History of Law Enforcement

The word law enforcement is mostly associated with police forces of a state that have the authority to apply the police power of that state within a definite territory. A police service is a public force that is given the power by law to offer security by legitimate utilization of force. Law enforcement only comprises a part of policing duty. Since the beginning of society, law enforcement institutions have been in place for protecting the public from criminals or to keep justice and order and keep the leaders in power. Even in the biblical time there were military officials who were specially trained to observe peace and order (Annely, Para 1).  The world has for a long time established police forces some organized, and others temporary. From the ancient time to the modern society, law enforcement has gone through a lot of transformation. The paper seeks to trace the establishment of law enforcement from the ancient days to present.

Law enforcement in the ancient world
    In Ancient china, law enforcement was implemented by prefects. The prefecture system was established in Chu and Jin kingdoms. The prefects were government officials chosen by local magistrates, who were chosen by the head of state. The head of state was usually the emperor of the dynasty. The prefects were in charge of civil administration of their jurisdiction. They usually reported cases to local magistrates in the same way the current police report to judges. Some prefects were in charge of investigation just like the current police detectives do. The concept eventually spread to Korea and Japan (Bolick, p. 31).

    In the Roman Empire, the army offered protection rather than the organized police departments. Local watchmen were deployed to offer extra security. In Rome, there were urban cohorts that oversaw law and order and were sort of organized police department. There were no public prosecution, therefore the victims or their relatives organized the punishment (Zifcak, p. 12).

    In Europe, the current police originate from the Hermandades or brotherhoods peacekeeping organizations of armed people as was in municipal style in medieval Spain. The protective municipal leagues began to come up in the 12th century to protect people against criminals. The municipals were meant to be temporary but became a permanent feature in Spain. The first recorded case of Hermand was when the people of the north came together to offer protection to the pilgrims against robber knights on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. After the war of succession, Holy Brotherhood was formed as a national police force (Roth  Olson, p. 23). 

    The fist police force in France with a modern touch was the one formed by King Louis XIV in 1667. The royal decree passed by the parlement of Paris in March 1667 established the office of the lieutenant general of police head of the new police force. The system of the Paris police force was spread out to the rest of France by royal decree of October 1699.  After the French Revolution, Napoleon reorganized the Paris police force and formed the first uniformed police force in the world. The force was known as city sergeant (Zifcak, p. 22).

    In England, a scheme of sheriffs, reeves and investigative juries came up. In the UK, the development of law enforcement was much slower than the other parts of Europe. In Britain the role of police was performed by watchmen and thief-takers. The term police was adopted from French into the English language in the 18th century. In June 1800, the government finally passed the Glasgow Police Act establishing the City of Glasgow police. Other Scottish towns soon started establishing their own police departments (Bolick, P.34).

    In the olden days, policing in the US was very poor with poorly resourced sheriffs and temporary organized poses. In the United States, the US Marshals Service was created in 1789. This was followed by other federal services like US Parks Police in 1791 and US Mint Police in 1791. The initial city police departments were formed in Richmond, VA in1807, Boston in 1838 and Philadelphia in 1854. After the civil war, police departments became more Para-military, with increase in use of uniform and arms (Roth  Olson, p. 23). 

Important milestones in law enforcement from 14th century
From 1377 to 1453 there was the Hundred Years War leading to the formation of French Gendarmerie. In 1626, the New York City Sheriffs office was established the office had a sheriff appointed to the position by the mayor. The first country to employ the services of paid law enforcers was London in 1663. King Louis XIV formed the pioneer police force in 1667. Henry Fielding established Bow Street Runners in London in 1749. In July of 1789, the Paris police force was broken up at the beginning of French Revolution and the police duties were done by National Guard and Gendarmerie.  In 1789, the US Marshall Service was formed.

In 1800, the authorities of Glasgow in Scotland established the City of Glasgow Police and the same year the Paris Police was reestablished by Napoleon. In March 1829, the first uniformed police was established in France through a decree by the French government. The police service was known as city sergeants. The Metropolitan Police Act was passed in parliament in 1829 establishing the pioneer civil police force, London Metropolitan Police and the model employed by variety of countries today. This includes the United States of America. Out of the United Kingdom, the initial police service to be established was Gibraltar Police in 1830. Toronto Police was formed in Canada in 1834. This was one of the pioneer police departments in North America. Boston Police Department was the initial full-time police department in the United States formed in 1839 (Annely, Para 3).

Establishment of modern police forces was contemporary to the establishment of states. The increase in criminal activities could not be contained without development of state and city law enforcement departments. Since their establishment, the law enforcement offices have played a key role in maintaining law and order. 


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