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The History and Structure of Law Enforcement in the United States

This article was originally written in 2015 as a student paper for the CJ 201 Introduction to Criminal Justice course at Minot State University.

Law enforcement in the United States is a complex and multifaceted system. It is made up of a variety of different agencies, at different levels of government, with different responsibilities.

Early American Policing

The early American police system was based mostly on the British development. The American started with improved versions of the night watch and the day ward. But quickly started to change to adapt to the needs of the colonists. The frontier was one of the major factors in the development of the American policing. Due to the vast size of America, it was hard to police everywhere, which led to the forming of vigilantism. Paid policing in cities started in 1658 with the hiring of watchmen. In 1693 the first uniformed officer was employed by New York City. The first police station was established in 1731. Many major cities followed New York by establishing police stations. Further advances in the American policing were impeded by the Civil War. Many Southern cities came under martial law and were policed by the military.

The Prohibition Era

The prohibition era was a dark period for American law enforcement. The ban on alcohol led to many criminals to trade in the bootlegged liquor, which earned them big sums of money. The criminals became so wealthy that they were able to corrupt the police by bribing them.

The Three Levels of Public Law Enforcement

There are three levels of public law enforcement in the United States:

  • Federal: Federal law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing laws that apply to the entire country. Some of the most important federal law enforcement agencies include the FBI, DEA, and USMS.
  • State: State law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing laws that apply to their state. State law enforcement agencies often have specialized units that focus on particular crimes, such as drug trafficking or organized crime.
  • Local: Local law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing laws that apply to their city or county. Local law enforcement agencies include police departments, sheriff’s departments, and county constables.

Private Protective Services

In addition to public law enforcement, there is also a significant private security industry in the United States. Private security companies provide security services to businesses, individuals, and other organizations. Private security guards outnumber public police officers by a significant margin.

The Future of Law Enforcement

The future of law enforcement in the United States is likely to be shaped by a number of factors, including the increasing diversity of the population, the growing threat of terrorism, and the increasing use of technology. Law enforcement agencies will need to adapt to these changes in order to continue to provide effective service to the public.

I hope this post has given you a better understanding of the history and structure of law enforcement in the United States.

I am a private investigator based in Mexico with over 5 years of experience. I am multilingual and certified in a variety of investigative disciplines, including asset tracing, fraud detection, and surveillance. I specialize in money laundering, corruption, and fraud, and I have a proven track record of success in recovering stolen assets and bringing criminals to justice.

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Fahad Hizam alHarbi, PI