The Federation of Malaya Police began in Penang in 1806. In the 1870s, at the height of the Larut Wars in Perak, the Perak Armed Police was formed. The Federated Malay States Police, formed in 1896, was the body that looked after the states of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang. Under the British system, policemen were recruited from European and Indian backgrounds. Around 1905, Malays were encouraged to join. The federation remained until 1942.
The Federation of Malayan Police came to prominence during the Emergency period of 1948 to 1960. The murder of the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, in 1951, by Communist terrorists led to the appointment of Sir Gerald Templer, a former general of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Sir Gerald didn’t want to impose military rule in order to restore public confidence in Malaya. He introduced an intelligence arm called the Special Branch (SB). The policemen, commonly of Malay ethnicity, were called mata-mata (eyes). Sir Gerald masterminded the strategy of “winning the hearts and minds” which proved to be a success, but only in Malaya. The Communists, starved of popular support and public approval, were driven into the jungle.