Development of the American Police System
Early Policing in America
America is the only country in the world that can boast of having the most intricate policing system with over a thousand agencies of law enforcement and hundreds of thousands of men and women working in harmony and complimenting each other. Early policing in America was a largely private affair with communities organizing themselves into units of volunteering people who helped patrol their areas to ensure safety. This later evolved into a system that saw the appointment of unpaid magistrates who were tasked with overseeing the enforcement of law and order and levying of penalties on criminals and wrong doers. The military was also used in part to ensure that there was law and order in the land. The most significant appearances of public policing started when counties were allowed to pay their law enforcement agents with money from their tax revenues (Monkkonen 1992, 30). This later evolved to a more official hiring and compensation of constables and borrowed much of its structure from the policing systems in England.
Early American society relied heavily on the church for guidance and control of crime and criminals though faced a lot of challenges from the period’s lack of an effective justice system. They relied on excommunication of the errant people that caused them to be isolated in their societies and corporal punishment that involved the public flogging of miscreants in the town squares which served to set an example of the consequences of breaking the law. The policing system has undergone a lot of changes and reforms throughout the years to what it is today. The early frontier days were characterized by the settlers believing in their own ability to protect themselves, which saw a lot of violence with disputes being resolved crudely through duels and brawls. Most communities formed groups of lawmen known as posses that were tasked with fighting bandits and outlaws who would terrorize them. This led to the leaders of these areas establishing paramilitary outfits that were completely under their control, to maintain order and security with this era being known as the political era. As the population grew, it became impossible for the few officers to maintain order and security effectively by patrolling the large expanses of which they were in charge. This necessitated the establishment of structured police units that understood the needs of their communities and could adequately address the challenges they were experiencing.
Monkkonen, Eric H. Crime & Justice in American History: Historical Articles on the Origins and Evolution of American Criminal Justice. Westport: Meckler, 1992. Print.
Police System Enhancement
This period was known as the reform period and can be traced as the roots for the establishment of the many different levels of police agencies throughout America (Worrall & Schmalleger 2013, 5). The police units across the land lacked uniformity and professionalism and most found it difficult to find recruits resulting in poor service delivery. The need for an efficient police system led to the development of service oriented policing with a focus on customer service spearheaded by O. W. Wilson whose reforms brought an end to police brutality and corruption. This ushered in the community era that brought with it the development of standard police training programs to ensure uniformity in skills and procedures and to make the force more customers centric. This also led to the differentiation of the police forces into different roles and ranks to increase efficiency within the units and enhance communication between different agencies. This era also placed more emphasis on the importance on community policing which enabled the police to have the good will and help of their communities in the execution of their duties. Currently the police system is highly sophisticated and employs science and technology in their daily tasks to ensure that they are able to detect and even prevent crime before it happens especially with regard to terrorism.
Worrall, John L, and Frank Schmalleger. Policing. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.