In addition, the creation of the modern police force in the United States also immutably altered the definition of the police function. Policing had always been a reactive enterprise, occurring only in response to a specific criminal act. Centralized and bureaucratic police departments, focusing on the alleged crime-producing qualities of the "dangerous classes" began to emphasize preventative crime control. The presence of police, authorized to use force, could stop crime before it started by subjecting everyone to surveillance and observation. The concept of the police patrol as a preventative control mechanism routinized the insertion of police into the normal daily events of everyone's life, a previously unknown and highly feared concept in both England and the United States (Parks 1976).
These "modern police" organizations shared similar characteristics: (1) they were publicly supported and bureaucratic in form; (2) police officers were full-time employees, not community volunteers or case-by-case fee retainers; (3) departments had permanent and fixed rules and procedures, and employment as a police officers was continuous; (4) police departments were accountable to a central governmental authority (Lundman 1980).
History of Policing in the U.S. - Part One - YouTube
In the 1930s with the Great Depression came changes in how employment was popularly viewed, and women's empoyment suffered because of this. A married woman with a job was seen as wrongfully taking a job away from a man who needed it to support his family. Women were always assumed to be on their way to getting married, if they were not already married, and therefore not needing a job. As jobs became more scarce, women's career aspirations suffered. This time period also saw a change in how law enforcement officers perceived their social role. In the mid-1930s the FBI was formed, and law enforcement officers began to project a role of "combatant of crime," turning away from the idea that police should work as social agents against moral decline or destitution.
The Early Days of American Law Enforcement
Defining social control as crime control was accomplished by raising the specter of the "dangerous classes." The suggestion was that public drunkenness, crime, hooliganism, political protests and worker "riots" were the products of a biologically inferior, morally intemperate, unskilled and uneducated underclass. The consumption of alcohol was widely seen as the major cause of crime and public disorder. The irony, of course, is that public drunkenness didn't exist until mercantile and commercial interests created venues for and encouraged the commercial sale of alcohol in public places. This underclass was easily identifiable because it consisted primarily of the poor, foreign immigrants and free blacks (Lundman 1980: 29). This isolation of the "dangerous classes" as the embodiment of the crime problem created a focus in crime control that persists to today, the idea that policing should be directed toward "bad" individuals, rather than social and economic conditions that are criminogenic in their social outcomes.
Important Dates in Law Enforcement History
These informal modalities of policing continued well after the American Revolution. It was not until the 1830s that the idea of a centralized municipal police department first emerged in the United States. In 1838, the city of Boston established the first American police force, followed by New York City in 1845, Albany, NY and Chicago in 1851, New Orleans and Cincinnati in 1853, Philadelphia in 1855, and Newark, NJ and Baltimore in 1857 (Harring 1983, Lundman 1980; Lynch 1984). By the 1880s all major U.S. cities had municipal police forces in place.