policing | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: General Term

Policing is the practice of maintaining social order, preventing crime, and enforcing the law, and has evolved over time to reflect changes in society and technology.

Policing is the practice of maintaining social order, preventing crime, and enforcing the law. The concept dates back to ancient times when societies used appointed officials to maintain order and resolve disputes. Over time, it has evolved and become more complex, reflecting changes in society and the development of new technologies and strategies.

History of Policing

In the historical context, it was often a function of local government and was carried out by appointed officials or volunteers. In ancient societies, these officials were often responsible for resolving disputes and maintaining order in the community. In medieval England, these duties were carried out by local officials known as constables, who were responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining public order.

In the early modern period, the concept evolved in response to social and political changes. In England, the development of a centralized government and the growth of cities led to the creation of a professional police force, which was tasked with maintaining public order and preventing crime. The first professional police force was established in London in 1829 and was known as the Metropolitan Police.

In the United States, it evolved in a different context but retained a decentralized system of law enforcement. Early policing in the United States was carried out by local officials, including sheriffs and constables. In the 19th century, many cities established professional forces, which were tasked with maintaining public order and enforcing the law.

The Modern Context of Policing

In the modern context, it has become increasingly complex and specialized. Police departments are now equipped with a range of technologies and strategies, including computer systems, surveillance cameras, and forensic techniques. Policing has also become more collaborative, with police departments working closely with other government agencies and community groups to prevent crime and maintain public order.

However, the modern context is also the subject of significant criticism and controversy. Critics argue that some police departments engage in racial profiling and excessive use of force and that police officers are not held accountable for their actions. Additionally, there is concern that police departments are becoming increasingly militarized and that the use of military-style equipment and tactics can lead to excessive force and civil rights violations.

In response to these concerns, many police departments have implemented reforms, including training programs to promote cultural sensitivity and community engagement and policies to limit the use of force. Additionally, some jurisdictions have established civilian oversight boards to monitor police activity and hold officers accountable for their actions.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 08/28/2023

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