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Chapter 5 – History and Structure of American Law Enforcement. The Limited Authority of American Law Enforcement. The United States has almost 18,000 public law enforcement agencies. The jurisdiction of each agency is carefully limited by law.
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The United States has almost 18,000 public law enforcement agencies. The jurisdiction of each agency is carefully limited by law.
Law enforcement is also limited by the procedural law derived from U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Even compared with other democratic nations of the world, the U.S. has remarkably more police agencies that operate under far more restrictions to their authority.
Like much of the criminal justice system, this limited law enforcement model came from England.
Our familiar law enforcement system, in which uniformed officers respond to calls for help and plainclothes detectives investigate, developed over hundreds of years in England.
By the 12th century in England, the practice of resolving disputes privately gave way to a system of group protection, called the tithing system.
A private self-held protection system in early medieval England, in which a group of ten families, or a tithing, agreed to follow the law, keep the peace in their areas, and bring law violators to justice.
In larger areas, ten tithings were grouped together to form a hundred, and one or several hundreds constituted a shire. The shire was under the direction of the shire reeve.
The Statute of Winchester, in 1285, formalized the constable-watch system of protection.
A system of protection in early England in which citizens, under the direction of a constable, or chief peacekeeper, were required to guard the city and to pursue criminals.
The peacekeeper in charge of protection in early English towns.
The police became known as bobbies or peelers after Robert Peel, who had pushed for their creation.
The police were organized around Peel’s Principles of Policing.
The United States has more police departments than any other nation in the world.
Virtually every community has its own police force, creating a great disparity in the quality of American police personnel and service.
Settlers to the new American colonies brought with them the constable-watch system, which became common (although not necessarily effective) in cities.
In many rural areas, a sheriff and posse system was commonly used.
America developed with two separate law enforcement systems.
The earliest form of policing in the South. They were a product of the slave codes.
In the American frontier, justice often meant vigilantism.
Self-protection remains very popular in the South and West.
Growing populations, as well as the inability of some local sheriffs and constables to control crime, led states to create their own law enforcement agencies.
It was not until the early 20th Century that reformers began advocating training and education for police officers.
Reformers also aimed to remove the police from political influences.
American law enforcement agencies are extremely diverse in:
Most police departments (almost 90%) in the U.S. employ fewer than 50 sworn officers.
Large departments have many specialized departments.
Small departments rarely have specialized departments, or officers trained in complex investigation.
A substantial portion of law enforcement work in the United States is carried out by the sheriff’s departments.
County sheriff and department personnel perform many functions:
Most sheriffs are directly elected and depend on an elected board of county commissioners or supervisors for funding.
State law enforcement agencies provide criminal and traffic law enforcement, and other services particular to the needs of that state government.
Each state has chosen one of two models for providing law enforcement services:
State police model
Highway patrol model
Example: Texas Rangers
Example: California Highway Patrol
A model of state law enforcement services in which the agency and its officers have the same law enforcement powers as local police, but can exercise them anywhere within the state.
A model of state law enforcement services in which officers focus on highway traffic safety, enforcement of the state’s traffic laws, and the investigation of accidents on the state’s roads, highways, and on state property.
Among the best-known federal law enforcement agencies are:
Lesser-known agencies also exist. Their jurisdictions are narrowly defined by specific statutes.
Major differences between federal law enforcement and local and state police are:
Private security in the United States is a huge enterprise.
The U.S. spends about 75% more on private security than on public policing each year.
Private security employment is often categorized two ways:
Example: security guards hired for a college football game
Example: the security force for a corporation’s manufacturing plants
Protective services that a private security firm provides to people, agencies, and companies that do not employ their own security personnel or that need extra protection. Contract security employees are not peace officers.
In-house protective services that a security staff, which is not classified as sworn peace officers, provide for the entity that employs them.
A number of factors have stimulated the phenomenal growth of private security since the 1970s: