Avon and Somerset Constabulary was formed in April 1974, but our roots stretch way back into the past.
Our force today is the amalgamation of the former Bristol Constabulary, Somerset and Bath Constabulary and the Staple Hill division of Gloucestershire Constabulary.
One of the largest forces in England and Wales, we police a population of almost 1.5 million people and 1,855 square miles that take in virtually
every kind of landscape - city centres, wild moors, dense forests, busy holiday resorts and vast commercial and industrial complexes.
Over the centuries there have been a variety of ways of policing the area - unpaid watchmen, parish constables, deputies and wardens; all responsible
for keeping the peace.
It was a Somerset man, novelist Henry Fielding, who organised the first police force. After becoming chairman of Westminster Quarter Sessions
in 1748, with offices on Bow Street, he recruited six householders to serve as constables. The officers in this small force, who became known as the Bow Street Runners, were
successful in breaking up some notorious gangs.
By the 1820s the force was unable to control crime and the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, established the Metropolitan Police, recruiting 3,000
young men of strength, intelligence and character.
The idea of professional police forces was introduced in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. Cities and towns in the West Country were swift to act on
this new legislation, and both Bath and Bristol formed their own police forces in the following year.
The original Bristol Constabulary was headed by a superintendent who had 232 men under his command, each of them issued with a top hat, blue coat
and white trousers.
Over the years the constabulary pioneered many practices that were eventually adopted around the country. It was the first force to photograph prisoners
and recruit female police cadets. The Bath force was formed six months earlier than its city neighbour, whilst Bridgwater and Chard both started in 1839. Both had become part
of the Somerset Constabulary by 1940. In 1974, the present Avon and Somerset Constabulary was formed.
Our technology today
The technology behind today's force is a world away from the days of the early constabulary. Officers are carefully selected and highly trained
so they're ready for anything - from patrolling the beat to cracking complex financial frauds. Officers are equipped with personal radios, expandable
lightweight metal batons, CS spray and newly-designed handcuffs. With access to the Police National Computer, the force also has the benefit of electronic filing, photographic retrieval
systems, medical and scientific officers and fingerprint and photographic experts. We can also call on the Western Counties Air Operations Unit's helicopter, equipped with thermal
imaging equipment and a gyro-stabilised video camera.
How we get around
In the last century most journeys made by police officers were on foot. Now we have a fleet of more than 660 vehicles, including road policing
cars and motorcycles, which patrol the 3,800 miles of road in the area.
Females in the force
Bristol was one of the first cities in the country to appoint policewomen. Despite the difficulties of being accepted by male officers and the public,
there were 13 policewomen on patrol in Bristol by the end of the war in 1918. After the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 women officers were allocated
to round-the-clock operational shifts.