History Of Law Enforcment Essay

2173 words - 9 pages

HISTORY OF LAW ENFORCEMENTThe early police forces in nineteenth-century America were modeled in part on the Metropolitan Police of London, formed in 1829 by Robert Peel (hence the nicknames "peelers" and "bobbies"). But American police came to differ from the police of other Western nations in several important ways. First, they have always been a part of local government, unlike other countries where the local police are a part of a nationally administered force. Second, because of their local roots, police departments appeared at different times throughout the nation. In general, big eastern cities created police forces first, with smaller cities lagging well behind. Third, as a part of the executive office of the city, police departments have been administered separately from state and county systems of criminal justice. Historian Wilbur Miller has argued that this final difference accounts for some of the more obvious contrasts between American and English police: American police have seen themselves as administering justice on the street; the English, as representing law, or the unwritten English Constitution.The kind of police Americans knew in the early nineteenth century was descended from the medieval police of England--a constable and watch system composed of a volunteer night watch, who patrolled the city, and a daytime constable, who supervised the watch and charged fees for his services. Most night watchmen, however, were actually paid substitutes for volunteers and traditionally were drawn from society's unemployables. When Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing selects a night constable from among the watchmen, he picks "the most senseless and fit man," whom he orders, "You shall comprehend all vagrom men." As for sleeping on the job, Dogberry offers that he "cannot see how sleeping should offend; only, have a care that your bills [weapons] be not stolen." In this scene, Shakespeare ridiculed the notorious failings of the watch, which persisted through the nineteenth century: they drank, slept, and ran from any sign of danger. And constables were venal, illiterate Dogberries, intervening in crimes only when there was the promise of a good fee. In the United States, similar complaints were voiced about the watch and constables, but cities managed to survive under this loose system until they were quite large. New York had over a half million people before it got a permanent police in 1853, Boston about 175,000 (1859), and Philadelphia about 250,000 (1856).Cities created their police forces for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was simply imitativeness: in the post-Civil War era, a city with any pretensions had to have modern police officers. This, however, is not to deny the usefulness of the new police. First, they were hierarchically organized and relatively accountable. The wearing of uniforms ensured that citizens could recognize police officers, and the city could try to keep them out of bars and on patrol....

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