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Police: History - Early Policing In England

system citizens crime rise

Until the mid-1800s, law enforcement in England was a local responsibility of citizens. From 1066 (invasion and conquering of England by William Duke of Normandy) to the 1300s, police services were provided through the frankpledge system. Under this system, citizens were appointed with the responsibility of maintaining order and controlling crime. Men were formed into groups of ten, called a tything. Ten tythings were grouped into a hundred and were supervised by a constable. Groups of ten hundreds created a shire, controlled by reeves. The word shire-reeve is the derivative of our current term sheriff (Uchida). In 1215, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, a document that guaranteed basic civil rights to citizens. The rights guaranteed under the Magna Carta limited the power of the throne and their appointees, and greatly contributed to many of the liberties citizens of England and America enjoy today.

During the 1500s, England increased its participation in world trade and through the 1700s more citizens moved into the cities and crime began to rise. Although England had one of the harshest criminal justice systems of its time, including death sentences for minor crimes, crime and disorder continued to rise. Many began to hire their own private police, and the king began a system of night watch for the large cities. In 1737, the first formal taxation system for the purpose of law enforcement was introduced. City councils were allowed to levy taxes to pay for a night watch system (Gaines et al.). Despite these efforts, crime continued to rise and the need for a different system of policing was evident.

Police: History - The Beginning Of "modern" Policing In England [next]

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