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Development of police -Time line history Essay

The Roman Vigiles are recognized world over as the first police force. Gaius Octavius who was Julius Caesars’ grandnephew created this “non-military and non-mercenary police” in 27 B.C. (Berg, B.1998) The creation of the force followed the assassination of Julius Caesar and Gaius sought to reform the Roman society as a form of revenge. This was done once Gaius ascended to power to become Augustus Caesar the “first emperor of Rome.” (Berg, B.1998)

However it was not until the 17th century that elements of policing started being practiced in the US after being adopted from the English watch system. This system was to later evolve to the American watch system, which had a form of silent, and unseen policing based on “hue and cry.” (Berg, B.1998) Among the first parts to adopt this system was the Boston night watch formed in 1631; this system enlisted 6 watchmen, a constable and many volunteers. American policing is normally classified into 3 distinct eras that are discussed below.

The political Era (1840-1930)

The major characteristic of this era was the close relationship between the police on one hand and politicians on the other. This relationship in most cases was geared towards “making the politician happy” The police system was very decentralized and its main purpose was to provide basic social services. Inherent in the police system during this era was the endemic corruption. http://www.realpolice.net/police-history.shtml

 Sometimes this era is called the “Spoils Era” which called for large-scale adaptation to the social changes that were taking place in America. This era is named so because as the term puts it “to the Victor go the spoils” whereby the political class in big cities often controlled their municipal police. http://www.realpolice.net/police-history.shtml

During the period of 1835 America was hit by numerous Industrial and race riots, which involved mostly the Native Americans and the immigrant Irish. In response to these riots, the police force was assigned the function of controlling them. However, because the type of system used was variably inadequate and ineffective the answer was found in police officers that would be salaried. (Walker, S.1998)

1845 marked the beginning of a salaried police force in America. This was in New York City where the police were called “coppers” because of the copper star badges they wore. They worked throughout, day and night mainly to control riots. http://www.realpolice.net/police-history.shtml

The “coppers” were armed with guns and were usually trained to think smarter than their working class counter parts. This system was to soon spread to other states like Boston where detectives and informants were being used and Philadelphia with the characteristic “mug shots.” http://www.realpolice.net/police-history.shtml

The Texas Ranger which was founded in 1845 is mentioned as the first state police organization and it is always well remembered for the atrocities against Mexicans and “Comanche tribes.” However, the Pennsylvania Constabulary is generally accepted as the first professional state police agency. The constabulary initial functions was to aide mine-owners against strikes in the mines. (Walker, S. 1998)

The California Gold Rush of 1848 prompted the formation of Federal police agencies that included the Border Patrol, the IRS, Postal Inspector and the Secret Service. In1855 Allan Pinkerton was a model for federal investigators after founding the Pinkerton’s private security agency. Other agencies that sprouted up during this time were Holmes Burglar Alarm Company and the Brinks and Wells Fargo armored delivery services.

By early 20th century the Spoils era was coming to a close, ending in 1900 when the Pendleton Act came into being. This Act was mainly enforced by a civil service system to fight corruption and nepotism. Several innovations were made, and the form of policing shifted from “brawn to brain”. (Berg, B.1998)

During this time professionalism took center stage and led to the formation in 1902 of the International Association of Chiefs of police (IACP). Richard Sylvester became the body’s first president; he was also the Washington D.C.P.D chief and is widely recognized as the “father of police professionalism.” Many aspects of paramilitary policing were developed during this time. (Walker, Samuel 1977)

By 1918, August Vollmer as the chief of the Berkeley P.D became  “the patriarch of police professionalism”. During his time, for the first time in America advancement in crime labs and finger printing were realized, more and bigger police stations were built accompanied by change of job titles. The professionalism saw the establishment of police unions at the bottom ranks. (Walker, Samuel 1977)

In 1915, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) was established. The establishment of the Federation Of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the International Conference Of Police Association (ICPA), the umbrella group of teamsters, followed this.

Another aspect of this era was the involvement of citizen groups in the police reforms a notable model was the Chicago Crime Commission. The commission was more of civilian oversights board that sort to bring intellectual ideas about causes of crime. During this era policewomen were given the chance to do real police work, for the first time.

