The first known policing system was created in England in . The group was known as the “borh.” It was groups of twelve older white males who regulated each other’s behavior. It was up to them to point out whenever a group member committed a crime and then punish them (usually by charging them money). These groups weren’t well structured because members could leave one borh and then join another. Out of this, a new policing system emerged called the frankpledge system. Tythings/tithings, groups of boys aged twelve and over from ten households, reported all crime. It was a little more structured than the borh because the men had to participate. If a member of the tything engaged in criminal activity, he would be brought to court. If he didn’t comply, the whole tything would be accountable for the criminal’s actions and have to pay for it. In the frankpledge system, a leader was chosen called the hundredman. He would oversee ten tythings, also known as a hundred. The first .
The term “hundredman” later turned into “parish constable.” At that time, the church was mainly responsible for policing duties. Before 1617, the members of the church decided on the constable but after, the justice of the peace took on deciding. One parish constable became many and they were less and less effective. Two other early police forces were the shire reeves (sheriffs) and the watchmen. Shire reeves were in rural areas and the watchmen were in urban areas. They both tried to stop crime, however shire reeves arrested the culprits themselves and watchmen told the parish constable who would arrest them. Watchmen were considered “tattle tales” and were frowned upon. Thief takers were another police-like figure. They were considered to be early detectives. People who were affected by crime, usually crime having to do with stolen property, called on thief takers to imprison the criminal and return their stolen good. But, the thief taker would do this at a price and they would usually work for both sides. They would charge the victim for the imprisonment of the criminal and the return of the item. The thief taker would also talk to the criminal and the criminal would pay the thief taker for their protection. Thief takers also tortured the people in prison and made them pay for food and shelter.
The first official police force was called the Metropolitan Police. Sir Robert Peel, also known as the “Father of Modern Policing” (Rennison & Dodge, 2016, p. 101), established it on September 29, 1829 in London with the Metropolitan Police Act. There were 1,000 constables called Bobbies or Peelers. It was of paramilitary structure, but it functioned very immorally. This system was a transition to current day policing with Peel’s concepts of good community and police relations, no unneeded force, and ability to work together.
In America, they also adapted parish constables and sheriffs. The constables worked in the colonies and sheriffs worked in counties.
Vigilantes were also created in the colonies. They called upon themselves to control crime.
In the article “The History of Policing in the United States,” by Dr. Gary Potter, he states:
In the Southern states the development of American policing followed a different path. The genesis of the modern police organization in the South is the “Slave Patrol” (Platt 1982). The first formal slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies in 1704 (Reichel 1992). Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules. Following the Civil War, these vigilante-style organizations evolved in modern Southern police departments primarily as a means of controlling freed slaves who were now laborers working in an agricultural caste system, and enforcing “Jim Crow” segregation laws, designed to deny freed slaves equal rights and access to the political system. (2013 p. 2)
Before the 1830s, policing was mainly unsuccessful because no one had proper training, and the police-like figures didn’t take their job seriously, or they even enacted in criminal behavior themselves. At that time, crime skyrocketed so the people needed to change the way they were handling it. Boston and New York became the first two cities to reform their ways of policing. In the textbook, Introduction to Criminal Justice: Systems, Diversity, and Change, by Callie Marie Rennison and Mary Dodge, they wrote the following on early police departments in America:
In 1838, Boston was the first major city to require by statute the maintenance of a permanent night watch patrol. In 1854 – 1855, this night watch was joined with the Boston Police (the day patrol) to form a united entity. Boston also created the first detective division in 1851. New York City organized a police force with three separate components supervised by different authorities, and rivalries existed among the factions. In 1844, the forces were united in a centrally directed police department that was based on Peel’s English Bobbies. In the 1830s, using funds left by a philanthropist, Philadelphia organized a 24-member police force and a night force with 120 watchmen. This force was short-lived, so most note that Philadelphia created its first formal police department in 1854. A civilian patrol unit was initially implemented in New Orleans, and in 1818, it was replaced by paid watchmen and a professional force. Cincinnati required all adult men to serve in rotations (with no salary) as night watchmen. By the 1870s, unified police forces could be found in most U.S. cities. (p. 105)
During this time, people wanted the police force to be seen as professional, so debates over uniforms and weapons came about. Officers started to carry revolvers in the 1850s and in 1893, there was a larger number of uniformed police officers. In the 20th century, August Vollmer, town marshal of Berkeley, California in 1905, sought to further reform American policing. He is known as “The Father of American Policing” (Rennison ; Dodge, 2016, p. 106). August Vollmer thought that police officers should be educated and well trained, which was the oppose of what they were at the time. He also thought that they should be payed fair wages and not be picked based on who they know, but on their abilities. Vollmer valued morals and he worked to minimize corruption and unlawful violence.
It wasn’t until when women began working in the police force. The first job that they performed were police matrons. They had to take care of the children who were and they helped to prevent female inmates from being sexually assaulted. Women were used to “fill a void” in the police force.