How the role of police has evolved

How the role of police has evolved – Through crime prevention, emergency response and investigation, law enforcement officials are integral members of the communities they serve. #Police

How the role of police has evolved

How the role of police has evolved - Through crime prevention, emergency response and investigation, law enforcement officials are integral members of the communities they serve. #Police Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

There are 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The Canadian Encyclopedia says that, as of 2018, there were approximately 68,500 police officers serving in Canada. Police are responsible for keeping citizens safe and enforcing the law. Through crime prevention, emergency response and investigation, law enforcement officials are integral members of the communities they serve.

While law enforcement officials are now vital components of every community, these figures have not existed since the beginning of civilization. In fact, police forces are a relatively modern invention, according to Gary Potter, a crime historian at Eastern Kentucky University. During early American colonization, policing was informal and part-time employment. Also, those who were tasked with keeping order were paid through a for-profit, privately funded system. Peace and order also was maintained by volunteers who provided a “night watch” system that was not very efficient.

The common law and system of sheriffs, constables, watchmen, and stipendiary justice known in England was at the roots of early policing in the United States. Early Americans were weary of establishing standing police forces. However, as America continued to grow through immigration, and rural communities evolved into urban cities, crime increased. Citizens began to band together into “committees of vigilance” that took lawfulness into their own hands, not always with success.

By the mid-19th century, it became clear that earlier attempts at maintaining order were largely ineffectual. Middle-class frustration with the deterioration of cities and infrastructure led to the passage of laws that regulated public behavior and created new police forces and penitentiaries. The first police departments in the United States were in Boston and formed in 1838. New York City developed its own forces in 1844, and other cities quickly followed suit. By the 1880s, almost every major city in the country had a police force. The primary roles of police departments were to prevent crime and keep order. It wasn’t until the 1850s that detective units began to appear.

A similar evolution took place in Canada. Early policing was predominantly a local concern with municipalities following French and English traditions of constabularies or watchmen systems. Just like it was in the United States, the early 19th century was a time of change for the Canadian police force. After the establishment of England’s Metropolitan Police in London, Canada developed its own law enforcement system as a public system that required the consent of fellow citizens. In addition, thanks to Canada’s vast frontier, Prime Minister John A MacDonald established the North-West Mounted Police in the mid-1800s to enforce laws in the region. That force was initially 150 members, and would later be renamed the Royal North-West Mounted Police.

The police have a storied past with responsibilities that have evolved considerably through the years.

Be sure to check out this Police Officers Prayer!

Article compliments of MetroCreative. TF20C571

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