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The Man on the Beat

About the film

The training and principles of police officers, their duties whilst on the beat, and their role within the community.


Release year
Roger MacDougall
Production company
Merlin Films
Roger MacDougall
H.N. Edwell
Ralph Kemplen, Patricia Murray
Sound recording
Harry Reynolds
Running time (minutes)
10 mins 56 secs

Original Description

The Training and Duties of a British Policeman
‘The courtesy and kindness of the British policeman are well known. Policemen are carefully selected and trained. They are unarmed and the citizens look with confidence to them for help in everyday matters as well as emergencies. The work of an ordinary constable is varied, and includes finding lost children, and traffic directions. Dealing with crime is only an occasional part of his duties.’
(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1946)


  • The Man on the Beat is set in the old district of Birmingham known as Ladywood. Since the film was made, this area has been completely redeveloped.
  • The script was written by famous Scottish playwright Roger MacDougall, who as a screenwriter was nominated for an Academy Award in 1952 for the Ealing Comedy The Man in the White Suit (1951).


Click below or click the link on the right to read a transcript of this film


English Voiceover

That’s our first thought in an emergency: “Fetch a policeman – he’ll know how to handle it!” Now why are we so certain of this? We have to put back the clock a long time to find out.


English Voiceover

Here’s the first reason: years ago, when he decided to try and join the police, he had to produce guarantees of good character. And he had to have a certain physique, height, and girth, and a high standard of physical fitness. And there were other qualifications.



Now you’ve had a medical examination and an educational paper. Now you’re going to have an intelligence test. In this test, the man with the superior education has no advantage over the others. Is that clear?


Men (together)

Yes, sir.


English Voiceover

If he passed all these preliminary tests, he was accepted as a recruit. But even before he started training he took an oath.



And that while I continue to hold the said office, I will discharge the duties thereof to the best of my skill and knowledge.


Men (together)

And that while I continue to hold the said office I will discharge the duties thereof to the best of my skill and knowledge.


English Voiceover

Faithfully, according to law, without fear, favour, affection, malice, or ill will - that is the oath of service to the public the policeman we call on has sworn, and we know that he’s a proper man to bear this responsibility. An intelligent man to make decisions, and a fit man to carry them out.


English Voiceover

And there’s another reason we call on him in confidence: he knows what to do. He knew that it was wrong for unskilled helpers to help to move the driver before he had satisfied himself that there was no internal injury. He knew how to dress wounds, how to secure an upper arm fracture. In fact, he knew how to handle the situation. What co-operation to seek from the public, and what aid to call in from his own headquarters.


Policeman 1

Police information room.


Policeman 2

Accident at Rann Street and Ledsham Street.


Policeman 1

Yes? ...Yes? ... Yes. Alright... Ambulance, junction of Rann Street and Ledsham Street.


Policeman 3

Calling M5. Control room calling M5. Blue Rover Saloon, E-O-8 7-4-5 failed to stop after accident at Ladywood. Now proceeding towards Coventry. Intercept. Further details to follow.


Voice on radio

Message received and understood. M5 closing down.


English Voiceover

In any town or village in Britain the ordinary constable can set the police machine in motion. It’s an efficient machine but its efficiency depends on the individuals who make it. Finally on the constable on his beat. Let’s turn back the clock again to see how he became efficient.


English Voiceover

He’s on parade for the first time. Shiny new truncheon, a whistle he’s never blown, and an empty notebook.



Tenure of appointments. One Beat: 2-0-8. Two is 74. 3 50. 4 38. 5 1-3-6. 6 83. 7 1-7-2. 8 68...


English Voiceover

He’s had three months training to prepare him for this moment. His instructors had given him the necessary background and now it’s up to him to see if he can make a success of the actual job. This is his beat, he’s on his own now, self conscious in his new uniform, huh, a little unsure of himself. He’s thinking, perhaps, of some spectacular coup, but he’ll find it’s largely a matter of routine. Of helping people, rather than tracking them down. He doesn’t know all of the answers yet. He doesn’t even know where the nearest telephone box is, but he’ll learn.


