Sample Essay on The Police: History, Structure, and Functions

The Police: History, Structure, and Functions


Police are law administration officers often regarded either negatively or positively depending on how they execute their duties. Recently, they have been judged and criticized for engaging in illegal and unethical activities. For example, some police officers have been accused of being racists for shooting innocent members of the African American community. Some police officers have also been convicted for executing their orders under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and illegal substances. Thus, the police image is reviewed, judged, and criticized on daily basis (Villiers, 2006). Thus, the report will discuss the police by focusing on the history, structure, and functions of the law-administering officers.

The Police History

The police body in United States is decentralized, as there is no national police force. The nation ensures independent police agencies execute their mandates at local, state, and federal levels. Thus, police work in cities, suburban police forces, counties, and state and federal agencies independently. The independent enforcement units, however, are also similar as police institutions in the country have common structures. The origin of policing can be traced back in the medieval England during the 9th century. England’s Alfred the Great structured a strategy against the Danish plans to invade his kingdom. The strategy depended on the internal stability of the nation prompting the mutual pledge system to be instituted. The pledge system was applied to organize the country through family groups assuming responsibilities for the actions undertaken by the members. Geographic areas were combined forming shires or counties with administrative units being governed by sheriffs. The duties included enforcing the law and maintaining peace. For example, arrests would be ordered be officials including magistrates presiding over law courts. The administrative units or constables, however, had to call witnesses and examine the prisoners and maintain peace. They were also accused of being corrupt with minimal impact on law enforcement (Walker, 2008).

In 1748, Henry Fielding laid the foundation for the first modern police force. He obtained the cooperation of public-spirited constables in forming small unofficial investigative divisions used against criminals across England. The government acknowledged their efforts and provided funds to support their duties. The first police bill was developed by Sir Robert Peel in 1828. The bill was passed by parliament prompting the London’s Metropolitan Police to be established. The centralized agency was tasked with prevention of criminal activities by apprehending the perpetrators. Thus, Henry Fielding and Sir Robert Peel influence development of policing in United States. After reaching parliament, Sir Robert Peel found a way of creating social control mechanism that was lacking in the policing empires. He sought to strengthen and discipline law enforcing agencies and maintain public order. His actions led the police agencies to acknowledge that they have to implement various changes. For example, the police acknowledged they had to wear uniforms. They also commenced being identified in ranks. More importantly, they acknowledged that discipline is an integral part of the force. Consequently, they strived to prevent crimes and disorders by ensuring perpetrators are apprehended and punished according to the law (Oakes, 2016).

The Police Structure and Functions

Americans are always under diverse forms of authority within state, local, and federal political jurisdictions. Police structures are complex as professional police agencies in public and private sectors are multiple with each representing the enforcement arm in a specific criminal code and judicial body diversely. The mandates and powers of each policing agency can, therefore, be vague and overlapping. For example, local police officers ought to enforce the law and maintain peace in small suburban communities. Their efforts, however, can be complicated by jurisdictional disputes. Other factors encouraging jurisdictional disputes include poor communication, lack of coordination, agency rivalries and inability to share resources with county, state, and federal police bodies. For instance, the New York City is among the largest urban regions that record high rates of criminal activities ranging from drug peddling and petty thefts. The New York City Police Department (NYCPD), New York State Police (NYSP), and the New Jersey Port Authority Police (NJPAP) share and invade the city’s jurisdictional borders in attempts to maintain law and public order. The police authorities and their jurisdictions, therefore, can overlap resulting in a highly complex law enforcement system. As a result, federal law enforcing agencies should be identified under the United States Code. Consequently, the code under Congressional powers can limit agencies’ jurisdictional boundaries. The agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US Marshalls Service, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (Villiers, 2006).

Consequently, state police agencies should be identified as bodies enforcing the law and investigating crimes. They also provide law enforcement services in rural areas without local policing entities. They are also required to fulfil regulatory and investigative roles of federal enforcement agencies and uniformed patrol duties of local police. Regular traffic regulation and routine patrols, therefore, constitute state police agencies’ duties. Their specialized unites should investigate crimes. Conversely, intelligence units should investigate organized crimes and drug trafficking as well as crime laboratories, juvenile units, and state computer facilities (Walker, 2008).

The last structure comprises of county and municipal policing agencies that maintain peace in rural, urban, and unincorporated areas. The agencies include organizations and sheriffs within city, town, and county jurisdictions. They operate within county jurisdictions while providing law enforcement services, maintaining county jails, and offering personnel to serve as court bailiffs. Thus, they can receive prisoners during criminal justice processes, transport them to state institutions, and ensure evictions notices, forfeitures of property, court-ordered liens, divorce papers, and subpoenas are delivered in settling civil matters (Walker, 2008).

The police functions are diverse. Foremost, the police ought to maintain peace. The peacekeeping role is fulfilled by ensuring criminals are arrested during patrols. The police should also intervene in situations threatening public order especially when citizens march in the streets exercising their right of free speech. They should also ensure belligerent drinkers do not annoy or intimidate members of the public. The police should also conduct preliminary investigations of criminal acts. For example, state police departments should identify detective forces specializing in apprehension of criminals. They should collect and preserve evidence, interview witnesses, recover and return stolen properties and respond to dispatches of burglaries in progress.  Cybercrime police units ought to protect cyberspaces. They should prevent crimes like email fraud, identity theft, trade secret hacking, extortion, and child pornography. Ultimately, the police functions include enforcing the law, maintaining peace and order, and protecting people and property (Grant, & Terry, 2008).

In conclusion, a group of law enforcing officers forms the police. Police systems share norms, values, goals, lifestyles, career patterns and occupational structure. They, however, ensure the sharing process begins with socialization as it helps the officers to learn values and behaviour patterns crucial in maintaining peace and order. It is also evident that the personality and culture of the police has been evolving depending on their obligations to exercise power. As a result, the police should acknowledge they represent the largest visible segments of the criminal justice system. Consequently, they should continue to enforce the law and maintain public order and peace at local, state, and federal levels.



Grant, H., & Terry, K. (2008). Law Enforcement in the 21st Century. Pearson Education.

Oakes, J. C. (2016). How Sir Robert Peel Influenced Police History. Criminal Justice Law.

Villiers, P. (2006). World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems. Detroit, MI: Gale.

Walker, K. (2008). The Police in America: An Introduction. McGraw-Hill.