After years of tinkering with the notion of police reform, Parliament in 1829 passed the Metropolis Police Improvement Act, which established the famous Metropolitan Police Force, England's first body of uniformed, fulltime “professional” police. Bodies of the “new police” were allowed to spread outside of London by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. These provincial forces answered to local authorities, a pattern disrupted in 1839 when Parliament passed three bills establishing centrally-controlled police forces for Birmingham, Bolton, and Manchester. These Acts were emergency measures, with a three-year duration, designed to hurriedly provide forces of new police in towns that seemed threatened by Chartist unrest. In the case of Birmingham a combination of aggressive Chartist activity—which produced two major riots in the summer of 1839—and fierce political in-fighting between the town's elite factions convinced Parliament that the new force, to be commanded by ex-army officer Francis Burgess, should answer to the Home Office in London rather than to Birmingham's radical/liberal (and therefore perhaps untrustworthy) Town Council.
All of the forces of new police that appeared from 1829 to 1839 faced common problems, ranging from recruitment and retention difficulties to disciplinary troubles, but perhaps the most serious challenge confronting these new forces was the hostility of many of the citizens the forces were intended to protect. Opponents of the new police forces voiced their concerns that the forces amounted to a second standing army, that the new police could be used for domestic spying, and that they were too expensive to justify any benefits they might possibly provide. While all of the new forces experienced this type of opposition, the environment in Birmingham was particularly hostile for the force created by Act of Parliament in 1839.