Were the police to blame for not capturing Jack the Ripper?



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Were the police to blame for not capturing Jack the Ripper?


At the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, the police forces of London were inefficient and traditional. This lead to the Police force's mishandling of the Jack the Ripper case and in this respect; they were responsible for not capturing Jack. However it is also possible to say, that due to a lack of technology and funding as well the harsh conditions in Whitechapel at the time, the Police were facing a case that they could not crack.

In some ways the police force were not to blame for not capturing Jack the Ripper because of the harsh conditions that they had to work in. A newspaper article describes the streets of Whitechapel as "containing some headquarters of infamy" and "The sights and sounds are an apocalypse of evil" This gives a very negative image of the streets of Whitechapel and leads us to feel sympathetic towards the Police because they had to work in these conditions. The conditions would also affect a policeman's efficiency and make him less alert. The conditions can also explain why Jack could get away so easily. Because the Ripper wore a "dark coat", he may have been able to camouflage into the dark surroundings, described -"The main thoroughfares of Whitechapel are connected by a network of narrow, dark and crooked lanes”-. This is also shown in a map where the roads are very close together. This may have made it nearly impossible for the police to catch Jack the Ripper. The narrow winding streets and alleyways also made hard for the police to trace Jack and made Jack's escape much more efficient that it would be on a busy, congested main road. This difficulty was made even worse by the fact there was no tram system in Whitechapel so it would have been hard for the police to get around quickly and to swiftly visit places where Jack the Ripper may have been.

The technology available at the time was also a big factor in understanding why it was nearly impossible for the Police to catch Jack the Ripper. At the time, there was separation and competition between various police forces across London, so information was not shared. This was also provoked by the lack of computers. This meant that vital evidence was not shared so an individual police force could not catch Jack by themselves. Lack of technology also extended to detective work, which was still primitive at the time. Without any forensic evidence, there were no clues as to who the Ripper was and he was therefore impossible to catch. We can see that there is a lack of technology from this quote, where the journalist for the Times says that the only way that the police can only catch Jack was "red handed", and not actually to solve the case in a contemporary manner, "some accidental circumstance will lead to a trace…" This statement led to operations where police officers attempted to dress as prostitutes to catch Jack "red handed". These failed to to work. This lack of resources and technology was mainly caused by the low wages of police officers and the lack of funding from the government.

The very fact that Jack was the very first savage serial killer also posed a problem for the police as they had never come across a person with that sort of mind-frame before and had no experience in dealing with the type of investigation that they came across. Therefore they found it hard to find out who was able to commit such a crime.

Journalists also ruined the Police investigation and muddled an already hard case. Evidence leaked out about the Jack the Ripper murders and was published in the newspapers. This is shown by the fact that some newspapers have information on the murders, which was released to the public, This spoilt the police investigation as any member of the public could commit a copycat murder and confuse the police by leading them to a fake Jack the Ripper. This leads us to the question whether all five murders were committed by the same person, or was each murder a copy of the previous. This publicising of material confused the police investigation and made it very hard to solve because a lot of the evidence obtained became contradictory.

On the other hand, it is possible to disagree with the statement and say that it was the Police force's fault for not capturing Jack the Ripper. One of the main arguments behind this view is that the Police forces around London did not combine for a national investigation where evidence and ideas could be shared and the probability of catching Jack would increase. This lack of sharing was mainly due to the petty competition between Police forces. An example of this is when Sir Charles Warren told the city policeman guarding the writing on the wall ("The Jews are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.") that he should rub it out. If the police forces around London were united they would have had a higher chance of catching Jack the Ripper.

The Police can also be blamed for failing to catch Jack the Ripper as they insisted on using narrow lines of questioning. For example, they only looked at certain groups of people (butchers, doctors and slaughterers) and only people in the local area of Whitechapel were questioned, "the murders are supposed to be committed by someone residing in the immediate neighbourhood." This localising of questioning went against popular opinion that the Ripper looked foreign and might have come from a different area of London, or might have even been a foreign doctor (this idea was even suggested by Queen Victoria). This narrow line of enquiring may be the reason that the Ripper was not caught.

On many occasions the police failed to take into account vital witnesses. One of the most evident of which is from the coroner’s report of the death of Polly Nichols where he says, "No mere slaughterer of animals could could have carried out these operations." Even though the coroner made this report, the police still continued to waste time in the questioning of slaughterers and less skilled people. Another example of this happening would be where Dr Fredrick implied that the murder of Elizabeth Stride had been committed for money, "There was no money on the body" and yet the police still thought that the Ripper must have committed the murder. Turning a blind eye to witnesses may be the main reason why they never captured Jack the Ripper.



Although the media played a partial role in provoking copycat murders, so did the police. This is evident by the fact that the newspaper could gain access to such information as how brutal the murders were, "…a demented being…extraordinary violence…" This means that the police must have released some of the information, which could provoke copycat murders and confuse clues. The police published information such as the letter from the Ripper containing the words, "Next time I shall cut of her left ear." By publishing these vital clues the police were effectively shooting themselves in the foot.

In conclusion I believe that it was not the fault of the police for not capturing Jack the Ripper. This is because of the harsh conditions the police had to work in, the lack of technology and funding, the fact that Jack was the first serial killer and journalists also ruined the investigation. But there is a fair amount of other evidence to suggest that the police were to blame for not capturing Jack. This includes the fact there was unnecessary rivalry between police forces around London, the narrow line of investigation that the police used, the misuse using eyewitnesses and the fact that the police published evidence that could provoke copycat killings.


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