Local, County, and State Police Departments (page 2)
Local policing in the United States is generally associated with attempts by a few large eastern cities, primarily Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, to establish departments modeled after the London Metropolitan Police, a force established in 1829 in England by Sir Robert Peel.
What we would today recognize as police departments began to develop in the mid-1830s, when industrialization, urbanization, and the arrival of immigrants led to previously unseen levels of civil disorder throughout much of the nation, in cities as well as small towns. These changes led the largest cities, including Philadelphia in 1833, Boston in1838, and New York in 1845, to combine their day and night watches into 24-hour paid police departments. Due to organizational issues, New York City's police department is often considered the first fully paid, professional 24-hour police department. Each, though, was an attempt to copy Peel's model and is recognized today as a forerunner of modern police departments, defined as those employing full-time officers who are primarily involved in patroling defined areas (generally termed beats) for the purpose of preventing crime.
By the 1880s, members of most police departments were armed, and in urban areas they were uniformed. Regulations for hiring and promotion brought some stability to police employment. Also around this time, departments placed more emphasis on officers patrolling in uniform so they would be visible to both citizens and supervisors. As small communities grew into towns and then into cities, they went from a small number of constables and town marshals to a 24-hour local police department, often augmented by the sheriff's office.
Just the Facts
This patchwork nature of policing is so woven into law enforcement that it is difficult even to cite the number of departments. The generally-agreed-to figure of about 18,000 policing agencies in the United States represents all agencies, including municipal, county, state, federal, campus, and other special jurisdiction departments. Of this total, about 13,000 are municipal (village, town, or city) or county police agencies; about 3,000 are sheriffs' offices, and 49 are state police agencies. In addition, there are about 1,500 special jurisdiction police agencies and about 500 constable jurisdictions.
County Police Departments
County police departments are different from county sheriffs' offices. They are closer in organization and development to local police. County police departments, beginning in 1925 in Nassau County, NY, developed primarily in counties surrounding large cities that saw population and traffic increases. These increases often overwhelmed the small, fragmented agencies that policed the small communities, leading to mergers and eventually to county police forces. County police departments still tend to be located around large metropolitan areas. Among the largest are the Nassau and Suffolk county departments east of New York City; the Prince Georges and Montgomery county departments in Maryland, and the Arlington and Fairfax county departments in Virginia.
State Police Agencies
Most state police agencies were formed later than sheriffs' offices and local police departments. For that reason they have concurrent (or shared) jurisdiction or responsibility with these agencies. The earliest state police department organized similarly to today's agencies did not appear until 1903 in Connecticut.
Just the Facts
The Texas Rangers were formed in 1835, when Texas gained independence from Mexico. The Rangers, who are still in existence, could not consider themselves a state police agency until 1845, when Texas, which had been a republic, became the 28th state in the union.
Arizona and New Mexico formed mounted patrol agencies prior to statehood, in 1901 and 1905, respectively. Both also became state police agencies when those territories became states about a month apart in 1912. The roles of the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico units, though, were unlike those of modern state police agencies. While they did have certain investigative responsibilities, their primary tasks involved patroling the border with Mexico, making them more like today's U.S. Border Patrol than a state police agency.
The original Connecticut State Police would be unrecognizable today. The agency was developed for the narrow role of combating the growth of illegal liquor markets throughout the state. Without vehicles, the original five troopers rode the state's railroads to investigate reports of illegal manufacture, transport, and sales of liquor. Lacking their own communications network, they relied on shopkeepers to set up a relay system between the commander and officers in the field. Even earlier, in 1865, Massachusetts had also formed a state police force specifically to combat the failure of local police to enforce laws against alcohol trafficking. Controversy plagued the force; it was disbanded in 1875 and once re-established remained fairly small until 1925, when it grew to 50 officers who were stationed in barracks across the state. Because of the early history of the Massachusetts State Police, the Connecticut State Police claim to be the first state police agency. The Massachusetts State Police dispute that claim.
The most active years of state police department development were between 1917 and the 1930s. Their origins are often attributed to the new-found mobility of criminals due to the development of the automobile. In fact, creation of state police agencies was often a battleground between urban and rural politicians and between advocates of labor, who saw state police as primarily strike-breaking forces, and business elites, who cited the inability of local police and sheriffs' offices to curtail local crime. Some elected officials were also concerned about the costs of creating statewide police agencies, but saw them as answers to what were thought to be the inadequacies of sheriffs' officers and small, rural police departments to address growing concerns with crime in the years after World War I.
For these reasons, as a political compromise, a number of state police agencies were originally limited to highway enforcement. Some of these eventually expanded their jurisdictions to become full-service agencies; others did not and remained highway patrol forces.
Today all 50 states with the exception of Hawaii have some type of state police agency, but not all state police agencies are alike. Some are categorized as full-service agencies with multiple law enforcement roles and others are primarily highway patrol agencies. Many state police agencies tend to be more highly centralized agencies than municipal, county, or sheriffs' departments, and they operate in a manner more closely resembling military discipline and demeanor than other police organizations. As part of this ethos, state police tend to put a greater emphasis on physical agility and ability. Not only are candidates faced with arduous physical standards for entry and for graduation from the academy, but in many agencies officers are tested annually to assure they remain in peak physical conditions.
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