History of the Police Profession Research Paper

This sample History of the Police Profession Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need help writing your assignment, please use our research paper writing service and buy a paper on any topic at affordable price. Also check our tips on how to write a research paper, see the lists of criminal justice research paper topics, and browse research paper examples.

Policing as a professional metier emerged in many European countries and in Northern America throughout the nineteenth century, although in many countries gradually only. The move toward professional policing came from two sides: The authorities governing the police (the state, municipalities) strived for a more efficient and above all for a more accountable lawand-order maintenance, while members of the (uniformed) police perceived and used the enhancement of professionalism within the police a strategy for promoting career prospects, pay, and status. Police schools and police unions were part of this development. The strive for professionalism remained limited throughout most of the nineteenth century, because most of the uniformed policemen were rather a sort of general factotum than professional agents for law-and-order maintenance. The late nineteenth century saw in many countries the advent of specialized police branches, specializing on crime investigation, detection, and control (crime detections units, when rising fears of crime and disorder in the cities enhanced the demands for professional crime control). The social defense modus of crime control during the decades before and after the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, focusing on perpetrators threatening “property,” served a very specific notion of crime. In addition with the high level of public prominence allotted to crime investigation work, the (societal) status and prestige of the work of uniformed policemen decreased, whereby crime investigation acquired the status of “real” police work, although, seen from a quantitative perspective, crime detection is a minor part of overall police activity.

Key Issues And Concepts

The police understand themselves as a profession and the members of the police see themselves as professionals. Since the emergence of the concept “profession” in the social sciences, the literature has come forward with a number of theoretical approaches, proposing characteristics for describing “profession” and “professionals.” There is a narrower conceptualization, which sees university trained occupations as professionals, but a wider concept is nowadays used quite often as well, which also includes institutions such as the police among the professions and includes the police personnel among the professionals. The characteristics describing professions and professionals allow for variation, but a number of core elements have come to stand out, depending on the respective theoretical approach, which allows summarizing definitions of the concept (Reiner 1978). There is a functionalist approach, which sees professions as generally characterized by the exercise of very particular skills, acquired through very specific training processes. This training and these skills generally involve the acquisition of corresponding specialized knowledge, which only the members of the respective profession have at their disposal. Within the functionalist context of this approach, professions and professionals are serving basic societal needs and values, appreciated by society. Another characteristic of “profession”, which the literature refers to, concerns the existence of specific interest politics, which professions are pursuing. These interest politics are often indicated by the establishment of organizational structures, serving the promotion of the respective profession (income, status, etc.). In this context, unions are not only seen as representations of workers but of professions as well. Promotion means as well, that these organizational structures quite often enhance a sort of exclusiveness of the profession (skills, knowledge), which is strived at to clearly set it apart from other professions. The literature labels this understanding of “profession” and “professionals” as the control approach, seeing professionalism as a strategy for controlling the labor market. The control approach avoids the ideological layer to be found in the functionalist understanding of “professions” and “professionals,” which has been criticized for not giving answers to questions about those within society, which are able to define and to enforce social need and values.

Critics have argued that applying the concept of “profession” to the police implies a basic contradiction. Due to the police’s strict hierarchical structures and due to (at least throughout the nineteenth century) its military features, it is or has been rather a “bureaucracy” than a “profession” (Reiner 1978, 2000; Johansen 2005). But applying elements of the functionalist understanding of professionalization, which include the emergence of professions as a follow-up to societal, economic, and political changes and demand, allows for asking questions about the professionalization of the police during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries: Controlling rioting crowds and controlling disorder and crime turned out to be the challenges the police was to meet during this period.

The explosive growth many European cities experienced, and its problematic consequences, as well as upsurges of social and political unrest during the decades of the nineteenth century, led to heightened anxieties about crime and disorder. The conditions under which people lived in the cities were seen as prerequisites per se for political unrest, immorality, and flourishing crime. These fears led to demands for police efficiency, followed by intense political and public debates about the organization and functioning of the police, and accomponied by considerable attempts all across Europe to professionalize the police.

Toward Professional Policing: Uniformed Polices In Europe During The Nineteenth Century

It was not before the last decade of the nineteenth century that professionalization became a significant concern among police forces in Europe. It not only became a concern for the state and for the municipal authorities directing police forces, it became a concern for the policemen themselves as well. Being a policeman in uniform meant in most European countries throughout the nineteenth century a combination of long-working shifts, a low pay, no training for the job, and low prestige. Most men in the uniformed police had a military background, even in those police forces which were supposed to be a civil police such as the English police (Emsley 1991). Being trained for the job was not part of the uniformed patrolman’s work experience. Members of the Gendarmerie forces with their military background did have a military training, but lacked specific training for their policing duties as well. For the patrolmen in uniform, who emerged in European cities throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, wearing a uniform in a proper way, and walking the beat accordingly were in some way already the essentials to be taught to them. Until the First World War, walking the beat or being on patrol in the countryside remained for the patrolmen their core police activity.

