A Short History of the American Police

A Short History of the American Police

Learning Objective 2: Explain how intelligence-led policing works and how it benefits modern police departments.

A. Modern society relies on law enforcement officers to control and prevent crime

B. In the early days police services had little to do with crime control

i. Policing efforts of first American cities were directed toward controlling certain groups of people (slaves and Native Americans), delivering goods, regulating activities, maintaining health and sanitation, controlling gambling and vice, and managing livestock and other animals

ii. These police services were performed mostly by volunteers

iii. Often volunteers were organized in the night watch system, brought over from England by colonists in the seventeenth century

C. The Evolution of American Law Enforcement

i. Night watchmen were required to do little

a. As the population of American cities grew, so did the need for public order

ii. Early Police Departments

a. In 1833, Philadelphia was the first city to employ both day and night watchmen through “reactive patrol units” geared toward enforcing the law and preventing crime

b. Five years later, Boston formed the first organized police department

1. Consisted of six full-time officers

2. Modeled after the London Metropolitan Police

c. In 1844, New York City set the foundation for the modern police department by combining its day and night watches under the control of a single police chief

iii. The Political Era

a. Many early police officers were hardworking, honest, and devoted to serving and protecting the public; however, as a whole the quality of American police service was poor. The reasons are:

1. Recruitment and promotion of police officers was intricately tied into the politics of the day

2. Police officers received their jobs as a result of political connections, not because of their skills or knowledge

b. Corruption was rampant during the political era of policing from 1840 to 1930

1. Police salaries were relatively low

2. Many officers saw their positions as opportunities to make extra income through illegal activities

3. Bribery was common: “favors”, “contribution”

4. Referred to as the patronage system or the “spoils system” because the political victors gained the spoils

What If Scenario

What if…you were a new police recruit and you knew about a police officer who is taking bribes from certain criminals in exchange for overlooking their criminal activity. What would you do?

iv. The Reform Era

a. O.W. Wilson and A. Vollmer, promoted a style of policing known as the professional model

1. Police chiefs took more control over their departments

2. Police departments in many major cities were reorganized

i. Midlevel positions were added to the force as majors or assistant chiefs

· Could develop and implement crime-fighting strategies

· Could more closely supervise individual officers

3. Police chefs tried to consolidate their power by bringing large areas of a city under their control

4. This trend benefited law enforcement agents in numerous ways

i. Increase of salaries

ii. Improvement of working conditions

iii. Women and members of minority groups were given opportunities

5. This trend benefited police administrators

i. Greater extent of control over officers

ii. Controlling effectiveness

iii. Discouraging any contact with citizens that did not relate to law enforcement

v. The Community Era

a. Civil rights movement, protests against war in Vietnam, poor relations between the police and African American communities

b. The community era of policing may have started with several government initiatives that took place in 1968

c. In the 1970s police administrators were forced to combine efforts to improve community relations with aggressive and innovative crime-fighting strategies

1. Proactive strategies aim at stopping crimes before they are committed

2. Community policing is based on interactions between officers and citizens developing into a partnership for preventing and fighting crime

Media Tool

“Community Policing and Hate Crimes”

· https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji-jiF_nzhc

· A short clip about the value of community policing in the fight against hate crimes.


D. Policing Today: Intelligence, Terrorism, and Technology

i. Intelligence-Led Policing

a. Predictive policing that relies on data – intelligence – concerning past crime patterns to predict future crime patterns.

ii. The Challenges of Counterterrorism

a. Anti-terrorism policing involves gathering intelligence and preventing terrorist acts before they occur.

b. Police departments and sheriffs’ offices are gathering intelligence related to terrorism

c. Challenges include cooperation and information sharing across agencies and scarce resources

iii. Law Enforcement 2.0

a. Increased reliance on social media technology

b. Online Investigations and Intelligence

1. Criminals leave evidence of their crimes in messages, tweets, photos, videos, tags, etc.

2. About 90% of law enforcement agencies monitor social media

3. Facebook undercover

c. Technology on the Beat

1. Technology improves the capabilities of officers

2. Special applications on smartphones and tablet computers allow officers to access databases

What If Scenario

What if . . . your local police department was given a federal grant to develop an intelligence-led policing unit (ILP) that could operate for a period of one year in your area. What steps would you take towards implementing this unit? What types of criminal activity are conducive to pattern tracking under intelligence-led policing? What sources can you rely on to gather intelligence? Give an example of how ILP would work for solving drug crimes. What about auto theft cases?

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