History of Policing
Political Era
Due to the development of industrial cities in the United States from the mid 1800’s till the 1920’s policing was established in the United States. This era of policing is referred to as the “Political Era of policing. During this era, police represented the local politicians in the neighborhoods that they patrolled. There was no civil service system, so the police were hired, fired and managed at the discretion of the local politicians. Politicians ran precincts as small departments. This meant that the mission of the police was also the same mission of their local politicians. During this era, the police in the United States had to keep the politicians pleased which led the police to handle community crime problems that favored the local politicians. Officers were selected for their political service and the police officer owed his allegiance to the ward boss and police captain who chose him. New officers were sent on patrol with no training and few instructions beyond rulebook. A police officer was considered a decent job but had extremely poor job security due to political turnover.

During this era, police were on foot patrol and knew their communities very well. They knew exactly who was supposed to be there and who wasn’t. The police recognized potential crime problems based on the intelligence they received from members of the community and what they observed on a daily basis. Officers were intimately connected with the social and political community. Since the radio car wasn’t implemented yet, the police used a “call box” to report to the stationhouse. During this era, the police provided a wide variety of social services. They ran soup lines, provided temporary lodging for newly arrived immigrant workers in station houses and even assisted the ward leader in finding work for immigrants.

During this era, police had limited supervision and an enormous amount of discretion. Because police officers worked alone or in small groups, there was ample opportunities to shake down peddlers and small businesses. Officers allowed gamblers, pick pocketers and thieves to go about their business in return for a share of proceedings. This structure led to a culture of police corruption and a reform was needed.
    
Professional Era
From the end of the political era till the early 1970’s, policing in the United States went through the “Professional Era”. The professional era rejected politics as the basis of police legitimacy. The civil service system was implemented which ended political influences in the hiring and firing of officers. Police were no longer seen as working for the political leaders and seen as “law enforcement”.

The professional era introduced a variety of policing practices, professional police training and policing academic institutions. During this era, many police management concepts were introduced, police science and police training programs were formed, as well as professional police training organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police http://www.theiacp.org/. The radio car was introduced and many police officers were taken off their foot posts and put into cars. The patrol car became the symbol of policing during the professional era. Equipped with a radio, it was at the limits of technology. It represented mobility, power, conspicuous presence, control of officers, and professional distance from citizens. The goal soon became faster response time. In the patrol cars, police distanced themselves from their communities.

Using the focus on criminal law as a basic source of police legitimacy, police in the professional era moved to narrow their functioning to crime control and criminal apprehension. The professional era of policing led to the police not knowing their communities and a sub-culture of “us vs. them”. Police were protectors of the status quo and when the Vietnam War and civil rights protests came around, police were on the front line of extreme conflict between college aged protestors and the government. During this era, police were only seen in time of conflict and police actions set off riots and much force was used against citizens to defuse situations. The professional style was not working which led to studies, research and experiments to try to understand what works. It was concluded that police-community collaboration was essential. In the late 1970’s the “Community Policing” era developed.
Community Policing Era
We are currently in the community policing era of the history of policing in the United States. The origins of the community policing era can be traced back to numerous studies conducted by social scientists in the 1970’s and 1980’s of what policing strategies work.

The philosophy of community policing is not specifically defined and may vary based on individual police departments. However, the underlying factors are all the same. These factors include the department reducing crime, fear, disorder and for members of the community to feel that their police department is receptive to their feedback.

Even with tremendous advances in technology since the origins of the community policing era, it is still crucial for the police to work in collaboration with the community to develop a sense of lawfulness in our society.

Policing And Social Change

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History
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In The United States
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