Policing in America: A Reference Handbook

Policing in America: A Reference Handbook

Policing in America: A Reference Handbook

Policing in America: A Reference Handbook

Synopsis

This book maps the development of modern policing-both theory and practice-from humans&' first efforts at social control, through the British roots of modern policing, to the unique institution of American policing today.

Excerpt

The profession of policing has captured the hearts and minds of many Americans, even those who are violators of the law. As citizens, we notice uniformed officers when they enter a building we are in. We certainly notice them, often nervously, when they appear in our cars’ rearview mirrors. We observe them racing to emergencies and wonder what happened. We become fearful of criminal activity in our neighborhoods and hope the police can come quickly if needed. We also watch news reports of the abuse of police authority, and sometimes we forget that the police are people, too, and capable of indiscretions— indiscretions that are often publicly displayed.

Policing is a profession that conjures up visions of oldfashioned, hard-bitten police work and officers walking the beat, G-men chasing gangsters, and, more recently, forensic investigators and criminal profilers tracking down criminals using scientific innovations. Our ideas about police officers can be found in popular culture archetypes as polarized as Sheriff Andy Taylor (the calm, rural sheriff without a gun of the Andy Griffith Show) and the deadly Inspector Harry Callahan (the aggressive, urban cop of the Dirty Harry movies). Many children in various stages of development imitate the police in games of cops and robbers, and gifts of toy police badges and service revolvers are often the treasured keepsakes of childhood.

The police in America have not always appeared as they do today. In fact, the police as we know them are a relatively recent development. The earliest police systems were actually family policing structures in which community members were accountable for controlling the behavior of their own group as well as for their own protection. When the watch system became ineffective and some people became paid police officers, their duties primarily involved . . .

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