Origins of ordinary things: Police

A police force exists to maintain and enforce law and order. That’s why when someone commits a crime, the police is responsible for making an arrest, and then conducting an investigation to ensure that justice is dispensed.

In the early days, individuals had the responsibility to maintain law and order. This is according to The Balance Careers, a career planning site. But by then, local populations were small, rural and therefore easily manageable. As the number of people grew, and cities emerged, so did chaos, and the apparent need for organised law enforcement.

According to Britannica, an encyclopaedia, the word “police” is a derivation of “polis” a Greek word which means “city.” In other words, police forces, even in their ancient forms, were made to maintain law and order as cities and the populations thereof grew.

Different societies around the world created different methods of law enforcement. For instance, according to Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia, in ancient Greece, a group of 300 Scythian slaves would be chosen as rod bearers. Their role would be to control crowds during public meetings and to deal with criminals. In ancient China, there were prefects who were appointed by local magistrates. Korea and Japan also adopted the prefecture system.

However, the first organised policing system is said to have existed in ancient Egypt in 3000 BC. According to Britannica, the Egyptian empire was divided into 42 administrative units, each unit having an official in charge of justice and security.

Millenniums later in the western world, constables and watchmen maintained order.  According to The National Trust of places of historic interest or natural beauty in the United Kingdom, constables and their peers were not paid salaries; their money sometimes came as a form of reward after successful prosecutions. This is said to have fostered corruption.

In 1722, Frechman Nicolas de la Mare wrote the first comprehensive definition of functions of the police in his publication “Traité de la police” which translates to “A Treatise on the Police.” It put emphasis on maintaining order in a city.

Actual establishment of a professional metropolitan police force as is known today actually began in the 1820’s. It was Sir Robert Peel, a British Minister of Parliament who advocated for it and also created the idea of a police uniform. This is according to the Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives.

To date, the existence and work of the police forces around the world continues to exist majorly in cities where crime and disorder are more likely to take place.

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