History: Police Departments

1910 officers Greenwich.jpg

Black and white photograph of the Greewich Police Department in 1910. Photo sourced from: Greenwhichct.gov

The Beginning

  The first police department in the United States was established in New York City in 1844. The 1840’s and 50’s saw the rise of departments across the United States as other major citites in the United States began to establish their own police departments. Police Departments were modeled after the London Metropolitan Police, departments were designed to prevent crime and public disturbances. Early police departments didn’t have any detectives, hence solving crimes was often difficult. When public resentment grew for the inability of the police to prevent most crime, departments started forming detective divisions. New York City formed the first detective division in 1857.

Ideology & Structure

   Police departments in the United States are tied directly to our country’s ideological focus of having local and state control over government agencies as opposed to the federal government. This pushed towns and state governments to create their own police departments and agencies. The federal government didn’t form any agencies until 1908 when President Roosevelt formed the Bureau of Investigations, which would later become the FBI we know today.

  The first state run police departments formed around this time as well. In 1905 Pennsylvania formed the first state run police department. State police had a different purpose in comparison to their local counterparts. State Police focused on crime in areas where local departments were too corrupt or inefficient. They were also used to break strikes in areas where local departments might be sympathetic towards the workers.