The Transformation of Criminal Justice, Philadelphia, 1800-1880

By Allen Steinberg | Go to book overview

8. The Impact of Consolidation

Almost immediately after the consolidated police began service, officers established a relationship with the police magistrates which rested squarely on the experience of the marshal's police and its predecessors. Like the earlier pattern of primary justice in police cases, its informality resembled private prosecution, but its greatest importance was that it cemented a link between the minor judiciary and the police which would more than rival private prosecution.

On the whole consolidation was, in many ways, illusory. Its success depended in large part on the acquiescence of the same politicians whose activities it had been designed to control. Building on the old practices of primary justice, aldermen remained in control of criminal prosecution, profiting now from police cases in ways unheard of before. Building on the formerly submerged aspects of police authority, the police carved out a new arena of law enforcement in the city's streets. The procedures of ward politics intensified with the rise of a citywide political machine. As a result, the police became closely tied to both the existing structure of primary justice and the new structure of urban politics, the courts moved even further out of the control of the judges and grand jurors, and the administration of justice was anything but a tidy matter.

It was, therefore, not long before the reformers were busy again. Prodded by some of the aldermen themselves, reformers developed a logic that saw private prosecution as the root of the new problems of criminal justice and disempowering private prosecutors as the solution. This would, they hoped, further both the rise of the administrative state and the decline of machine politics, but as some aldermen already understood, and as time would tell, it would primarily further only the former.1


The Police and the Aldermen

The city was divided into fourteen police districts in 1854, and the new police began service late that fall. They worked on a rotating schedule of day and night patrols, with two-thirds of the officers on night duty.2 The police department was slightly reorganized several times over the next two decades.

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The Transformation of Criminal Justice, Philadelphia, 1800-1880
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction: the Greatest Luxury of All 1
  • Part I the Duality of Criminal Justice 11
  • 1. Courtrooms and Cases 13
  • Part Ii the World of Private Prosecution 35
  • 2. the Aldermen and Primary Justice 37
  • 3. the Courts of Record 56
  • 4. the Weakness of Court Officials 79
  • 5. Politics and Private Prosecution, 1800-1850 92
  • Part III the Rise of State Prosecution 117
  • 6. the Origins of Police Authority 119
  • 7. Consolidation and Compromise 150
  • Part Iv the Decline of Private Prosecution 169
  • 8. the Impact of Consolidation 171
  • 9. the Transformation of Primary Justice 196
  • Epilogue 224
  • Appendix 233
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index 323
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