The origins of the modern police state in the United States came from English law enforcement practices. The British can trace the origins of their enforcement of legal standards prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066 (Sabath.) In particular, the colonies adopted the goal of crime prevention and control, the methods of preventive patrol, and the quasi-military organizational development of the first police department that had been founded in London. In addition, there were certain other features of British law- abiding practices that the Americans adapted, such as the notion that police have certain limitations on their powers (“Modern” Policing in America, 2011.) In addition, both the English and the American standards of law enforcement stress the protection of individual liberties as well.
In the colonies, law enforcement methods intended to maintain order were performed by Justices of the Peace; people who violated the standards were frequently seen in public, standing with hands and feet in pillories or stocks. The more the colonies developed into actual towns and cities, the system was not adequate and so a professional, organized police force became the standard in municipalities (Sabath.)
In Boston, an enforcement group was formed in 1636 and was known as the Night Watch; while the area continue to be essentially rural and based in agriculture, this was an effective means of law enforcement. Similarly, New York created the Shout and Rattle Watch in 1651 and by 1705, Philadelphia has established 10 areas in the city devoted to patrolling for safety. During the next hundred years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, population growth and the onset of industrialization necessitated the development of municipal police departments. For example, in 1833, Philadelphia established a full-time, 24-hour, seven day a week police force and by 1844, New York had two police forces: one for daytime and the other one for nighttime duty. The police departments of these days were governed by police chiefs who were appointed by and obligated to political bosses, so that corruption was common (“Modern” Policing in America, 2011.)
Another aspect of American and British policing heritage different from those established in many European countries, which had a single, centralized national law enforcement agency, is that there are many levels of law enforcement in our country. Instead, in the United States, police are established at local, state, and federal levels. The American police system is also characterized by being highly decentralized and fragmented; there are nearly 20,000 different law enforcement agencies within the United States (“Modern” Policing in America, 2011.)
An important difference between the British and American agencies of law enforcement is that in England, there is a lack of strong political influence over police agencies as compared with our own American system in which there is a strong connection between politics and law enforcement. The worst era in American history for policing occurred during the 19th century, when policing was described as inefficient, ineffective, unprofessional, and extremely corrupt (“Modern” Policing in America, 2011.)
The Department of Homeland Security is a conglomeration of law enforcement agencies on every level of the United States government. The goal of the agency is to coordinate the 87,000 jurisdictions under its authority into a single agency that is dedicated to the protection of the American homeland (Department Subcomponents and Agencies, 2011.) Some of the major components of the Department Include:
- The Directorate for National Protection and Programs, whose goal it is to promote the Department’s risk-reduction capabilities by utilizing an integrated approach that combines physical and virtual threats and the people that are connected with them.
- The Directorate for Science and Technology, which provides research and development that examines the technology and abilities to provide national security.
- The Office of Intelligence and Analysis coordinates information and intelligence from various sources to pinpoint and evaluate current and future risks to the United States.
- The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office enhances the nuclear identification efforts of government on every level, as well as the private sector in order to guarantee a coordinated response to such threats.
- The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the national transportation systems to allow freedom of movement for individuals and businesses.
- United States Customs and Border Protection, one of the Department’s most complicated organizations with the priority of keeping terrorists and their methods out of the United States. It is also charged with ensuring secure trade and travel for US citizens as well as enforcing national regulations including immigration and drug laws. Finally,
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which protects US citizens and first responders to guarantee that as a nation there are coordinated efforts to improve and maintain our abilities to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and survive all dangerous and threatening events (Department Subcomponents and Agencies, 2011.)