Law Enforcement

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TheUnited States first law enforcement was based on the principles ofBritain’s police. This was a system of sheriffs, constables,watchmen, and stipend justice. As the society became urbanized andcentralized, riots and crimes, and other public issues became common,leading to the formation of functional law enforcement institutions.Colonial North America was among the first regions in the USA to havean established police force. It comprised of watchmen who wereorganized in the cities of Boston and New Amsterdam. Though they werepaid, most of them did not receive salaries from the government, butdonations from private citizens (Ortmeier, 2006).

Inthe late 18thand the early 19thcentury, a formof Saxon tradition of frankpledge the vigilante arose.This was in the boundary regions of America. In areas where formalpolicing was yet to be adopted, citizens would come together and form“committees of vigilance” to deal with issues of crime and torestore order (Bumgarner, 2006).With high numbers of German and Irishimmigrants settling in the United States in the early 19thcentury, the urban population was growing steadily, especially in NewYork City and Boston. This brought about rioting, crime, and otherdisturbances. Constabularies and a version of the night watch systemwere adopted, and voluntary citizen groups helped solve urbanproblems. (Reaves, 2010)

Inthe middle of the 19thcentury, the prevalence in crime led to the formation of laws thatkept in check individual behaviors and creation of new publicinstitutions to reform police forces, asylums, and penitentiaries.The first law enforcement agency was established in Boston in 1838.Other cities that followed were “NewYork City in 1844, New Orleans and Cincinnati (Ohio) in 1852,Philadelphia in 1854, Chicago and Milwaukee in 1855, Baltimore andNewark in 1857. The forces were organized in quasi-military command,their main tasks was to keep law and order,”(Bumgarner, 2006).

Thefirst federal law enforcement agency, the U.S Marshals were appointedin 1789 by President George Washington (Ortmeir, 2006) .As timepassed, state police agencies began to emerge with the first onebeing established in Texas in 1823, the Texas Rangers. Aninvestigative division was formed in 1864 in the U.S TreasuryDepartment, and the Border Patrol was created in 1882 by the U.SJustice Department (Ortmeir, 2006). As states were established andbecame part of the Union they had a responsibility to have their lawenforcement agency in their respective cities. In the United States,police power was controlled by the state and local government, andeach city department. Consequently, the authority for policingdevolved to neighborhoods, which developed autonomous units, buttheir role did not involve crime investigation. This led to a lot ofdissent voices in the society leading to overwhelming pressure on theforce to incorporate investigation in their daily chores (Johnson &ampDavid, 1981).

Detectiveunits were established in New York City in 1857, in Chicago in 1861and many other American cities. Investigators were usually formerconstables and thief-takers, though they were good detectives, theyalso introduced corruption, a problem which resulted from being paid. Due to corruption cases in 1864 and 1870, Chicago and Bostonrespectively dissolved their criminal investigative departments.Moreover, in 1877 New York City was marred with a lot of scandals.All these cities soon reconstructed their investigative divisions.Other significant events included the introduction of fingerprintingwhich began in Missouri, in 1904. Consequently, in 1908 the U.S DOJcreated the Bureau of Investigations (presently Federal Bureau ofInvestigations). Furthermore, in 1923, August Vollmer a police chiefin Berkeley, California, promoted the establishment of an academy(Reaves, 2010).

Duringthe late 19th century, policing in the United States was complicatedby immigration, which reconstructed the cultural makeup of cities,and by decentralization of the police authority in the cities.Decentralization brought harmony, which was positive to the lawenforcement. They knew their locals because they were recruited fromtheir neighborhood. This closeness made it easy to identify problems,provide services and stop menaces (Bumgarner, 2006).Decentralizationof the jurisdictions created problems too. Crime control was notefficient, the cities were ill-policed, and public services werepoor. They were expected to stick to their jurisdictions thusrestricting the scope of what they could do. There was no policing onthe American western frontier since there was no law enforcementagency that had jurisdiction there, though crime rates were high(Ortmeier, 2006).

Interjurisdictionalcrimes in the late 19thcenturyprompted states to enact laws giving business organizations theability to have private police forces. There was a notable privateenforcement agency force, such as Coal and Iron of Pennsylvania,which was infamous for its anti-labor vigilantism. The PinkertonDetective Agency was also another famous security force that wascreated by Allan Pinkerton. The agency specialized in apprehendingtrain robbers, protecting trains and strike-breaking (Bumgarner,2006). Other private policing companies that flourished under thisperiod were American Express and Wells Fargo. Both these cargocompanies were created by Henry Wells and William Fargo (Ortmeier,2006).Homeland defense and law enforcement have become top prioritiessince the terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001. A lot of emphasisis being placed on public safety and security.

Communitypolicing will increase, as it seeks to address the causes of disorderand crime. This will be despite resistance within and outside the lawenforcement agencies. Agencies will continue shifting from reactivepolicing (incident driven) to leadership centered with communitypartnerships and problem solving being the main way to ensure orderin the community (Ortmeier, 2006).


Bumgarner,&nbspJ.&nbspB.(2006). Federalagents: The growth of federal law enforcement in America.Westport, CT: Praeger.

Johnson,&nbspR.&nbspD.(1981). American: A History.. Wheeling: : Forum Press.

Ortmeier,&nbspP.&nbspJ.(2006). Introductionto law enforcement and criminal justice(2nd&nbsped.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publishing.

Reeves,&nbspB.(2010). ). Local police departments, 2007. U.S.Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Studies, Office of JusticeProgram.Retrieved from

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