Eras of American Policing and Their Origin
American policing originated from early English law and is profoundly influenced by its history. Early law enforcement in England took on two forms of policing, one of which heavily influenced modern policing and it is known as the watch (Potter, 2013). The watch consisted, at first, of volunteers which had to patrol the streets for any kind of disorder including crime and fire. After men attempted to get out of volunteering by paying others, it became a paid professional position (Walker & Katz, 2012). The three eras of policing in America are shaped by these early ideas and practices of law enforcement. Throughout time, sufficient improvements and advancements have been made from the political era to the professional era and finally the community era which attempts to eliminate corruption, hire qualified officers and create an overall effective law enforcement system.
The first police department in America developed in New York and began the first era of policing which spanned from the 1830s to 1900 and is known as the political era (Walker & Katz, 2012). As emphasized by Walker (1999) not only did the political era of policing revolve around politics but provided officers with little to no training, education or recruitment standards (as cited in Police: History, 2014). The era also forced shaky job security for law enforcement and officers could be fired and hired at any point with little to no reason. Even men with criminal records were foot patrolling and women were only seen as “matrons” for the jail; they did not carry weapons and often times had very little arrest discretion (Walker & Katz, 2012). According to Walker and Katz (2012), “a $300 payment to the Tammany Hall political machine was the only requirement for a job on the police force” (p. 30). Not only did officers pay to get hired for job, they also took bribes known as payoffs from the public, specifically criminals, in exchange for protection of crimes such as prostitution and illegal gambling. Another setback in the political era was the fact that foot patrol was the mere form of patrol and it was extremely ineffective in that officers could not move quickly and they only patrolled small areas. Communications were also slim to none between officers and oversight of the job was rare as well. This meant that law enforcement officers of higher status were not checking up on the performance of the patrol officers (Walker & Katz, 2012). This provided for an extremely inefficient and corrupt police force in America and eventually something had to change.
Finally, 20th century law enforcement erupted and police professionalism was introduced into American policing. August Vollmer, known as “the father of American police professionalism”, was the chief of police in Berkeley, California where he strived for higher education for law enforcement officers and a professional outlook on policing (Walker & Katz, 2012, p. 35). The...