The first episode of the BBC’s groundbreaking police drama Z-Cars was broadcast on this day in 1962. Set in 'Newtown' - a fictional conurbation based on Kirkby in Merseyside - the show’s pace and realism set it apart from the staid programmes of the time. Filmed ‘live’ for added immediacy, it was not unknown for cameras to intrude into shot. This did nothing to diminish its popularity, and Z-Cars was voted 63rd in the British Film Institute’s poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the Twentieth Century.
There were detractors, however. The Association of Chief Police Officers criticised the BBC for selling Z-Cars police uniforms. This was in response to the case of Simon Waring, a 12-year-old schoolboy who formed his own ‘junior force’ to assist the Cheshire constabulary. He and his ‘cadets’ checked vehicle tax discs, discouraged littering, and reported suspicious-looking individuals. In 1963 Waring's force came across a boy wearing one of the Z-Cars dressing-up costumes and charged him with impersonating a police officer. The boy was held in a disused garage for seven hours without access to a telephone, during which time he was reported missing and a police manhunt was launched. Waring blamed the incident on a few 'bad apples', but the unit's reputation was irreparably damaged, and it was disbanded shortly afterwards.