system of anthropometric measurements. Bertillon's system depends on the fact that after a person reaches maturity certain portions of the body are always the same in measurement. The theory is sound, but the difficulties in the way of applying it are immense.

In his book Sir Edward Henry has pointed out the defects of the system. The instruments are costly, measurers have to be specially trained, and even so may make a mistake—an error of two twenty-fifths of an inch will prevent identification—the search among the records may take an hour or more, and, moreover, through carelessness or inattention, the whole data may be wrong. For six years—from 1895 to 1901—this system was in force at Scotland Yard. The maximum number of identifications in any one year was 500. In 1913, by the aid of finger-prints, 10,607 persons were identified.

Roughly, it is all a matter of classification into "arches," "loops," "whorls," and "composites." It is intricate to describe, but simple to carry out. To the uninitiated it inevitably suggests the old problem "think of a number, double it—."

What happens is this: Every print for primary classification purposes is considered as a loop or a whorl. The fingers are taken in pairs and put down something like this:

L. L. W. L. L. —————————— L. W. W. W. W.

Now a whorl occurring in the first pair would count sixteen, in the second, eight, and so on. The loops are ignored. Consequently, the number in the above formula is:

0. 0. 4. 0. 0. ———————— 0. 8. 4. 2. 1.

These are added together and become 4-15. The figure 1 is added above and below, and the searcher knows that he has to look for the record he wants in the sixteenth file of Number 5 horizontal row in a cabinet specially arranged.

Of course, sub-classification is carried much farther than this, but it is scarcely necessary to elaborate the point.

Day by day, the prison governors from all parts of the country are sending in records to be added to the files, and police authorities, also from all parts of the country, are asking for prisoners to be identified.

An interesting story concerns two men whom we will call Robinson and Jones, who were tried for different offences the same day. Robinson was rich; Jones was not. Robinson received a long sentence, Jones a light one.

Probably they arranged it all in the prison van, but anyhow, when they reached the gaol they had changed identities—and sentences. All went well until a short time before the soi-disant Jones was due to be released. Then his finger-prints were taken, compared with those of Jones in the files, and found not to correspond.

Half an hour later wires were being exchanged between Scotland Yard and the prison, and, to the mutual consternation of the two men, the little scheme was revealed. Finger-prints had outwitted them.

Save for a few filing cabinets stretching from floor to ceiling in a well-lighted room, there is little apparent difference between the Finger-print Department at Scotland Yard and the interior of an ordinary City office. Men pore over foolscap sheets of paper with magnifying glasses, comparing, classifying, and checking, day in, day out.

They are all detectives, but their work is specialist work, totally different to that of the bulk of the men of the C.I.D. It may be that sometimes they realise that a man's life or liberty depends on their scrutiny, but for the most part they do their work with cold deliberation and machine-like precision. Is one set of finger-marks identical with another? That is all they have to answer. It is the pride of the department that since it has been established it has never made a mistake.

At its head is Chief Detective Inspector Charles Collins, an enthusiast in identification work, who has seen the system change from the old days when detectives paid periodical visits to Holloway Prison to see if they could recognise prisoners on remand, and when profile and full-face photographs were used for the records, to that now in use which he has had no small share in bringing to its high state of efficiency.

He can read a finger-print as other men can read a letter, and has even, for the purposes of study, taken prints of the fingers of monkeys at the Zoo. Many times has he given evidence as an expert in cases where finger-prints have formed part of the evidence. His cold, scientific analysis has always convinced the most sceptical, and always a conviction has followed.

He wrote the chapter dealing with the photographing and enlarging of finger-prints in Sir Edward Henry's standard work on the subject, and is something of a magician in the way he can detect a mark when none is obvious to the naked eye.

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