The History of the Metropolitan Police Department Motorcycle Unit
1930 ~ 2005: 75 Years of Traffic Patrols
Where it all began
2005 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Metropolitan Police Service Traffic Patrols. “Motor Traffic Patrols” – as they were known then – hit the streets of London for the first time on the 29th December 1930.
Motor Traffic Patrols were set up following the passing of the 1930 Road Traffic Act. This new act established the Highway Code and pedestrian crossings and set to abolish the then 20mph speed limit. In anticipation of the increased speed of traffic through the capital, it was decided to introduce a small number of Motor Patrols to oversee that the new laws were not broken.
The forerunners of today’s Traffic Unit operated from local police stations using Bean Tourer motorcars with crews of Police Officers and civilian drivers. They were under instruction to watch out for motorists driving without regard for others, prevent collisions, assist in the free circulation of traffic, enforce traffic law and ultimately, all of the above was to be achieved by way of education and advice rather than by punishment. This approach earned the early Traffic Police the nickname “Courtesy Cops”.
Most recognisable today by their white hats, the current department – now the Traffic Operational Command Unit (OCU) – set up a series of travelling exhibitions in 2005 detailing and celebrating the history of the unit throughout the years.
From meagre beginnings of three-wheeled cars and less than 200 officers, to today’s high performance vehicles and highly skilled workforce of over 680 officers, supported by over 130 police staff; much has changed in our capital city, but the ethos of the Metropolitan Police Service Traffic Unit remains the same.
Information and Photos provided by the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Department.