1. What were the major police-related offices and their functions during the early English and colonial periods?
2. What legacies of colonial policing remained intact after the American Revolution?
3. List the three early issues of American policing, and describe their present status.
4. What were some of the major characteristics of the political and reform eras of policing? How did they square with the earlier principles of policing as set forth by Sir Robert Peel?
5. What led to the development of the contemporary community-oriented policing and problem-solving era, and what are some of its main features?
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the textbook and to the topic of policing in America. It begins with a brief introduction to how four primary criminal justice officers (sheriff, constable, coroner, and justice of the peace) developed in early England and how they function in modern-day America. The early English system of policing is discussed, including a brief review of the early frankpledge system, an explanation for its failure by the sixteenth century, and a discussion of the potential for corruption and the need for a new system of policing in England by about 1800.
The chapter then moves on to a review of policing in colonial America, which first closely resembled the system used in England. Several colonial-era “crime waves” are discussed, including one involving the Puritans and Quakers and another involving witchcraft. Law enforcement was a low-priority issue in colonial America, which created problems after the American Revolution, when it became clear that America, like England, required a more formal and dependable system of law enforcement. The three main legacies of the colonial period to modern policing are reviewed: the commitment to local policing, the development of republicanism, and the beginnings of crime prevention theory.
The contributions of three English reformers—Henry Fielding, John Fielding, and Patrick Colquhoun—are discussed. The influence of Sir Robert Peel and his eventual success in creating a full-time, paid police force in London is reviewed. The London Metropolitan Police Act, passed in 1829, created the London Metropolitan Police. The characteristics of the new force are described, along with many of Peel’s forward-thinking ideas. Peel’s twelve principles of policing are discussed.
Americans observed Peel’s successes and eventually the move to improve policing in America led to the development of a full-time force in New York. However, the first organized, publicly funded “modern” form of policing in the United States is arguably the Southern slave patrols, which were the legal mechanism for enforcing the slave codes that defined slaves as property and gave slave masters the right to control their property through discipline and punishment. The first slave patrol was probably organized in South Carolina in 1704; slave patrols enforced colonial and state laws and had the right to flog slaves who violated the codes.
Although the New York City police force was modeled after Peel’s force, there were several key differences, including placing the force under local political control. Other cities quickly adopted the basic model and by 1880, nearly every major city in America had a police force based on the Peel model. The three key issues that these departments faced included the question of whether they should wear uniforms, whether they should be armed, and the extent to which they should use force. These issues are discussed. The system of political patronage prevailed in most cities. The primary determinant of police behavior was tradition. Hostile interactions between citizens and the police were common but large cities in the late nineteenth century did become more orderly places. Religious and ethnic disputes developed within many departments and political influences were extremely strong. Police corruption surfaced and officers routinely committed perjury to protect each other against civilian complaints.
The American frontier developed a different form of policing, because of the absence of government. The four main groups responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the law in the west included private citizens, federal marshals and their deputies, businessmen, and town officials. Vigilantism and “informal justice” were common on the frontier.
Because police departments were under local political control, they frequently provided a very wide variety of social services, in addition to crime fighting, crime prevention and order maintenance. Some departments operated soup kitchens, provided temporary lodging in station houses for new immigrants and the homeless, and found lost children.
The reform or professional era of policing was characterized by an attempt to eliminate political patronage. The development of the concept of policing as a profession emerged as reformers realized the primary cause of police corruption and politicization was partisan politics. During the early twentieth century, August Vollmer pioneered the police professionalism movement but also advocated the view of police as social workers. Vollmer and other reformers emphasized the removal of political influence from policing, leading to the development of civil service systems. Other innovations included the application of the scientific theory of administration to policing, limitations on discretion, and the creation of specialized units. The “crime fighter image” emerged during this period as well.
The early 1900s also saw the development of crime commissions, including the Wickersham Commission, which produced the first the first national study of crime and criminal justice in 1931. The Commission’s reports included a detailed discussion of police misconduct and corruption, and provided a blueprint for police professionalism. Another influence on policing in the mid-twentieth century was William H. Parker, who became the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1950. He worked to transform the LAPD into an extremely professional department, with rigorous selection standards and training programs. He also developed the concept of the “thin blue line.” The civil rights movement in the late 1960s and 1970s greatly impacted the police, placing them in opposition to many college-aged youths and minority groups in the United States. Events such as the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which was eventually termed a “police riot”, led to questions and concerns about the police and their function and role. The police were focused on reform and professionalism, but the failure of the professional era is evident from the large number of urban race riots, attacks against the police, and other forms of upheaval and unrest. Many of the police-community relations problems were linked to the larger problem of racism in American society.
The social unrest of the 1960s and the concerns about the police led to the formation of a number of national commissions in the 1960s and 1970s to examine police practices. The most well known was the President’s Crime Commission; its report restated many of Peel’s principles and basically called for a retreat from the professional model of policing. This led to a new stream of research that challenged traditional methods of policing and dispelled many basic assumptions underlying police activities.
