No Confidence In Sir Charles Warren

In October, 1888, with the police no nearer to catching the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders – who was now becoming better known as “Jack the Ripper” – criticism of the Metropolitan Police began to increase dramatically.

Much of the hostility from both the public and the press was being directed to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, and attacks on him were appearing on a daily basis.

One newspaper that had been vociferously criticising Warren since the Bloody Sunday events of the previous November was The Pall Mall Gazette, and, throughout the first few weeks of October, the Gazette had been publishing articles questioning all aspects of Warren’s tenure.

One such article appeared on October 10th, 1888.

This article differed from some of the others that had appeared in the Gazette in that it also included a response from Warren refuting the claims that the newspaper had been making. However, having allowed Warren the right to reply, the article then went on refute Warren’s protestations!

The article in full read as follows:-


“The prevalent feeling of dissatisfaction with the present management of the Metropolitan Police is at last finding vent.

Last night two meetings were held in the East-end to consider the condition to which law and order have been reduced by the present military regime, and others will follow.

The first was held at the Patriotic Club, Clerkenwell-green, and the second in the Buxton-street Schoolrooms, Brick-lane, Spitalfields.

The popular feeling against Sir Charles Warren is by no means confined to London, as Mr. Asquith, M.P., discovered last night at Sheffield.

Mr. Asquith said the last time that he was there he had the privilege of advocating the claims of Sir Charles Warren to the electors of the Hallam division.

Sir Charles Warren’s name was received with hisses and cries of disapprobation.

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. From The Illustrated London News, 1st May 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Now, warned by this unexpected demonstration, Mr. Asquith began again: “As for Sir Charles Warren,” when he was again interrupted by cries of “Don’t mention him” and jeering laughter.

Mr. Asquith said: “I don’t want to,” but he “could not help thinking there were moments when the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police would look back with vain but unavailing regret to the time when, as one of the Radical candidates for Sheffield, he was the stalwart and outspoken champion of popular rights.”


The following is a brief summary of the proceedings at the Spitalfields meeting:- The Reverend J. Farnsworth presided. He had no fault to find with the rank and file of the force, many of whom were brave men, but he did find fault with the management of the force. (Loud cheers.)

Mr. James Branch moved the first resolution, as follows:-

“That this meeting deplores the recent outrages which have occurred in the East-end of London, and declares that it has no confidence in the present management of the police; and records its conviction that the police will never be confidently supported by the public until they are under the direct control and management of the rate-payers. (Applause.)

He commented at length on the management of the police (Mr. John Hail seconded the resolution).


Mr. E. H. Pickersgill, M.P., supported the motion.

In speaking of the police he wished to say at the outset that they must not be unjust to them, because of the difficulties surrounding these cases from the peculiar circumstances of the murders.


But these outrages did not stand alone.

The streets of London had for some time past been becoming less secure than they were. Any one who had watched the records in the pubic press must have noticed that street outrages, and outrages wherein the perpetrators had not been traced, had been increasing in a very alarming manner in the last year or two.

Until two murders had been committed in Whitechapel very little was done to increase the number of police in the locality, but now it was swarming with them. They could not have a police that was an effective military body that would be at the same time an effective force for detecting crime.


Sir Charles Warren had deserved well of his country in his military career, but he ought never to have been put in the position he now occupied. Sir Charles Warren had complained that he had not enough men, but he found from the last annual report that the number of men had been reduced during the year, but the officers had been largely increased.

What was wanted was not more officers, but more men.

The motion was carried, and it was decided to send copies of it to the Home Secretary and Sir Charles Warren.


Sir Charles Warren has sent to the morning papers to publish the following statement in reply to one passage in the report of The Pall Mall Gazette commission on the Police and the Criminals of London:-

“Several incorrect statements have recently been published relative to the enrolment of candidates for detective – that is to say, criminal investigation – work in the metropolitan police which may tend to deter candidates from applying.


The following is the actual state of the case:-

For some years past the standard height in the metropolitan police has been 5 ft. 8 inches, and in the beginning of 1887 it was raised to 5 ft. 9 in., but the Commissioner has power from the Secretary of State to accept candidates as short as 5 ft. 7 in., and if the Criminal Investigation branch should require any particular man under 5 ft. 7 inches the Commissioner has at all times been prepared to obtain the Secretary of State’s sanction to his enrolment.


The limit of age is thirty-five, but as a rule candidates are not taken over the age of twenty-seven, in order that the police service may not lose the better part of a man’s life, and also to enable him to put in sufficient service to entitle him to his full pension.


There is no rule, and never has been any rule made by the Commissioner, that candidates on joining must serve for two or three years as constables in divisions before being appointed to the Criminal Investigation branch.

The Commissioner has always been prepared to consider favourably any proposal from the Criminal Investigation branch for a candidate to join the Commissioner’s office immediately on enrolment, or at any time after his enrolment, for duty in the Criminal Investigation branch.

But should a case occur that a candidate who wished to join the Criminal Investigation branch at once, and was reported favourably upon, was not physically or otherwise fit for ordinary police duties, it would be necessary, in the interests of the public, that on his enrolment a stipulation should be made that if he should subsequently be found unfit for criminal investigation work he would have to leave the police service without any compensation, should his services not entitle him to a pension or gratuity.

As a general rule it has been ascertained by the Criminal Investigation branch that the candidates who have applied to be appointed direct to detective duties have not possessed any special qualifications which would justify their being so appointed.”


To this it is only necessary to say that this reply confirms, instead of contradicting, our report, so far as its substantial truth is concerned.

We said that it was the “rule”; we ought to have said that it was the practice.

That is the only difference; and a practice that is almost invariably observed is so very much like a rule that is enforced with occasional exceptions, that the distinction is practically without a difference.

A return of the number of men in the Criminal Investigation Department who have not served for two or three years as constables in divisions, and a return of the candidates passed by Sir Charles Warren under the regulation height oi 5 ft. 8 inches – now raised to 5 ft. 9 inches – should show how little ground there is for charging us with inaccuracy.

What Sir Charles means by the last paragraph but one we leave those versed in the interpretation of his police orders to unravel.”


The Pall Mall Gazette then featured a round up of the articles that were being reported in other newspapers:-

“Punch devotes its cartoon to the subject, representing two typical burglars congratulating themselves upon our admirable police, and expressing pious gratitude that there are so few of them.

This is not the case. There are more policemen per 10,000 of the population in London than in any other city in the United Kingdom.

An illustration showing two burglars behind a policeman.
From Punch Magazine, October 13th 1888.


The London correspondent of the Liverpool Mercury says that the Home Secretary will bring in a bill next month for an increase of the police force.

Another London correspondent says that Mr. Matthews is going to be raised to the peerage on his approaching marriage; while a third says that a deadset is to be made against Mr. Matthews when Parliament reopens by members on his own side, Lord Randolph Churchill leading.


The Western Daily Mercury says Sir Charles Warren’s last report is not in good taste, and will certainly not increase the estimate of the public in the tact of the Chief Commissioner.

He is an admirable character in many respects – as a Christian and a soldier he is above criticism, but he is unfortunately a square peg in a round hole.

It is one of his leading ideas to introduce a condition of military discipline among the police force.

In every line of his report the undue importance attached by Sir Charles to the inculcation of military habits among the men under his command is apparent.

Even the public should learn, he seems to think, to obey without questioning, and should be kept in order like a herd of thoughtless schoolboys.

Public opinion of the discretion of the Chief Commissioner will certainly not be enhanced by his report.”