What people think of as modern police forces have not always existed since America’s founding in the 18th century. Law enforcement has gradually evolved along with other developments in American history to create what we now think of as a police force in the 21st century. 

Early attempts at policing before the revolution

Throughout the colonial days and into the first few decades after the revolution, policing was done by an informal group of community members who would stand watch and warn of danger and crime. Some of the early constables that were associated with these watches also conducted other government functions that had nothing to do with crime. In the southern parts of the U.S., most states had comparable groups of people who primarily patrolled and watched for slaves that were attempting to escape or revolt. As the nation grew, more formal arrangements to enforce laws and control illegal behavior became necessary. 

Police forces begin to form in the mid 1800s

The first actual police force was founded in Boston in 1838. Between that time and 1880, just about all the major cities that existed at the time such as New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore all created police forces of their own. 

There are a few reasons why the departments that formed over those few decades were considered the first real police forces. This mostly revolved around them being bureaucratic government entities composed of professionals who had only one, unchanging function. The impetus for their creation seemed to be a combination of more people moving into urban areas and cities, as well as the growth of social crimes and disorganization. These problems were initially related to non-violent offenses such as disorderly drunk people in the streets and widespread prostitution. However, merchants who had a lot of influence on city governments due to their wealth did not want social problems interfering with their business and profits.   

Later changes in the 20th century

Early police forces responded to all kinds of problems in the community, and they would often provide assistance for problems with poverty that had little to do with patrolling for crime. In the early 20th century, police started to become more specialized as governments created various departments and agencies to address all kinds of issues. Police forces started to become larger and more impersonal due to government changes and the availability of automobiles. Officers became more focused on driving to a crime scene, addressing the situation, then driving away rather than being a constant community presence. 

Current issues regarding developments in law enforcement 

As police forces have become more powerful and militarized in the last few decades, concerns have grown regarding departments becoming a danger to public safety even though they are supposed to protect the people. Many policies left over from the war on drugs era of the 1980s and 1990s have permanently changed policing to a model that is less community oriented and more violent. 

Police still need to follow rules like the rest of us

To learn more about your rights and the process of making sure the police do not abuse their authority, contact a lawyer on USAttorneys.com. They can assist you after an incident of police brutality or misconduct. 

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