Police in Edinburgh during the Second World War: organisational aspects and operational demands
Goodwin, Edward George
This study examines the City of Edinburgh Police and establishes that organisational and operational aspects during the Second Word War were characterised by both continuity and change. These aspects were influenced by both the centralised direction of the war effort on the home front and by a specific combination of strategic police decisions and broader political, social, economic, and religious factors. These included the failure to implement a system for warning juvenile offenders; the desire to control vagrancy; the desire to control public disorder attendant to anti-Catholic sentiment; the extension of the spatial extent of the city; and financial constraints imposed by the town council. In this latter regard, the concept of ‘reactive underestimation’ is created and explored. That is the policy of imposing harsh conditions on the workforce until its stability was threatened. Utilising extensive and previously unseen primary sources, including reports by Special Branch, minutes of the Scottish Police Federation, and police officers’ Service Records together with Rhodes’ theory of ‘power-dependence’ the study examines the interplay between aspects of the police organisation as well as local policing within a macro-structural context. In doing so the study contributes to the ‘relational’ historiography of the ‘new’ police, the social history of police officers, and revisionist accounts of the home front. The study establishes that, despite the introduction of the Defence Regulations giving the central state more control over local policing, the police authority was not marginalised in the governance of the police. Furthermore, as a consequence of the legacy of its creation, the Police Federation remained an ineffective mechanism of representation for rank-and-file officers. Given the context of the war there was even less of an imperative for central government to create an effective means of collective bargaining. The study also demonstrates that, whilst operational policing and consequently the profile of personnel had evolved since the late nineteenth century, both aspects changed dramatically in response to the war. The additional demands associated with policing the home front and the consequent recruitment of auxiliaries together with the release of younger regular officers to the armed services and industry and the retention of those who would otherwise have been superannuated, however, created a problem of capacity. As a consequence, the use of discretion at a strategic and tactical level was a significant feature, whilst aspects of core policing and the regulation of traffic were less effectively discharged.