European countries, although different in terms of political systems, political structures, and cultures during the nineteenth century, showed grosso modo similar lines concerning approaches for improvements of the recruitment and above all the training of its police personnel. During the latter years of the nineteenth century, these attempts accelerated, not only by establishing schools for improving the training of the uniformed police, but also by attempts and initiatives of the police officers themselves to improve their situation and their status. France, Belgium, England, Prussia, and the Netherlands (Meershoek 2007; van der Wal 2007) provide examples of these developments.

In France, it was the Third Republic which began paying attention to the recruitment and training of the police by taking first steps toward a professionalization of the police service. There were a number of reasons, why the new republican regime gradually began enhancing a professionalization of the police. Firstly, within the political system and the political culture of the Third Republic, an electorate based on universal suffrage could hardly be expected to remain indifferent to the standards and achievements of the police service; secondly, a republican government could not simply take over the police bequeathed to it by the authoritarian regimes which preceded it, which it had always denounced as dictatorial prior to its own accession to power; and thirdly, the French police, at least the one in Paris and in other major cities of France became confronted with the consequences of urbanization and industrialization, which complicated the policeman’s lot significantly, raising the issue of how the police could adapt to these changes (Berlie`re and Le´vy 2011).

This move towards a professionalization met difficulties due to the complex and conflictoaded structures of the French police. The French police since the first decades of the nineteenth century consisted of a number of different polices. One of these polices, the suˆrete´ ge´ne´rale, was rather an institutional roof, expressing the state’s aspiration to cover police-related matters as “state.” In reality, the French government ran its own police, besides the Gendarmerie, throughout the nineteenth century in Paris and in two other major cities only (Lyon, Marseille). Quantitatively, much more significant were the municipal and local polices. Within these structures, the criminal or judiciary police, responsible for crime investigation, was dependent on four police authorities. This institutional layout was in itself already complex, but it became even more complex, as the Third Republic never succeeded in putting forward a clear view as to who was responsible for the powers of the municipal police – torn as it was between a tradition that these police powers should be seen as emanating from the local authority and by centralizing tendencies. As a result, the municipal police found themselves dependent on the Ministry of the Interior in some matters, and on the local authority in others. The Ministry of Interior was, for example, responsible for the appointment of the Commissaire de Police (obligatory post in towns of over 5,000 inhabitants), and for fixing the size of the police force and that of the municipal police budget in county towns of 40,000 or more inhabitants. Towns of over 5,000 inhabitants thus had their own police (in towns of less, the gendarmerie took on the functions of the police), who theoretically came under the authority of a commissaire appointed by the Ministry of the Interior, but who were paid by the municipality. Apart from the post of commissaire, all the other municipal police appointments were made by the mayor, who also decided on their salary levels. They were recruited, paid, disciplined, and punished by the local authority. This system had several unfortunate consequences, among them conflicts between mayors and commissaires as the commissaire was placed in an impossible position. It required a great deal of balancing to keep the police between state and municipal authorities going, while his situation became totally untenable, if the municipality was hostile to the central government of which the commissaire was the representative (Berlie`re 1996).

The state of the municipal police was very insufficient: In towns with less than 40,000 inhabitants, the mayor and municipal council alone decided on how large a police force was needed, and in order to save money, kept these as small as possible. In certain towns, the Commissaire de Police – perhaps with one or two assistants – might be the only one acting as policeman. The standard of men and means in many municipal police forces was ridiculously low, and only Lyon and Marseille with its state polices had a more developed police system. The rules that existed under previous regimes were hardly altered during the period of the Third Republic. Instead, it was the military laws of 1872, 1889, and 1905 which had overriding effect on the recruitment of police: In order to encourage a further 5-year service after the period of conscription, a civilian post was ensured to men after they had completed their military service. Thus, for a long time, the great majority of French policemen were former soldiers. Only a fifth of the police employed at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century were civil candidates.

The way in which candidates were assigned within the police service to different types of posts was completely random, as candidates were assigned to places and functions according to vacancies and not according to their capabilities (Berlie`re and Le´vy 2011).

