The Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) is awarded to police in the United Kingdom for gallantry or distinguished service. It was also formerly awarded within the wider British Empire, including Commonwealth countries, most of which now have their own honours systems. The medal was established on 7 July 1909 as the King’s Police Medal (KPM), initially inspired by the need to recognise the gallantry of the police officers involved in the Tottenham Outrage. Renamed the King’s Police and Fire Services Medal (KPFSM) in 1940, it was replaced on 19 May 1954 by the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM), when a separate Queen’s Fire Service Medal was also instituted.
Between 1909 and 1979, the medal was bestowed 4,070 times, for both gallantry and distinguished service, including dominion and empire awards. A total 54 bars and one second bar were awarded in this period.
The original KPM, despite its name, was also be awarded to members of recognised fire brigades. It was originally intended that the medal should be awarded once a year, to no more than 120 recipients, with a maximum of: 40 from the United Kingdom and Crown dependencies; 30 from the dominions; and 50 from the Indian Empire. More could be awarded in exceptional circumstances. Those who received a further award were to wear a silver bar on the ribbon in lieu of a further issue, or a rosette where the ribbon alone was worn. Initially recipients were required to have shown:
(a) Conspicuous gallantry in saving life and property, or in preventing crime or arresting criminals; the risks incurred to be estimated with due regard to the obligations and duties of the officer concerned.
(b) A specially distinguished record in administrative or detective service.
(c) Success in organizing Police Forces or Fire Brigades or Departments, or in maintaining their organization under special difficulties.
(d) Special services in dealing with serious or widespread outbreaks of crime or public disorder, or of fire.
(e) Valuable political and secret services.
(f) Special services to Royalty and Heads of States.
(g) Prolonged service; but only when distinguished by very exceptional ability and merit.
Provision was also made for the forfeiture of the award in the event of a recipient later being convicted of a criminal offence.
Minor amendments to the warrant were made on 3 October 1916. On 1 October 1930, changes were made to the forfeiture provisions, no longer specifying grounds for forfeiture, but also allowing the medal to be restored again. The 1932 New Year Honours list specified those medals awarded for gallantry. On 27 December 1933, the warrant was officially amended to introduce distinctions as to whether the medal was awarded for gallantry or for distinguished service, by adding an appropriate inscription to the reverse, and adding a central red stripe to the ribbon for gallantry awards. The award criteria were changed so recipients had:
either performed acts of exceptional courage and skill or exhibited conspicuous devotion to duty; and that such award shall be made only on a recommendation … by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
In 1936, amendments of 25 May gave greater provision for territories to opt to award their own equivalent medals. Further minor amendments were made on 15 December.