Three Centuries of Policing, Essay Example

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England, France, and America

Question 1: Police systems that developed in France and England during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries reveals fundamental differences in policing. What were they? The differences were derived in general from Anglo-Saxon and Roman forms of local and national governments, and in response to local political conditions. In England, there was a greater emphasis by the police on criminal law, rather than the enforcement of matters that might be considered more administrative. There was also greater leeway granted to police at the local level, as exercised by sheriffs and constables, which in their turn had origins in the medieval system of tithing and night-watchmen. By contrast, in France the police were more actively administrative police as well, manifested in part by much higher levels of surveillance of dissident political groups. Centralization led to a clear chain of command from Paris to villages. In the short story The Purloined Letter, the Parisian Prefecture of Police says he has keys that can open any chamber or cabinet in Paris, a claim Sherlock Holmes’ bumbling ally Inspector Lestrade couldn’t have dreamed of making in London fifty years later.

Question 2: What are your views pertaining to the self-help law enforcement methods used in America’s frontier? I think the methods were most visible and probably most effective, for good or for bad, at their extremes. Initially the frontier was the entire eastern seaboard, and gave rise to the militia system, as formalized by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Later, civilians were deputized to enforce slave codes in the American South. During the Gold Rush, peaceful citizens organized armed vigilante-organizations as needed in San Francisco to enforce the laws and punish capital crimes. And throughout the Wild West, citizens earned bounties by bringing in criminals dead or alive. America’s self-help legal tradition, like the differences in Anglo-Saxon and Roman law, is very much alive and well. I’m in favor of it.

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