The Third Republic thus started its police regime with a police that lacked professional training completely, but the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the years until the beginning of the First World War were marked by efforts to improve training patterns. Recruitment patterns and conditions of employment changed partially as well during these decades, leading to higher wage levels; to a system of allowances for clothing, housing, retirement, and children; to a month’s holiday per annum; and for a retirement pension. Since it rather quickly proved to be impossible to fundamentally change and improve patterns of recruitment, attention from the 1880s onward focused on police training. A school for the municipal police was established in Paris in 1883. The courses there included dictation, instruction on how to deal with practical day to day police tasks, how to telephone and send telegrams, memorization of the streets of one’s beat, the rudiments of first aid, and how to disperse a crowd, and instructions on how the police were to treat the public, and on how they were themselves to behave. The setting up of this school demonstrated a real desire to improve the level, training, and professional qualification of the police, but it remained for a decade and half the only institutionalized full time training facility within the French police. During the years before the First World War, particularly the Paris police started to upgrade its technical capacities and to enhance the professional specialization of the force by establishing a training school for all police in May 1914, where training was much longer, including new courses with a obligatory diploma course in descriptive studies for all higher ranks, by linking promotion with higher professional qualifications, and by creating a number of special services, in order to adapt the police to the transformations brought about by accelerating urbanization and industrialization (Berlie`re and Le´vy 2011).

In neighboring Belgium, similar debates were going on and comparable initiatives were developed in the late nineteenth century. Critics of the police were widespread; they also came from within the police itself: Senior police officers openly admitted that both in terms of manpower and quality of their personnel, all municipal police forces had extremely low standards. Improvements turned out to be difficult to realize, however, as each municipality in Belgium had its own police force, financed and managed by the local authorities. As a result, municipal police forces were very different from one another, not just in terms of manpower strength but also in many other respects, such as the recruitment and training of police officers, their wages, equipment and weapons, accommodation and material resources, and the way in which they carried out police duties. The standard of men and means in many municipal police forces was very low, one of the consequences being that, even though so-called municipal autonomy in politics was frequently and fiercely adulated, many local authorities had to call out the army at the slightest excuse to maintain law and order. Only Brussels and Antwerp, the two largest Belgian cities, had more developed municipal police forces. The efficiency of the Belgian municipal police was not only undermined by their limited numbers, but also by the poor qualifications of their personnel, which were the result of inadequate recruitment and a complete lack of any professional training. There was a total lack of professional selection criteria for candidates applying for a post as constable; in general, only physical qualities (meeting the age and height requirements, being physically fit, and looking tough), behavior, and morality were taken into account. The candidate might be subjected to a low level type of examination chiefly concerned with writing and arithmetic, but the results were of little significance for eventual admission to the force. Nominations in the higher ranks, on the other hand, often depended on whether the candidate had personal relations with senior police officers and enjoyed local political support. Unsurprisingly, this recruitment pattern negatively affected the quality of the municipal police. The inability of the police authorities to recruit sufficient suitable or well-qualified personnel is further illustrated by the fact that all the forces were confronted with rapid turnover. This only aggravated problems of manpower strength, because another result was that a large number of police posts were permanently vacant. To make things worse, newly recruited constables were not given any serious training before letting them loose on the city streets. The training of policemen was carried out “on the job” and was oriented along the practical requirements of the police’s everyday activities: The police constable had to get acquainted with his precinct and with the things he had to look after when on the beat. A number of “formalities” were briefly taught, such as some basic ideas about the Belgian penal code and the police ordinances that had been issued for the respective city or municipality, etc. In short, “real” professional training did not take place. Finally, professional specialization of the police through the creation of special services was still far off (Keunings 2009).

These problems and shortcomings of the Belgian municipal police did not escape the notice of contemporary observers, police reformers, and responsible politicians, and the whole of the period of 1890–1914 was marked by efforts to expand police forces and professionalize police work. In the major urban centers (Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Lie`ge), the municipal police grew considerably in per capita strength: The overall figures for the police personnel doubled. This increase occurred primarily in the lower ranks: manned with the plain constables; in Antwerp, for example, their size almost tripled between 1883 and 1914. By 1914, the proportion of police to population in the largest Belgian cities was not too far from that in other major European centers. Thanks to a subsidy of the central government, Brussels had even become the “best-policed” European city in terms of manpower strength (Keunings 2009; De Koster 2008).

