Behold the real granddaddy of modern law enforcement

Henry Fielding, Patrick Colquhoun and Sir Robert Peel are the three people most often linked to the creation of the first modern police services in England. In 1748 the playwright and author Henry Fielding agreed to become an assistant magistrate of the Bow Street court. He is recognized for two important advancements in law enforcement. First, Fielding used his publications to promote reform and increase recognition of social and legal issues. Second, he put together a team of employees civilians without uniform charged with investigating offenses and bringing the accused to justice.

The Bow Street Runners were the first taxpayer-funded organization to prioritize crime prevention while investigating crimes and apprehending perpetrators. Later, the group expanded the duty to stop crime using preemptive patrols, significantly changing the law enforcement system. Previously, citizens involved in social surveillance were only required to respond to crimes.

Henry Fieldingcirca 1743, etching by wild jonathan.

Most English people rejected the creation of a police force, in defiance of the initiatives of the Bow Street Runners. The valorization of human rights and the English heritage of local governance provided the basis for their resistance. A Scottish magistrate named Patrick Colquhoun created the police discipline in the 1790s to solve these problems and establish the police force.

According to Colquhoun, the duties of a police officer should include identifying criminal activity, apprehending perpetrators, and preventing criminal activity by being visible in public. Other well-known academics at the time also agreed that law enforcement had a useful purpose. For example, the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria argued that it is better to prevent offenses than to punish them.

Colquhoun claimed that heavily controlled police units should establish their separate divisions within the government. Furthermore, he argued that if formed as a separate entity within government, judicial officers could oversee and regulate police powers, effectively advocating the division of powers managed by a constitutional system. Political philosophers the conceptions of the social system were in harmony with the notions presented in police science. Political theorists speculated about how societies, nations, and governments interacted in the 17th and 18th centuries.

According to the social contract theory, each member of the community enters into an agreement with their state, whereby the latter undertakes to protect them and maintain the social order. Community members agree to give up some of their freedoms, such as the power to use force to defend their personal goals, in exchange for this security. Democracy is a system of government that balances individual rights with the demands of the community. The police are the civil servants responsible for preserving this balance in contemporary society.

Unfortunately, problems with the English custom of local government control persisted. Sir Robert Peel spoke on this. Under the Metropolitan Police Act, a law approved by Parliament in 1829; Peel is credited with founding the first professional police force in England. This Act established a single agency responsible for policing within the boundaries of London. With its headquarters at Scotland Yard, the unit was initially made up of 1,000 police officers divided into six categories.

These uniformed police officers developed innovative policing practices that formed the basis of today’s police force. Similar police forces could be established in other communities under the County Police Act of 1839, in which local and central governments shared the responsibility and financial burdens of organizations. While the three are credited with forming the foundation of law enforcement, Patrick Colquhoun had the greatest impact by introducing his police science. Others had failed before, but his new method of policing made sense to most people, ultimately making him the grandfather of modern law enforcement.

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