Eras of Policing

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  • Topic: Police, Crime, Robert Peel
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  • Published : May 11, 2008
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Policing as we know it today has developed from various political, economic, and social forces. To better understand the role of police in society, one has to know the history of how policing became what it is today. Policing has been categorized into three basic eras, which include the Political Era, Reform Era, and lastly the Community Problem-Solving Era that is the present form of policing.

Most all of modern-western democracies are based on Sir Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Force, which was instituted in 1829. Sir Robert Peel was the founder of modern day policing. He represented Tamworth in Staffordshire for eighteen years. As Home Secretary, he reformed the organization of London‘s weak police force known as Bow Street Runners. These men were thief takers, and also used as watchmen of the night, who consisted of old men who offered no real deterrence to aggressive criminals. Peele soon replaced them with a new force known as “Peelers” or “Bobbies” consisting of young men dressed in dark uniform (Hughes).

Peel’s modern policing consisted of nine principles:
The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it. (New Westminster Police)

Though a great resistance arose from Peele‘s force, which was viewed by the citizens of London as a breach of civil rights, his force soon became common and respected by the people. They soon broke the path to a modern and popular form of policing throughout Great Britian and the rest of the emerging civilized world. (Hughes).

The Political Era, which lasted roughly from the years of Sir Robert Peele to the early 1900s, the police were governed by local political leaders. Policing during this time was decentralized which opened the door for corruption through politics. Police departments were intimately connected to the social and political world. Police officers were often bought to not enforce moral crimes such as gambling, drinking, and prostitution. The tactics and technology during this time included foot patrols, and call boxes (where they were available). This made the policing of the era very inefficient due to the lack of communication because the police beats were virtually impossible to contact.

The lack of organizational control over officers resulting from decentralization and the political nature of police positions caused inefficiencies and disorganization. Close relationships of citizens to the police resulted in discrimination against strangers and other who violated norms, ethnic minorities and racial groups. The officers often engaged in the use of force and enjoyed the...
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