The growth in per capita strength of Belgium’s municipal police forces did result in an improvement in the conditions of service, more particularly in shorter working hours and a greater number of days of leave. In Antwerp, this evolution started off in 1898, when the City mayor announced that the city inhabitants had approved a municipal tax raise for the enlargement of the police force in a referendum, which permitted the recruitment of a hundred extra constables, a reorganization of the force, including new schedules, and the introduction of a “nicer” uniform. At that time, the average constable still had very long and irregular hours on the street, with two shifts a day of about 5 h and 20 min, except after a night shift (day of 4 h and a half). Moreover, police assignments and schedules reveal that policemen were often reassigned from one post to another and always rotated from one shift to another. At the same time, Antwerp policemen could only take 1 day of rest and 3 days of leave a year at the end of the nineteenth century, and lost them in case of punishment or illness. In 1907, however, this last rule was withdrawn and the number of days of leave was increased by four. By 1912, working hours had been reduced to an average of 8 h and 25 min a day. The most definite improvement in the conditions of service before the First World War was realized through the gradual introduction of higher wage levels and a retirement pension, paid by the city (from 1886). It has to be noted, however, that the rise in wage rates achieved by 1914 was considerably accentuated by the fact that initially, at the end of the nineteenth century, wages had simply been ridiculously low. By 1914, the pay of Antwerp constables had come close to that of a concierge, while wage rates in Brussels slightly exceeded those of the lower civilian personnel of the city (De Koster 2008).

Although they were relatively limited, these improvements in the conditions of service had an immediate effect on recruitment. Belgian municipal police forces experienced much less troubles in finding candidates for the jobs: A greater number of applications followed and rates of dismissals and resignations fell, which raised the standard among the recruits. Overall, the municipal police gradually became a more permanent place of employment for a growing number of people and the composition of these forces gradually shifted to a corps of more experienced policemen. However, the adaptation of a growing number of officers to the new institution was accompanied by what the police still considered to be a high departure rate. Scores of young policemen left the municipal police every year to seek their fortune elsewhere, and although those who left were generally soon replaced, the authorities were not always happy with the general quality of the new recruits. Possibly, the police were not able to attract suitable personnel in sufficient numbers to offset the annual wastage and meet the high manpower demands of the force, and had to accept recruits below the prescribed norms (Keunings 2009). Antwerp provides a good example for the subsequent attempts by Belgian municipal authorities and police administrations to improve the policeman’s qualifications during the first decade of the twentieth century. In order to obtain better qualified personnel, a “police school” was set up, the cost of which was covered by the city. It was relatively small, however, and few policemen were sent to it. Despite these efforts, there remained a considerable lack of professional training (De Koster 2008).

However, there were other significant signs of police professionalization in Belgium. The turn of the twentieth century saw a formidable increase in the number of police manuals and handbooks being published. A set of standardized examinations was devised, which candidates for promotion were obliged to pass at almost every stage in their career. Promotion to superior ranks was thus made dependent on climbing the rungs of the police hierarchy. In terms of equipment, the municipal police also knew considerable improvements, especially in Brussels, where the police disposed of not only a telegraph (1873), straitjackets (1883), and solid helmets (1897), but from the early twentieth century onward also revolvers (1902), bicycles and the famous white traffic batons (1910), a police dog brigade (1907) – copied from the Ghent police (1899), who was the first in the world to introduce this – and even police cars (1914). A parallel development, spurred to a large extent by the first police unions (“associations,” from 1881 onwards), was the creation of specialized units within the largest urban police forces: antigambling brigades, vice squads, traffic police, port police, and criminal investigation departments. All these developments went hand in hand with a militarization of police culture, most police officials being drawn from commissioned army officers (Keunings 2009).

In Prussia, the institutional layout of the police resembled the one in France although major differences existed. During the so-called Prussian reform period at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Prussia established the police as a state prerogative, allowing the Prussian state to establish state polices in Prussian cities, but allowing the Prussian state as well to commission cities with the establishment and the direction of communal or municipal police forces, establishing state police forces in a few cities only. The Prussian state established during the first half of the nineteenth century state polices only in those cities, which were seen as hotspots of political opposition and dissent. While the state polices were on the budgets of the Prussian state, it were the municipalities themselves which had to pay for their municipal police. During the 1860s, the Prussian state withdrew its state polices from a number of cities, leaving it to the municipalities to police them with municipal polices, the reason for this withdrawal being a mixture of budgetary considerations and changed security evaluations by the Prussian government. In these cities, the mayor represented the prerogative by being the official head of the local or municipal police.

While the mayor was the head of the municipal administration, elected by the city council, he was at the same time, with respect to his duties as head of the police in the respective city, executing state functions and had thus to obey state orders. Due to these specific patterns of police organization, the Prussian state could theoretically intervene in everyday municipal matters, although in practice, the cities had many possibilities for diverting or impeding such interventions (Funk 1986; Jessen 1991; Reinke 1993; Spencer 1992).