English Voiceover

He’ll get to know his own town so that he can cope with any problem. The traveller who’s looking for a bed for the night, to the spots where people’s vegetables have a habit of disappearing.


English Voiceover

As his notebook begins to fill up, he grows more proficient everyday. Able to deal with the intricacies of the traffic acts, able to spot an overladen coal cart. He learns the knack of handling people in the best school of all: the beat.


English Voiceover

At the end of two years his notebook holds the secret of how he’s mastered the job. Experience, based on training. Before he was allowed on the beat for the first time he spent three months at a police school learning the theory of police work in all its aspects. It was the notes he took then that helped him to learn quickly how to  deal with the many problems, big or little, which he encountered during his probationary period in uniform.


English Voiceover

For instance, how to recognise a lost child, even when it seemed as if it hadn’t a care in the world. A point to remember: some kids have more self-confidence than some men and women. Or to know when boys scrapping can safely be ignored or when they need breaking up promptly to save juvenile black eyes. Another point: better to appeal to fair play than to talk technicalities about breaches of the peace. And another – seemed to remember scrapping myself once.


English Voiceover

Understanding how a motorcar engine works helps the constable to deal with motorists on the beat, to give him the advantage of knowing as much as they do. And traffic control. He learnt the various ways of controlling the traffic automatically as well as the proper way of handling traffic and pedestrians on point duty. If you keep pedestrians waiting too long they’re likely to take their lives in their own hands and make a dash for it. And some of them like an escort.


English Voiceover

He learned how to deal with rough customers who don’t stick to the Queensbury rules! People rely on a policeman when it comes to a scrap, however hefty the opponent he has to tackle, so Ju-Jitsu comes in useful if the other chap’s got the advantage in pounds. Or pints. A good judo grip can save a lot of argument around closing time.


English Voiceover

Lantern slides were used in many parts of his training. These slides taught the him points to look for when identifying and describing anybody. A policeman has got to be observant, he’s on the lookout all the time for something out of the ordinary or for something he’s been told about in the special instructions.



Stolen from high street on the tenth: a gent’s BSA sports pedal cycle. Racing handlebars upturned. Red and white bands on down tubes.


English Voiceover

The detection of crime is one of the four main functions of the policeman on the beat, but catching the thief is only half the job. So our recruit was trained how to present a case by taking part in model trials in a reproduction of an actual courtroom. The police don’t make the laws in Britain, and they don’t judge those who have broken them. They may bring a case to courts and lose it! But it remains their responsibility to collect evident against suspects and see that all proved breaches of the law are punished.


English Voiceover

The detection and prevention of crime is only one part of their function. More important even than the safe-guarding of property is the safe-guarding of life. Our constable had to gain a life saver’s certificate, and he had to pass an examination in first aid – another two of the many subjects through which he had to prove himself proficient before he was allowed out on the beat.


English Voiceover

So now you understand why we call upon a policeman in an emergency. He’s an expert, with brains as well as brawn. Trained by experts, confident in his own experience, bound to help you by his oath.


English Voiceover

The police in Britain are unarmed, they have no arbitrary powers. Primarily, they are are body of civilians specially organised to preserve the peace and protect life and property. They are not, and never have been, an instrument of oppression.


English Voiceover

Because of this there is a relationship in Britain of mutual trust and helpfulness between police and public. The lorry driver is bound to help the policeman and the policeman exists to help the people. He grew up out of the common law of duty which makes every citizen of Britain responsible for the maintenance of law and order.


English Voiceover

As he takes statements from potential witnesses, and measures the scene of the accident, our constable is only doing what we ourselves would have to do if there were no policemen to do it for us. But he’s doing it more efficiently because he’s a specialist. A specialist in many different skills: he’s given first aid to casualty, he sent for an ambulance, he’s taken steps to have the runaway driver caught, he sent his patient to hospital, he’s taken statements from the bystanders, made a detailed plan of the scene of the accident, and now he clears the road for traffic.


English Voiceover

He’s master of the situation – of any situation – because he’s mastered his job. And it’s an exacting job. A job which calls for knowledge, courage, a good memory, quick decisions, and a great deal of kindly tolerance. He enforces rules made by the community in its own interest, but he remains a member of the community he serves.