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History of Policing in America

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History of policing in America


- Policing has been in existence since the beginning of civilization.

- In the early history of policing, citizens were responsible for maintaining law and order among themselves.

- Start on a smaller scale as night watch, where it was a for profit system utilizing part time employees; community members volunteer themselves to “watch” over the people.

-Night watch system turned out to be inefficient, watchmen slept and drank while on duty, they also used watch duty as a form of punishment.

- Policemen were fearful about wearing the badge due to the fact that they had bad reputations from the start and didn’t want view as the people that other people disliked.

- Increased urbanization eventually made the night watch system completely useless, as communities grew.

- First publicly funded, organized police force with full time officers on duty was created in Boston 1838.

- This happened because the merchants did not want to pay anymore and thought responsibility should be placed on the citizens, saying it was for the collective good.

- However, in the south economics that drove the creation of policing was more about maintaining the slavery system.

- There were slave patrols that had duties like chasing down runaways and preventing slave revolts.

The evolution of policing in America


- Works of Sir Robert Peel eventually made its way to the United States. Peel established the Metropolitan police services in London. He was a widely known as the father of modern policing. He had the idea that policing should include a centralized professional police force.

- Peelian Principles;

- purpose of police force is to prevent crime and maintain order.

- police depend on the approval and trust of the public to do their jobs effectively

- the goal is to achieve voluntary compliance with the law

- police must be firm in their responsibilities to society and the law, stay impartial and avoid temptation of bias public opinions.

- use force and physical control only as a last resort, when all other forms of persuasion have failed.

- officers must remember that they are also members of the public and that their purpose is to protect and serve the public.

- The true measure of effectiveness within any police force is not the number of arrests but the absence of criminal conduct and law violations.

- Efforts of Sir Robert Peel paved the way for new (innovations) and created new opportunities within law enforcement.


- During the 1800s -1900s there was a heavy presence of politics in policing. Police officers were hired and retained to maintain politicians political power in return for employment security. Officer would encourage citizens to vote for certain politicians.

- Political involvement started to be viewed as a problem in the 1900s-1970s by the public and police reformers.

- Attempts at police reform were unsuccessful, citizens tried forcing change on police agencies

- It wasn’t until the 20th century that reform efforts started to become effective and made great changes to policing in the United States.

- Politicians were no longer able to appoint individuals for their personal gain. Standards were created that for the recruiting and hiring process of administrators and police officers.


The civil rights era of policing


- During the civil war, the primary form of law enforcement in the south was the military.

- Police brutality was very prevalent during civil rights

- Community policing evolved as the 1960’s civil rights movement showcased the weaknesses of the traditional policing model.

- Minorities were not (underrepresented) in police departments

- Difference in treatment between whites and minorities by police, which thus created a separation and fostered a hostile environment.

- Tried Team policing in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Police operations were (restructured) per geographical boundaries, called community beats (c).

- Line officers received greater responsibility and decision making authority to help be more responsive to neighborhood issues.

- There were several factors that eventually lead to the abandonment of team policing. (staunch? Opposition from managers to decentralization severely hampered)

- During this era, policing became a huge academic interest. Researchers studied the role of police and how effective traditional policing strategies were on a closer level.

- 1974 Kansas City Patrol Experiment demonstrated that increasing routine preventive patrol and police response time had



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