Who could become a member of the police force in Prussia? There are some resemblances to patterns to be observed in France during the nineteenth century. In theory, previous service in the Prussian army up to 12 years was an absolute prerequisite for being recruited into the uniformed Police in Prussia. Thus, the ranks of the uniformed policemen on the beat were supposed to be filled with noncommissioned officers (NCO). Military service as a prerequisite for admission to the police served several functions: The NCO policeman was supposed to represent king and state in the everyday life of the citizen. His superiors expected him to show his derived authority, and, if necessary, to compel compliance to this authority from the public. On the other hand, long training within the military hierarchy was supposed to have made him an obedient servant to his superiors and a reliable instrument for maintaining law and order. But, in reality, this recruitment pattern worked partially only. Although the civil service did have a high social ranking, the position of a uniformed patrolman had a low ranking on this list. Getting a job in the police was not what an army NCO necessarily looked for after years of military service. For many NCOs, the job of a policeman was only a transitory phase on the way to a quieter existence in the civil service than the police service could offer. In Berlin for example, whose royal police was to serve as an example for other polices in Prussia, more than 2,000 policemen left the police force during the 1890s. The Berlin police force totaled about 4,000 men in the middle of the 1890s. A quarter of those who left the police went into other positions within the civil service. Due to these turnover rates, a large number of police posts were permanently vacant (Funk 1986). Not only Berlin, but other Prussian cities also had to cope with this situation (Funk 1986; Roth 1997; Spencer; 1992). During the 1890s and again during the first decade after the turn of the century, the Prussian state administration tried to solve the turnover problem by reducing the military service requirements for employment in the police force. As a result, more men were drawn into the police service. The nineto twelve-year military service remained nevertheless the idea requirement looked for when conceiving a real Prussian patrolman on the beat. Those policemen who had acquired their post on the basis of the reduced requirements were often considered as some sort of second-class policeman.

Vacancies in the civil service, the police included, were announced and advertized by state and city administrations in public lists and journals. But the police posts offered regularly outnumbered applicants from the NCO’s ranks. Cities with municipal police forces therefore reduced their employment requirements by recruiting men for the police service who had only fulfilled their obligatory military service after conscription, rather than service as regulars (Jessen 1991; Spencer 1992). By the 1880s, and much more so after 1890, cities in the West of Prussia, along the Rhine and in the Ruhr, did find it increasingly difficult to recruit candidates with the adequate military background. While some cities reported during the 1890s that they were still managing to staff the municipal police positions accordingly, other cities found the supply of candidates with the requisite military experience falling even more short of their needs. By 1911, the police department in Dusseldorf, one of the largest cities in the Prussian West, with 46 patrolmen’s positions to fill, reported that of 500–600 applicants, only 22 had the adequate military background. Thus, despite persistent pressure from the Prussian state to seek out NCOs for police service, the cities in the Prussian West turned increasingly to the local wage-earning population for recruits. Urban administrators usually did so reluctantly, sometimes continuing to see the ideal policeman not just as someone shaped by long years of military discipline but also as someone from the outside, preferably of rural or small town origin. But the reality was that most applicants were local residents with only minimal military experience. As a consequence, the possibility of recruiting of policemen having personal contacts with organized workers loomed ever more threatening (Jessen 1991; Spencer 1992).

The training of policemen was carried out on the job and was oriented along the practical requirements of the man’s on the beat everyday activities. The patrolman had to get acquainted with his precinct and with the things he was supposed to look after when on the beat.

A number of “formalities” were also briefly taught, such as some basic ideas about the penal code of the Empire, the police ordinances that had been issued for the respective city or community, etc. Apart from that, the writing of dictations was part of the training. Often this was essential because the men’s ability to write seems to have suffered considerably during the long years of military service. But all in all, serious training did not take place. Around the turn of the century, the Prussian state government as well as municipal police administrations acknowledged an urgent need for an improvement in the policeman’s qualifications. Police schools were set up, and additionally, the military habits of the ordinary policeman were no longer deemed sufficient for the handling of the everyday problems the police encountered in the growing urban contexts. The more Prussian cities grew and the more complex urban society became, the more qualifications were required from the policeman beyond his authoritarian and military attitude. In 1899, the first police school was established in Prussia, as a school for the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie took the initiative, since for this force, which was still part of the military, the problem was the most urgent. In 1901, the first police school for municipal police personnel was set up in Dusseldorf. The costs of the schools were covered by those municipalities who sent their policemen there. In general, municipal administrations accepted the necessity for improving the qualifications of their police personnel, but for financial reasons, however, they limited the number of men they sent to these schools (Jessen 1991; Reinke 1993; Spencer 1992).

