During the late 1700s and early 1800s, a breakdown in social control led to disorder, crime, riots, and public health issues in England. The 1780 Gordon riots brought a 50-year debate on how to provide better public safety. One man fighting to improve law enforcement was the home secretary, Sir Robert Peel. In 1822, Peel’s first task as home secretary was to meet the demands of Parliament for a reform of the criminal laws. During this time of rising crime statistics, Peel was convinced that legal reform should be accompanied with improved methods of crime prevention (Gash, 2012). It was not until Peel returned to the home office in 1828 with the Wellington government that he began working toward the creation of an adequate police force. In 1829, peel introduced a bill that was to improve the police in and around the Metropolis (Lyman, 1964). Fearing the introduction of a military-style force, Peel’s ideas were initially resisted.
Eventually Parliament passed the bill as the Metropolitan Police Act and provided funds to establish a force of 1000 officers (Grant & Terry, 2012). The Metropolitan Police were different from any previous law enforcement. The officers were direct employees of the state and organized like the military. They were subject to clear chains of command and rules of conduct. Officers were to wear uniforms and carry badges with their identification number inscribed upon it (Grant & Terry, 2012). Peel believed it was important for the new police to win public acceptance. The moral character of the police had to be above suspicion (Lyman, 1964). Many officers were dismissed for non-appearance and drunkenness within the first few days (Metropolitan Police, 2012). Peel believed that prevention of crime could be accomplished without intruding into the lives of citizens. The principles supporting Peel’s theory on policing are as relevant today as they were in the 1800s.
Faced with similar elements of social disorder, American leaders “borrowed” some of the fundamental tenets of the London police. The American forces were to model the London police with preventive patrol to be the major facet. The structure of political control of the police was very different. London residents had no direct control over their police and American citizens exercised direct control over government agencies. Instead of being disciplined and separate from the political machine, American police were serving the interests of the politically powerful. There were close ties between the police and public officials (University of Phoenix, 2011). Politics influenced every aspect of American policing, and is why the period from the 1830s to 1900 is called the “political era.” Officers were selected by their political connections.
There were men with no education, in bad health, and some with criminal records hired. The officers were handed a badge, a baton, and sent out on patrol duty with little or no training. Officers had no job security and when an election was lost, an entire force would be replaced by the winning party (Williams, 2003). Many reports indicate that many police officers drank on duty and used excessive physical force. Citizens became disrespectful and often fought back when arrested (Walker & Katz, 2011). In response to increasing citizen violence, officers began to carry firearms. Police corruption was rampant. The police took payoffs for not enforcing laws on drinking, gambling, and prostitution. Officers paid bribes to get promotions but the promotion allowed greater opportunities of corruption.
The New York commissioner, forced to resign in 1894, admitted he had a personal fortune of over $350,000 (Walker & Katz, 2011). In the early 1900s came the reform era where emphasis was put on solving “traditional” crimes and capturing offenders. The citizens calling for reform and removal of politics from policing brought the development of police professionalism and the professional organization of Fraternal Order of Police (University of Phoenix, 2011). In the 1970s, police departments realized that effective community partnerships help prevent and solve crimes. Known as the community era, police departments work to identify and serve the needs of their communities (University of Phoenix, 2011). Today there are many different law enforcement agencies in the United States.
Policing organizations today have different roles and functions at the federal, local, and state level. The government plays a major role in assisting policing throughout the United States. The first federal agency established by the U.S. government was the U.S. Marshall Service. Since then there have been eight government departments with 21 agencies created that deal with issues of law enforcement (Grant & Terry, 2012). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are the two most important federal departments involved with law enforcement. Each government agency provides policing organizations throughout the United States with assistance.
When different organizations operate within overlapping areas, they can duplicate information. The two organizations may not readily share information or one holds the information creates linkage blindness. Since September 2011, the government restructured many agencies so that coordinating intelligence and law enforcement resources effectively. Today, police organizations model the principles established by Sir Robert Peel into their own mission statement.
Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. (2011). Sir Robert Peel. Retrieved from http://ebscohost Gash, N. (2012). Peel, Sir Robert, 2nd Baronet. Retrieved from http://ebscohost Grant, H. B., & Terry, K. J. (2012). Law Enforcement in the 21st Century (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Lyman, J. L. (1964). The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829: An Analysis of Certain Events Influencing the Passage and Character of the Metropolitan Police Act in England. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, & Police Science, 55(1), 141-154. Retrieved from http://ebscohost Metropolitan Police. (2012). History of the Metropolitan Police: Metropolitan Police 175 years ago. Retrieved from http://www.met.police.uk/history/175yearsago.htm University of Phoenix. (2011). CJi Interactive. Retrieved from http://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/aapd/UC/CJ/index.html Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2011). The Police in America: An Introduction (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Williams, K. L. (2003). Peel’s Principles and Their Acceptance by American Police: Ending 175 Years of Reinvention. Police Journal, 76(2), 97-120. Retrieved from http://ebscohost
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