This led to the beginning of the community era of policing. The concept of team policing evolved and was implemented but ultimately failed due to poor planning, hasty implementation, and lack of support by middle management. Other developments in the 1970s and early 1980s included a return to foot patrol and the introduction of the problem-oriented approach to policing. This eventually led to the development of community-oriented policing and problem solving. The factors that set the stage for the emergence of community policing and problem solving, which primarily involve police isolation from the public, are reviewed. The potential of the community era is described, but several concerns that remain are also discussed.
Policing before “modern” police departments
English and Colonial Officers of the Law
Four primary criminal justice officials in early England—all either still exist or existed until recently in the United States
• From the term “shire reeve”
• Maintained law and order in the tithings
• Basic source of rural crime control in the United States
• Traced back to Anglo-Saxon times
• In American colonies, had control over night watch
• Unpaid, little prestige
• Various roles throughout history
• Determines cause of death
• Issues over qualifications
Justice of the Peace
• Existed as early as 1195 in England
• Presided over trials, issued warrants for arrest
• Lay and inexpert upholders of the law
The Old English System of Policing
Old English Traditions
• Constable / justice of the peace system
• Decline of system by 1800
Policing in Colonial America
• Early “crime waves”
• Break down of citizen-participation form of policing
• Social and political unrest
Legacies of the Colonial Period
• Commitment to local policing
• Theory of crime prevention
• London experiments with policing
• Contributions of Henry Fielding, John Fielding, Patrick Colquhoun
Police Reform in England
• Impact of urbanization and industrialization on policing
• Sir Robert Peel—Metropolitan Police Act of 1829
• London Metropolitan Police
• Peel’s principles of policing
• Emphasis on crime prevention
Policing Comes to the United States
• United States watching Peel’s experiments
• Less urgency for full-time policing in the United States until industrialization increased
• Policing eventually became entrenched in America and evolved through three eras: political, reform, community
The Political Era—1840s to 1930s
• New York City established full-time preventive police force in 1844
• Very different from London model
• Local control
• Encouraged political patronage
Early Issues and Traditions
• Use of force
Attempts at Reform in Difficult Times
• Policing a popular job
• System of political patronage prevailed over merit systems for hiring police
• Tradition a key determinant of police behavior
• Police were multifunctional: dealt with riots, fires, strikes
Increased Politics and Corruption
• Ethnic, religious disputes common in police departments
• Political influences affected promotions, assignments, transfers
• Police corruption surfaced
• The “shoofly” —early form of internal affairs
Meanwhile, on the American Frontier…
• Absence of government creates variety of forms of policing in West
• Private citizens (posses, bounty hunters, vigilantes), U.S. Marshals, businessmen, town officials all assumed responsibility for law enforcement
The Entrenchment of Political Influence
• Police provided wide variety of services to citizens
• Decentralized organizational style
• Officers recruited from ethnic groups in community
• Officers integrated into neighborhoods
• Lack of organizational control contributed to inefficiency and disorganization
The Reform Era: 1930s to 1980s
Attempts to Thwart Political Patronage
• Reformers sought to remove political involvement by the police
• Civil service systems were created to eliminate political patronage
• Focus on crime control over “social work” noncrime activities
• Emphasis on production and unity of control
• Police leaders routinized and standardized police work, limited discretion as much as possible
The Era of August Vollmer
• One of the most important periods in the development of police professionalism
• Vollmer a leading proponent of police professionalism
• Innovations included police school, crime lab, mobile patrol force, college students as recruits, recruitment standards, first radio car
• Advocated police as social workers
The Crime Fighter Image
• O.W. Wilson emerged in 1930s as the leading authority on police administration, police role was redefined, crime fighter image became more popular
• Professionalism came to mean a combination of managerial efficiency and technological sophistication and an emphasis on crime fighting
• Social work aspects of policing disappeared
The Wickersham Commission
• First national study of crime and criminal justice
• Report made many recommendations calling for increased police professionalism
Police as the “Thin Blue Line”: William H. Parker
• Focus on police as professional crime fighters
• Police as “thin blue line”
• Opposed restrictions on police methods
• Conflicts between effective police operations and individual rights should be resolved in favor of the police
• Rights of society took precedence over rights of individual
1960s and 1970s: The Struggle for Civil Rights
• Social turbulence, civil disobedience, progress in civil rights
• Police focused on professional model – removed from personal contact with the public
• Major race riots across the United States
• Failure of police–community relations
A Retreat from the Professional Model
Coming Full Circle to Peel: President’s Crime Commission
• National commission focusing on solutions to America’s internal crime problems
• Included many recommendations for police
• Restated many of Peel’s original principles
• Systematic demolition of assumptions underlying professional era of policing
The Community Era: 1980s to Present
• Team policing concept a failure
• Foot patrol became popular
• Problem-oriented approach to policing
• Demise of professional era, and the emergence of the community era of policing
President’s Task Force on Twenty-First Century Policing
• Established in 2014 to identify best practices and offer recommendations on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust
• Produced a series of recommendations focused along six core themes
• Final report supported by many government officials, academics, members of the public
• Recommendations have been implemented slowly and inconsistently