Another peculiar development during this era was the Volstead Act on the 18th Amendment or Prohibition in 1919.This was an era characterized by gangsterism of such renowned gangsters like Al Capone and John Dilinger. It was also a time during the Great Depression where there was widespread unemployment and law was unenforceable.

Thus the main function of the police during this time was fighting crime because the number of gangsters had increased and they had become more organized. It was this period that is often described as the Prohibition Era when attempts were made to ban alcohol sales and consumption. (Walker, S. 1998)

All together there was an escalation of such crimes as kidnapping, daylight bank robberies and drive by shooting. The police were under intense pressure to contain the runaway crime and most time resorted to the use of brute force including the use of dirty tricks. Notable police leaders who emerged during this time were J.Edgar Hoover and Elliot Ness. They often used covert means and latest technology to check on the raising crime. The advent of the two ways radio, the police car and the telephone transformed greatly the policing system to become a more reactive system. (Gaines, L.& Vaughn J. 1999)

The Reform Era (1830-1980)

 The reform era was ushered in by various transformations that started taking place in the police system in the 1920s led by August Vollmer who was Berkeley, California Police Chief (Carte, G. & E. 1975). During this era new technology started being adopted and greater professionalism enhanced (Walker, Samuel 1977). Such professionalism centralized the command and control of the police operations. Such officers like O.W Wilson who introduced professionalism in Wichita, Kansas and the Chicago police drastically reduced corruption. Here training of the police was greatly emphasized. (Bopp, W 1977)

O.W. Wilson introduced various strategies like rotation of officers from one community to another to reduce corruption incidences, strict merit promotion system, and higher salaries to attract professionals and aggressive recruiting drives. (Bopp, W 1977) However, there remained a bad relationship between the police on one hand and the minority communities on the other because of the highly autocratic police leaders. The police during this period despite of the reformations concentrated more on felonies and other serious crimes. (Bopp, W 1977)

The 1960s were marked by urban unrests that included movements such as the civil rights, the Vietnam, the student rights and counterculture. There was an escalation of serial and mass murders with an increased number of police killed in the line of duty that averaged 100 annually. The crime rates soared tripling during this period. (Carte, G. & E. 1975).

In 1968 the National Advisory Commission on civil disorders blamed the riots on the police and following the abolishment of the death penalty 1967-1977,the police were faced with a heavy task of checking on the rise in crime whilst doing it professionally. In 1965 President Johnson formed the Presidents Commission On Law Enforcement And Administration Of Justice whose reports were influential in providing an overhaul criminal justice system model. It was during this period that the police information system became computerized and more emphasis was placed on empowering the criminal justice system. (Carte, G. & E. 1975).

In the 1970s the interest shifted to the Police Community Relations when the reactive policing approach was found to be ineffective. Corruption in the police force was still endemic and various commissions were formed to investigate it. Such commissions were common and were formed by citizens and financed by the private sector or community groups. (Walker, S. 1998) Various programs were started towards enforcing the police community relations and included such programs as open houses and ride a longs, citizen self defense trainings, citizen police academies and “Coffee Klatches” or community meetings. These outreaches helped the police realize their public safety function, where “fighting the fear of crime was as important as fighting crime itself” (Gaines, L.& Vaughn J. 1999)

The Community Era (1980- Preset)

Many law enforcement agencies in the 1990s started adopting strategies of community policing and problem oriented policing. Problem oriented policing that was characterized by a centralized problem pinpointing approach came first. (Gaines, L.& Vaughn J. 1999)

 Community policing defined as “a philosophy based on citizens and police working together in creative ways to help solve contemporary problems related to crime fear disorder and decay”. (Gaines, L.& Vaughn J. 1999)

Community policing is characterized by the incorporation of the public in combating crime, where the police are more involved with the community they police, now than ever before. (Gaines, L.& Vaughn J. 1999)

It was also during the 1990s that New York Police Department developed an information based crime pattern tracking and mapping system. The system’s purpose was to check the trends and patterns in crime and the accountability of dealing with crime problems is given to the police.


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