Similar institutions were being established in other Prussian districts as well at about the same time, beginning with Berlin in 1895. Police schools were intended not only to impart necessary knowledge and approved attitudes but also to raise police prestige. Increased formal training (whatever its content) would help lessen the gulf between policemen and respected representatives of the Prussian state. In Dusseldorf, the course for patrolmen lasted 2 months, that for senior officers for 3 months. Students were required to live at the school so that its influence could prevail around the dock. The cities paid the costs for the patrolmen, fearing that if the men were required to use their own resources, they would fall into debt, a situation policemen were strongly encouraged to avoid. The senior officers, expected to come from somewhat more well-off families, had to pay for their own instruction. Cities tried to protect their investment in the candidates by stipulating that those who left their departments after less than 5 years had to repay all or part of the costs of their schooling. Also, attendance at the school was typically reserved for those recruits who had already completed 6–12 months of service. As justification for this fiscally prudent move, police administrators argued that schooling was more meaningful if it followed a substantial period of practical experience. By 1906, the state district administration in the Prussian had stipulated that in cities of 10,000 or more, patrolmen either had to attend the police school or pass an examination before being confirmed in their posts. Supporters of the Dusseldorf school were dismayed to find that many communal police departments, to save the cost of instruction, either tried to hire recruits who had already attended a police school elsewhere or else encouraged the taking of the examination. To make certain that the Dusseldorf school had enough students to pay for itself, the Prussian provincial administration before the war was contemplating eliminating the examination option. As a step toward making municipal policemen more credible as rule enforcers by increasing the likelihood that they knew and understood the rules and what they were doing and for what purposes, the Dusseldorf police school represented only a hesitant beginning (Jessen 1991; Spencer 1992).

 “Professional” Police Knowledge

Throughout most of the nineteenth century, a coherent and exclusive stock of police knowledge did not exist. This stock of police knowledge emerged only gradually, acquired empirically, and further elaborated during the last decades of the nineteenth century via the huge data collections, which police headquarters in European capitals (Berlin, London, Paris, etc.) started assembling during this late nineteenth century period. There rather existed different layers of police knowledge, which spread according to the functions and tasks different strata of policemen fulfilled. At the turn of the nineteenth century, a comprehensive stock of knowledge had been assembled, but this stock incorporated a pronounced ideological bias, focusing – in the wording of the contemporary discourse – on a “social defense” modus, i.e., focusing on those threatening the values of bourgeois society and “property” as its Leitmotiv.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, uniformed policemen started with no knowledge at all. They simply were looking at people, things, and circumstances, when on the beat or on patrol. It has been argued that a specific empiricist police gaze developed gradually, which categorized people as disorderly, deviant, or as potential criminal perpetrators. Parallel to this emergence to a empiricist police gaze existed a flourishing publication market, consisting of police handbooks. Especially in Central Europe, these handbooks were connected significantly to the Central European continuity of “Polizey,” thereby conceiving police beyond law-and-order maintenance in a narrower sense. These handbooks were very much meant to give guidelines for protecting the state against those threatening it, thereby mixing the handling and the control of the economic and social challenges developing already during the first half of the nineteenth century with the control of political dissent and opposition, threatening the political regimes of the nineteenth century post-revolutionary period. Both layers, the results of the patrolman’s gaze when on the beat and guidelines of the handbooks, were connected loosely only – if at all.

As patrolmen on the beat remained some sort of general factotum until the beginning of the First World War, specialized police knowledge could not develop on that level. The small handbooks and notice books, which were brought on the market, which were published parallel to the establishment of police schools since the end of the nineteenth century, mirrored this, since they were rather designed for guiding in – what we would see nowadays – general administrative matters than in law-and-order maintenance. But another layer became more significant during this period. As a follow-up to rising anxieties about crime and disorder, especially since industrialization and urbanization accelerated its pace since the middle of the nineteenth century, immense data collections on those threatening bourgeois society and particularly “property” were assembled. These data collections, especially the data collected about the body or parts of the body of suspects or perpetrators (bertillonage, dactylography) and immensely growing number of photos taken, brought the policeman’s gaze close to contemporary scientific methods and adopted them. But the data collections, or rather the way these data collections were organized, mirrored the threats the police was to handle. The data collections at the Berlin police headquarters reflected this: The core collection there consisted of an extremely detailed collection on theft, indicating not only contemporary anxieties but urban opportunity structures as well (Roth 1997; Wagner 1996).

