Development Of Police
In The United States

The role of police in today’s society has developed from a history of crime, corruption, riots, social change, and technology. The first full time uniformed police force was established in 1829 from the London Metropolitan Act. The responsibility of the London Police was to patrol the city and prevent crime, but did not carry guns. The commissioners of the London Police acknowledged that in order to gain authority, it was imperative that police officers acted in a certain manner or the public would not take them serious. The selection process consisted of choosing even tempered and reserved citizens to be the first London Police officers. The development of the London Police force was due to the industrial growth that London was experiencing during that era, which brought about crime, riots and disorder. Problems that the previous methods of public order, such as the constable watch system could no longer enforce.

After the development of the London Police, police systems began to establish in the United States for similar reasons during this time period. The selection process of these early police officers in America differed from London and was based on a political motive. The turnover rate for officers was very high due to change in political leadership. These police officers had minimal training or knowledge of the job. There were no patrol cars, limited supervision and lack of communication a officers walked the beat.

A serious issue in these early police systems was police corruption. Corruption could be contributed from the political leaders to the officers on the beat. Since police employment was based on a political insure their employment, officers followed the norms of the political party, often protecting illicit activities conducted by party favorites. Criminal activity such as prostitution, saloon keeping and gambling was being protected by police and those officers were also being paid from criminals for their protection.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, efforts were made to reform the structure of police. Efforts by a group called the Progressives which attempted to make police force more professional. The Progressive reformers discovered that officers had no discipline, lacked leadership and departments lacked qualified officers. Progressives introduced police commissions and the use of the civil service exam. This attempt to change policing was met with great resistance from politicians as well as the police themselves. However, the time period of the early to mid-21st Century marked the emergence of police professionalism. During this time period reform came from within the police departments and was very successful. Standards pertaining to officer qualification were now evaluated and departments were now pulling away from political parties and creating their own set of rules and regulations. With leadership from Police Chiefs, department were pushed forward to be more professional. During this tie period, technology such as the patrol car and two-way radio and telephone, altered the way in which police operated and the manner in which citizens made use of the police.

The civil rights movement also helped establish the role and structure of police into today’s society. During this time period, police were met with much resistance and riots broke out across the nation. The outcome of this was that ore federal research and money was to be provided to the criminal justice field. This research contributed to another reform regarding the gap between the police and community.

The 2000 United States census summarized statistics of state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. These statistics showed that the criminal justice field is a growing field from the previous census in 1996 and 1992 in many categories. The census compared categories such as community policing, policies, programs, personnel, information systems and patrol operations. When comparing the census to the reform of police, it is observed that operations such as bicycle patrol, foot patrol, community policing, community policing training and college requirements for officers increased from the two previous censuses.

The study of the history of policing is crucial to understand the development of policing in today’s society. The understanding of the census shows statistically that the development of policing is still progressing in the community policing era.

Dunham, R. G. & Alpert, G.P. (2005). Critical Issues in Policing 5th Edition: Contemporary Readings: Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
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