To understand contemporary policing in America it is necessary to understand its antecedents; we will gain a better understanding of this history by looking at its three eras. The police, said, are “to great extent, the prisoners of the past. Day-to-day practices are influenced by deeply ingrained traditions.” Another reason for analyzing historical developments and trends is that several discrete legacies have been transmitters to modern police agencies. In view of the significant historical impact on modern policing, it is necessary to turn back the clock to about A.D.900. Therefore, we begin with a brief history of the evolution of four primary criminal justice officers—sheriff, constable, coroner, and justice of the peace—from early England to the twentieth century in America (Ken, 2006).
English and Colonial Officers the Law: All four of the primary criminal justice officials of early English-the sheriff, constable, coroner, and justice of the peace there was a lack of established practice in the United State. Accordingly, it is important to have a basic understanding of these offices, including their early functions in England and, later, in America. Following is a brief discussion of each (Ken, 2006). Sheriff:
The word sheriff is derived from the term shire reeve—shire meaning “county” and reeve meaning “agent of the king.” The shire reeve appeared in English before the Norman conquest of 1066. His job was to maintain law and order in the tithing. They followed a brand of English common Law, although the sheriff was never a popular officer in England and since the nineteenth centenary sheriff has had no police powers. When the office began, the sheriff assisted the king in fiscal, military and judicial affairs and was referred to as the “king’s steward.” The sheriff’s principal duties were to enforce laws, collect taxes and oversee elections.
CONSTABLE: Like the sheriff, the constable can be trace back to Anglo-Saxon times. The office began during the reign of Edward I when every parish or township had a constable. As the county police officer turns more and more to matter of defense, the constable alone pursued felons focusing in later the ancient custom of citizens rising aloud noisy and joining in pursuit of criminals lapsed into disuse. During the middle Ages there was yet on high degree of specialization. The constable had a variety of duties including collecting taxes, supervising highways, and serving as magistrate. The office soon became subject to election and was conferrer upon local men of prominence; however, the creation of the wearing away grinding down office of the justice of the peace around 1200 quickly changed this trend forever; soon the constable was limited to making arrests only with warrants issued by a justice of the peace.
As a result, the office deprived of social and civic prestige was no longer attractive. It carried on salary and the duties were often dangerous. In addition there was heavy attrition in the office, so the constable’s term was limited to one year in an attempted attract officeholders; in 1856 Parliament completely discarded the office The office of constable experienced a similar process of disintegration in the colonies However, the American constables usually two in each town were give control over the night watch. By the 1930s, State constitution in twenty-one states provided for the office of constable but constable still received no pay and like their British colleagues they enjoyed little prestige or popularity after the early 1930s. The position fell into disfavor largely because most constables were untrained and was believe to be wholly inadequate as officials of the law (Ken, 2006).
CORONER: The office coroner is more difficult to describe. It has been use to fulfill many different roles throughout its history and has steadily changed over the centuries. There is no agreement concerning the date when the coroner first appeared in England but there is consensus that the office was functioning by the end of the twelfth century. From the beginning, the coroner was elect; his duties included oversight of the interests of the crown, not only in criminal matters but also in fiscal matters as well. In felony cases, the corner could conduct a preliminary hearing and the sheriff often came to the coroner’s court to preside over the coroner’s jury. The coroner’s inquest provided another mean of power and prestige, determining the cause of death and the party responsible for it. Initially coroner was elect for life. Soon becoming unhappy with the absence of compensation however, eventually they were give right to charge fees for their work (Ken 2006).
As was true of sheriffs and constables at first the office of the coroner in America was only slightly different from what it had been in England. The office was slow in gaining recognition in America, as the sheriffs and justice of the peace were already performing many of the coroners’ duties. By 1933, the coroner was recognizing as a separate office in two-thirds of the states. Tenure was generally limited to two years. By then however, the office had been stripe of many of its original functions especially its fiscal roles. In many states, the coroner legally served as sheriff when the elected sheriff was disabled or disqualified however, since the early part of the twentieth century the coroner has performed a single function: determining the cause of all deaths by violence or under suspicious circumstances. The coroner or her assistant is expect to determine the causes and effects of wounds, lesions, contusions, fractures, poisons, and more. The coroner’s inquest resembles a grand jury at which the coroner serves as a kind of presiding magistrate (ken, 2006).
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE: The justice of the peace (JP) can be trace back as far as 1195 in England. By 1264, the customs paces, or conservator of the peace, nominated by the king for each county, presided over criminal trials. Early JPs were wealthy landholders. They allowed constables to make arrests by issuing then warrants. Over time, this practice removed power from constables and sheriffs. By the sixteenth century, the office came under criticism because of the people holding it. Officeholders were often referral to as “boobies” and “scum of the each.” The only qualification necessary was being a wealthy landowner who was able to buy his way into office. By the early twentieth century, England had abolished the property-holding requirement and many of the medieval functions of JP’s office were remove. Thereafter the office possessed extensive but strictly criminal jurisdiction with on jurisdiction whatsoever in civil cases.
This contrasts with the American system, which gives JPs limited jurisdiction in both criminal and civil cases. The JPs Office in the colonies was a distinct change from the position, as it existed in England. JPs was elect to office and given jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. By 1930, the office had constitutional status in all of the states. JPs have long been allows to collect fees for their services. As in England, it is typically not necessary to hold a law degree or to have pursued legal studies in order to be a JP in the United States. Perhaps the most colorful justice of the peace was Roy Bean, popularized in film as the sole peace officer in a 35,000-square-mile area west of the Pecos River near Langtry Texas. Bean was knows to hold court in his shack where signs hung on the porch proclaimed, “Justice Roy Bean, Notary Public,” “Law West of the Pecos.” and “Beer Saloon.” Cold beer and the law undoubtedly shared many quarters on the Western Frontier (Ken, 2006).
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