Professional Policing And Crime Investigation

The second half of the nineteenth century saw in many European countries the rise of specialized criminal investigation departments, which has been perceived as an answer to urban growth and problems related to urbanization patterns during that period. The Berlin police headquarters established a separate and specialized crime investigation branch at the beginning of the 1870s. There had been police officers investigating crime before, but now crime investigation became a specifically institutionalized branch. In 1878, the Metropolitan Police in London established the Criminal Investigation Department/CID, and the Police Judiciaire in Paris underwent significant reform efforts during that period as well. Detectives, Commissaires, and Kommissare had operated in these countries before (Emsley and Shpayer-Makov 2006; Kalifa and Karila-Cohen 2008; Roth 1997; ShpayerMakov 2002), but henceforth, the establishment of new or reformed police branches, specialized on crime detection and investigation, was a response to similar patterns in very many European countries. Massive urbanization, occurring all across Europe, brought about significant changes in the social fabric of the cities. While urbanization was read on the one side as an indicator of progress during the nineteenth century, it nevertheless led to the anxieties and fears.

The complexities, created by these massive economic and social transformations, were in parts translated into fears of rising crime, to which the establishment of specific crime investigation units was a response. Similar secular trends are observable here in some European countries. Already contemporary nineteenth century observers argued from time to time that the rise in the fear of crime exceeded the rise of crime, but crime investigation departments expanded continuously during the nineteenth century, accompanied by a growth of its personnel. When recruiting for these new or restructured crime investigation units, the police in some European countries followed different recruitment patterns than those followed for the uniformed police. The Berlin police headquarters during the second half of the nineteenth century provide a good example for this trend: The recruitment and the career patterns at the crime investigation unit of Berlin police headquarters, the Kriminalpolizei, were increasingly based on expertise and specialized training than on military background. This expertise became – not only in Berlin – the more urgent the more the complexity of the expanding cities grew, accompanied by a growing diversification of opportunity structures allowing for theft. Some governments and some police forces in Europe answered to this growing complexity by diversifying its recruitment criteria when hiring men for the crime investigation branch. In order to catch up with this, the Berlin Kriminalpolizei became exempt to military recruitment obligation, to be observed when hiring men for the uniformed police. Among the members of the Berlin Kriminalpolizei were officers with very different backgrounds. There were former army officers of course, but academics as well, whose academic background comprised theology, the humanities, jurisprudence, medicine, and other disciplines. As these men were better paid than their counterparts in the uniformed police, the number of candidates for the detective force soon exceeded the vacancies (Funk 1986; Wagner 1996).

Police Associations And Police Unions

Between 1882 and the beginning of the Nazi regime in 1933, men from different polices in a number of German states founded approximately 100 police associations, representing the interests of its members. Very many of these associations (Berufsvereine) were very ephemeral, but they indicate the attempts of the police officers to organize and to engage in interest politics, to fight for better pay, for better work conditions, and increasingly for an improved training. Due to the local character of very many polices in Prussia, most of the foundations of these associations before the turn of the century were accordingly of local origin. It was quite often before the First World War only that the police officers managed to organize themselves nationwise or statewise. In quite a number of European countries (Belgium, England, France, the Netherlands, Prussia, and other countries), first attempts were made by police officers to organize. These associations mostly took the form of benevolent societies, as policemen were not allowed to create syndicates, i.e., formal unions or to join them. Policemen in most European countries were forbidden to organize these associations or societies as unions (Keunings 2009; Emsley 1991, 2000; Shpayer-Makov 2002; Berlie`re and Le´vy 2011; van der Wal 2007; Jessen 1991). That is one of the reasons, that, although strike and protest action had been carried out in England in particular in London during the 1870s and the 1880s already, attempts to unionize did fail around 1890. This was taken up again shortly before the First World War, when a police union had established itself firmly within the London Metropolitan Police (Emsley 1991, 2000; Reiner 1978; Shpayer-Makov 2002). But this organization had to be clandestine, as policemen were still not allowed to organize in unions. Police officers had to join secretly. The establishment at the Metropolitan police was probably very much inspired by the successful efforts of members of the Paris police, who had founded a professional association in 1912 (Berlie´re and Le´vy 2011). The growth, from 1905 onward, of trade unionism among the police, observable in many European countries was not only meant as a strategy for improving the conditions of pay and work, but included a more general, professional purpose: The more the police perceived themselves as professionalized, the more they regarded themselves as autonomous vis-a`-vis nonprofessionals, vis-a`-vis the politicians, for example. This purpose gained momentum within many European polices in particular during the 1920s.

