Origin of Law Enforcement

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England formed their first law enforcement or criminal justice system sometime in the late ninth century. The law enforcement system that was established put the responsibility of keeping order on the citizens. This law enforcement or criminal justice system was known as a mutual pledge system.

England’s king, Alfred the Great, was credited with forming the mutual pledge system. King Alfred formed this system to prepare his kingdom from an invasion by the Danish. The mutual pledge system is a system based on society control. Mutual pledge is citizens that are grouped together to protect each other. (Dempsey and Forst, p. 4) The responsibility of mutual pledge was broken down into multiple levels. The first level was known as tithings. A tithing was 10 families who were grouped together. In this group the members are put together to not only protect one another but to take responsibility for the group members’ actions. The second level of mutual pledge is called a hundred. A hundred in 10 tithing grouped together and put under the control of a constable. A constable is an official assigned to keep the peace and to deal with more serious breaches of the law. (Dempsey and Forst, p. 4) In the mutual pledge system citizens were expected to police their own communities. If there was trouble in the community then they would raise a hue and cry. A hue and cry is a yell for help. If a hue and cry was done then the citizens of the community were expected to come and assist the citizen or citizens that gave the hue and cry. While tithings were in charge of small communities, hundreds were in charge of shires. Shires are the equivalent to today’s countries. (Dempsey and Forst, p. 4) The king controlled the shires but put a shire-reeve or sheriff in place to govern the shire.

Even though the mutual pledge system was the first reference to a law enforcement or criminal justice system put in place, it wasn’t until 1829 that the first English police department was...
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