War On Warren

As the Jack the Ripper scare got underway in early September, 1888, The Star newspaper sent reporters out to question various members of the Metropolitan Police about how they viewed their “chief”, Sir Charles Warren, the Police Commissioner.

The subsequent article appeared in the newspaper on the 1st of September, 1888:-


Further Inquiries Confirm the Rumours of General Dissatisfaction.

No matter with what member of the force The Star man met it was still the cry of dissatisfaction.

“You are having some pleasant news just now in Scotland-yard,” said a Star man this morning to a detective.

“Oh, yes, and the more we have the better for the force. There’s a lot of clearing out needed there.”

“Then the men are not satisfied with the present state of matters?”

“They are not; some may be so far as some things are concerned, but generally speaking no man cares for the present system.”

“What do you mean so far as some things are concerned?”

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.


“Well, I mean Sir Charles would put down a great deal of the meanness in the force that is a disgrace to it. He could put down drinking and loafing about, and let the smartest men get promotion. Before his time old chaps without any principle, and unable to read or write, got the stripes; but all the same he is not popular.”

“How is that?”

“There is too much of the military about him, and he is a tyrant. There are too many inspectors and that sort of thing, and as a rule Army Reserve men, or men who have served their time, get these positions, and they know nothing about police work.

There are too many old soldiers in the force and they’re the worst men. They come from the regiments, well recommended, and Sir Charles does not like to refuse them, and these soldiers are no use as policemen. They sleep at their posts, and Sir Charles acknowledges that. Men from the country make the best men. Old soldiers don’t do for going among the people.”


“The men would be glad to see Sir Charles going?”

“Yes, very glad, and it is the rumour in the Yard that he is going.

It is said that he is going to get an appointment in Africa. That would suit him, but he is destroying the force here with his military notions.”


“What about Mr. Monro’s resigning?

“He could not agree with Warren.

He was over the Criminal Investigation Department, and he did not want the Chief to interfere.

The Chief wanted to know everything, and Mr. Monro would not have it. Mr. Monro is a good policeman. He is well up in police duties, and the best man, and he is well liked. It is said that Mr. Monro will come back again as Chief.”

“You might,” added the old man, “if you’re writing anything, say the men would like to have a public audit of the accounts. They pay 3d. or 4d. a week to the pension and other funds, and they would like to know how the money is going.

They are a bit suspicious, and the public they think should know more about the working of the Yard.”

A portrait of James Monro.
James Monro. From The Illustrated London News, 8th December 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


A portly superintendent of police, well known, strange to say, for his good nature and intelligence, interrogated by a Star reporter, said, “Yes, it’s true enough what the Daily News says: Sir Charles seems to think a soldier and a policeman the same thing.

Why we could not carry out our duties but for our long training.

How can soldiers know anything about the control of criminal classes in London?

These military chief constables are really useless. There is no work for them to do.”


A young, smart police-constable, who declared he had left “the service” to don the blue, laid all the blame of the countless disturbing orders and circulars issued by Sir Charles Warren to the fact that he was an engineer.

“Sir Charles, you see, sir, is a gunner, and everyone in the army knows engineer officers are famous for firing off orders on every possible occasion.”


An inspector gave the explanation of the present restless feeling of the police as the result of Sir Charles mixing up the plain clothes with the uniform branch, and exercising a system of espionage over the head men, which tended to lower their authority with the rank and file.