The important thing of every government and society, in general, is safety. And safety cannot exist without proper law enforcement set in place. Therefore, the main aim of police as a system is to provide comfort and security to the country’s citizens and protect them if they require it. It is vital to examine the system’s past and identify critical points of its development to understand it better.
Origins of Law Enforcement
The origins of policing in the United States took a form of a private-for-profit organization; it was an informal system composed of community volunteers (Potter, n.d.). Their main task for the volunteers was to inform the citizens of incoming danger. However, they did not prove effective, as many volunteers drank on duty and used the policing system to escape military duty. In the 1830s, the first centralized police department was established in Boston. This implied that police officers became actual employees with communal support. The departments had fixed rules and procedures to follow and had to report to a central governmental authority. This structure was typical for the major cities in the United States.
In the Southern region, however, policing ways were significantly different. This system was based on slave patrol, first created in Carolina colonies in the 1700s (Potter, n.d.). The aim of slave policing was to return runaway slaves to their owners and maintain discipline for slave-workers. Nowadays, police in the Southern states act according to the rules of slavery set back in 1704; only in the current time do they control laborers working in the agricultural sector, enforcing the segregation laws. There were numerous flaws in the police system; therefore, there was a need to drive police professionalization. For police improvement to occur, there were multiple commissions, including the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice in 1967.
Four Policing Eras
There were four main eras in American policing: political, reform, community, and a new era (Fraizer, n.d.). The political period was characterized by police forces being in close ties with political officials. Police in this era were primarily focused on serving the influential figures in a political arena rather than protecting the citizens. Politicians had a right to appoint the police, therefore, controlled those who helped them.
The reform era that began in the 1930s brought back traditional crime-fighting and criminal capture by the police. Organized crime has gone under control once more, and the progressive policing policy was implemented (Fraizer, n.d.). This era started due to citizens demanding the reform to be made as crime activity grew bigger. Therefore politicians were removed from the policing systems, making police gain pride in their profession.
The community era was about police departments working closely with the communities and tending to their needs. In partnerships with communities, police started solving more crimes and gaining insight into suspicious activity with the help of local people. At that time, the primary focus of authority was the quality-of-life offenses, interfering with the community and targeting more minor crimes. There was a tendency for more corruption to be prevented because of such an approach.
A new era of police relevant today is about securing the homeland of people and preventing terrorism. Police are now intelligence-led, which implies actions made according to the situation and the absence of a reactive approach. Its focus is counterterrorism divisions that fight to prevent terroristic attacks in the country. This era overlaps with the community era because it is based on partnership with the community as well, as it proves to be a successful method in a fight with any crime.
In conclusion, police underwent many changes in history and have tended to different groups of people. Police were on the side of ordinary citizens and worked in partnership with the community, and it also was controlled by politicians during the political era. Some aspects of it were corrupted, which became why the commissions were established to fight the unprofessionalism of the police. The core functions of police remained the same: bring peace and safety to the citizens of the United States.
Fraizer, D. R. (n.d.) The origins and evolution of American policing. Chapter One. Web.
Potter, G. (n.d.). The history of policing in the United States. EKU Online. Web.