top of page

The Importance of Police History

Police History is one of the most significantly underutilised engagement assets available to police forces. It provides countless opportunities to connect with communities in new and innovative ways; gives serving officers a sense of belonging and the context of the organisation they work in, and ensures we never forget the sacrifices of those who have gone before. It is also important in reflecting wider societal and cultural trends and hence is an important part of the heritage of local communities. Police officers are of and from the community and their history is everyone’s history.


Understanding police history helps us build trust and confidence with our communities. Our legitimacy depends on being open and honest about where we have come from; the things that have gone well and those that haven’t. It’s crucial to clearly articulate the journey that policing has undertaken, and describe the positive changes that have been made, to help strengthen engagement and support positive outcomes for the communities they serve.


Below are a number of positive examples of where police history is currently being utilised and evidenced by forces:


  • As part of their learning, student officers have a planned visit to a police museum to learn about the history of the organisation they are joining, to gain a context of policing the local area.

  • Displays at pre-arranged events such as open days, engagement events, awards ceremonies, recruitment fairs and new officer swearing-in ceremonies, provide opportunities for the public to speak to staff and volunteers about the force’s history, resulting in individuals pursuing a career in policing.

  • Young offenders or young people at risk of exclusion from school, visited the West Midlands Police force’s museum and were able to gain a different perspective on policing, challenging their perceptions by seeing the police as ‘real people’, and learn more about the impact of their life choices.

  • Displays such as cabinets and display boards find that officers noticeably spend time to read them and make comments about how important it is to share their stories; with officers reporting on the positive impact on their wellbeing, a sense of belonging and a feeling of being part of something bigger.

  • Posts on social media or websites achieve noticeably more engagement than generic force social media posts. Specifically, in relation to historic events, but also in relation to activities taking place at the force’s museum. History pages also receive twice as many visits as the generic force website pages.

  • The preservation of case notes and materials from original investigations, have allowed forces to successfully bring about ‘cold-case’ prosecutions.

bottom of page