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Sir Charles Edward Howard Vincent

During his educations, when he made no progress at Westminster school, Vincent was sent to Germany and France, where he acquired an interest in foreign languages. As journalist and devoted traveller, he mastered German and French, supplemented by Italian, Russian and Ottoman Turkish, and gained knowledge on the politics in Eastern Europe. Questions of law and police took his interest as well: in 1877, he entered Paris’ faculté de droit, and after completing a close examination of the Paris police system, he extended his research into Brussels, Berlin and Vienna. Based on his report, the Criminal Investigation Department was established within the Metropolitan Police, and Vincent appointed its first head. Due to the reorganizations of the detective department, he did not leave London for a day during three years. His Police Code became a standard text book, and he edited the Police Gazette. In 1884, Vincent resigned and turned to politics, starting with a tour around the globe which shaped his liberal views. He was elected in parliament the following year, a position he would hold for over two decades. Among many other things, he strove for stricter immigration laws in response to the outbreak of anarchist violence on the continent. As most continental borders were closed for anarchists, he feared Britain would become the anarchist ‘dumping ground’ for Europe. Perhaps related to incoming anarchists and a professional interest in identifying such fugitives, Vincent visited Bertillon in Paris around the same period. Vincent was appointed British delegate during the International Conference in Rome for the Defense of Society against the Anarchists, held in November and December 1898. Thereby, he was preferred over current head of the CID, Robert Anderson: partly because Anderson was found too controversial, given his carelessness to adopt continental police practices, because of Vincent’s expertise and language skills, and since, as MP, he knew which measures could be taken and which could not. Nevertheless, he continued correspondence with Anderson during the proceedings in Rome. He was particularly active in the administrative committee, and was asked to chair secret, informal round-table meetings for the attending police officials – a function he only accepted ‘in deference to the strongly expressed general wish.’ He was decorated Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George out of appreciation for his efforts. Throughout the years, Vincent received decorations from at least Germany, Italy and France as well. Upon the turn of the century, he continued to urge for stricter British legislation regarding incoming anarchists.

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