The idea of a police system to protect a city originated in London. In 1737 a law was passed creating a police system with 68 men. But as the city grew and poverty increased, looting and rioting were soon out of control in London.
In 1829 Sir Robert Peel formed the London Metropolitan Police, with headquarters in Scotland Yard. The new recruits wore top hats and tailcoats. But this new force that Peel had created was much larger, better trained, and more highly disciplined than any other police force had ever been.
The rioting in London was soon controlled, but before long it spread to other areas. As a result, in 1835 all towns and cities in England were empowered to form their own police departments. From Sir Robert Peel's name came the familiar nickname "bobby" for the English policeman.
In the 1830's a group of people from New York City made a study of the British police system. As a result, in 1844 New York became the first city in the United States to establish a day-and-night police force similar to Peel's. Before long other cities followed New York's example.
Why are American policemen known as "cops" or "coppers"? Some people believe that the name comes for the eight-pointed copper star once worn by New York policemen. Others believe that the name was taken from the initial letters of the words "constable on patrol."