The Institution of a Criminal Investigation Department
FOR THE FIRST THIRTEEN YEARS of its existence Scotland Yard was condemned to work without the help of a detective force. Up to the year 1839 a few of the old Bow Street runners still survived and were ready to work for anyone, either in London or the provinces, who was ready to pay their expenses, but in that year the last of the survivors retired, and the uniformed force of what was still called the New Police were expected to deal efficiently with all classes of crime. From time to time the commissioners had authorized the employment of a few men in plain clothes, but the results in these cases were so unhappy that the institution of a plain-clothes force was retarded.
The National Political Union had been giving increasing anxiety to the government, and the commissioners were asked to send someone to its meetings and to report whether it was really conspiring against the government. Obviously this could be done only by directing a policeman in plain clothes to become a member of the body. Unfortunately, the officer chosen--a policeman named Popay who was burning with zeal and longing to win promotion--fell easily to the temptation to become what the French call an "agent double," or rather an "agent provocateur"; that is to say, he became a recognized leader of the union, and, probably with the intention of providing himself with material against other leaders, he himself made inflammatory speeches. He had entered the union under an assumed name, representing