It wasn't until the mid-1700s that London's Bow Street Runners formed the first paid police force.
These were incorporated into the new Metropolitan Police Force introduced by Sir Robert Peel in the early 19th Century.
Special Constables Act
In 1831, the Special Constables Act gave justices of the peace the power to conscript men as special constables to combat riots and social unrest.
However, by the early 1860s, regular paid police had formed throughout England and Wales, lessening the need for the volunteer constabulary. Yet in the early 20th century, they were needed again and the Special Constables Act of 1914 recreated the volunteer force for the duration of World War One.
The law proved so successful that it led to another Act in 1923, continuing the Special Constabulary.
Today's special constables can trace their lineage directly to that Act. The Police Act of 1964 established the Special Constabulary in its present form and gave Chief Constables the power to appoint and manage specials.