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Police: History

Early Policing In England, The Beginning Of "modern" Policing In England, Early Policing In Colonial America

Throughout the history of civilization, societies have sought protection for their members and possessions. In early civilizations, members of one's family provided this protection. Richard Lundman has suggested that the development of formal policing resulted from a process of three developmental stages. The first stage involves informal policing, where all members of a society share equally in the responsibility for providing protection and keeping order. The second stage, transitional policing, occurs when police functions are informally assigned to particular members of the society. This stage serves as a transition into formal policing, where specific members of the community assume formal responsibility for protection and social control. Lundman suggests that the history of police involved a shift from informal to formal policing. Indeed, as societies have evolved from mechanical (members share similar beliefs and values but meet their basic needs independently) to organic (members are dependent upon one another as a result of specialization) societies, social control became more complex. Whereas there was little need for formal, specialized policing in mechanical societies, organic societies require more specialization to ensure public order.

Over time, organic societies developed into states and governments. A state is defined as "a political creation that has the recognized authority to use and maintain a monopoly on the use of force within a clearly defined jurisdiction," while a government is a "political institution of the state that uses organization, bureaucracy, and formality to regulate social interactions" (Gaines et al., p. 1). The origins of formal policing began with the organization of societies into states and governments.

The form of government heavily influences the structure of police organizations. As Lang-worthy and Travis have argued, "since all police systems rely on state authority, the source of state power ultimately represents the basis of police authority as well" (p. 42). Different forms of government have established different types of police forces. Shelley suggests that there are four different models of policing (i.e., communist, Anglo-Saxon, continental, and colonial) that differ based on their sources of legitimacy, organizational structure, and police function. The present author suggests that the communist model of policing obtains legitimacy through the communist political party, is organized as a centralized, armed militarized force, and performs the functions of crime control and enforcement of state ideology. The continental and colonial models have similar organizational structures and functions as the communist model, however the continental model obtains its legitimacy through the central government while the colonial model establishes legitimacy through the colonial authority. In comparison, the Anglo-Saxon model obtains legitimacy through local governments and is based in law. This model is organized as a decentralized force that is armed in some countries (United States) and not in others (England). Finally, police functions in this model include crime control, order maintenance, and welfare and administrative responsibilities.

In this entry, a historical description of the Anglo-Saxon model of policing is presented. The changes in the mission, strategies, and organizational structures of policing through different time periods are examined. A particular emphasis is placed on the historical roots of policing in England and their influence on modern policing in America. This entry will also detail the changes of American police forces since their establishment in the 1800s as organizations of social control. Current debate about recent changes in the mission, strategies, and organizational structures of police will be described and the future of police organizations will be examined.



Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law