Concluding Remarks

The scope of the development of the police as a profession and of members of the policed as professionals remained limited throughout the nineteenth century. Recruitment patterns for uniformed patrolmen, moving away from military recruitment to civil recruitment, changed gradually only. Institutionalized training facilities (police schools) were established, but the number of these facilities remained low in most European countries before the First World War, indicating nevertheless a beginning. Besides the question, whether the police is rather a “bureaucracy” than a “profession,” a question today’s research is still dealing with (Reiner 1978; Reiner 2000), is another feature of early nineteenth and twentieth century policing which can be seen as a major obstacle for conceiving “police” as “profession,” up until today: Uniformed policemen remained throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century a general factotum (Emsley 1991), serving a vast array of functions beyond law-and-order maintenance in a more narrow sense. The late nineteenth century saw in many countries the advent of specialized police branches, specializing on crime investigation, detection, and control. This branch acquired a public prominence already during the last decades of the nineteenth century, when rising fears of crime and disorder enhanced the demands for professional crime fighting. The social defense modus of crime fighting during the decades before and after the turn of the century, focusing on criminal perpetrators threatening “property,” served a very specific, ideologically loaded notion of crime. In addition with the high level of public prominence allotted to this ideologically focused crime investigation work, the (societal) status and prestige of the work of uniformed policemen decreased, whereby crime investigation acquired the status of “real” police work, although, seen from a quantitative perspective, crime detection is a minor part of overall police activity.

A final remark: The development of professional police work is quite often seen as a linear and positive process, where professionalism within the police moves from very small beginnings to “real” and successful professionalism throughout the decades of the twentieth century. There is a remarkable a-historical bias in this conceptualization of professionalization along the time axis. A significant number of European policemen, which saw themselves as professionals during the 1930s already, participated actively and very much driven by own initiatives in mass murder or in the preparation of mass murder during the years of dictatorship and war in the 1930s and 1940s.

A Note On The Historiography Of Police As A Profession

Early historical research on the history of the police, in particular research carried out by English-language historians during the 1970s, has started by conceptualizing the police as the strong and effective arm of the state. This conceptualization of the police as “state” was very much guided by an understanding of state, quite often orientated toward Marxist notions of “state,” as efficiently controlling, supervising, and directing. This approach left little room for asking questions about the quality of police work, which qualifications policemen had for doing police work, and what the quality of police work meant for the control aspirations of the state.

This top-down-perspective, the research had taken when analyzing the police, has changed for a bottom-up perspective only gradually. Within the field of the history of the police as a profession, this change occurred when the historical police research broadened its scope and started to examine in a more detailed way: How police practices were carried out in local and urban contexts, who the men had been, where they came from, how they were trained and paid, and how effectively they performed their control functions in terms of the expectations attached to the police as an efficient control instrument, the expectations attached to the police as law-and-order-maintainers, as professional crime fighters or as “thief-takers.” This research demonstrated not only how contradictory and how slow these patterns developed during the nineteenth century, but also shed light on the extent, to which policemen engaged themselves in efforts to increase the performance of police work and that of individual police officers, and to improve the overall status of the police force. This bottom-up perspective not only contextualized the policemen’s lot as workers, striving for the status as professionals, but also offered a multifaceted account of the police force as an institution of professionals. The available literature gives a detailed account of how different approaches and strategies (training, expertise, unionization, and status improvement) were applied as professionalization devices until the First World War. Some periods and contexts are still greatly underexplored, however. Only a limited stock of knowledge is available for the interwar years and the impact of their multifold crises on the police’s strive for professionalization. Equally ignored by historians for a long time and becoming a research topic only very recently is the issue of what professional police expertise and performance – or the police’s understanding of this – had meant for the police’s participation in colonial regimes, for its role as being an essential part of dictatorships in many European countries since the 1920s, and for its active participation in murderous and genocidal practices, such as in the Soviet Union in the 1930s or such as under the Nazi regime in Germany after 1933 and in the countries occupied by the Germans between 1933 and 1945.

Inspired by a more recent model of professionalism (which however never replaced that of the professional crime-fighter or “thief-taker”), in which police serve, learn from, and are accountable to the community, historians have drawn on older strands of sociological participatory research on police practices to shift their attention more to police relationships with the public, and to one of the basic issues with regard to the role of the police in Western urban society: the conflict between professional autonomy and popular control. In other words, the bottom-up perspective gradually went hand in hand with less police-centered research, whereby the profession and notions of professionalism are examined in their interactions with society and (the demands and attitudes of) the citizen.

In a similar way, inspired by a shifting emphasis in attempts at increased police professionalization from the late twentieth century onward from a primacy of personnel reform (recruitment, training, pay, etc.) to one of technological managerial reform (whereby ultimately the drive for new efficiency and technology has become dominant over the search for a new policeman), historians have increasingly begun to examine the historical antecedents of “scientific” and “intelligence-led” policing and the use and impact of new technologies on professional practices.


  1. Berlie`re M (1996) Le monde des polices en France. XIXe– XXe sie`cles. Editions Complexe, Paris
  2. Berlie`re JM, Le´vy R (2011) Histoire des polices en France de l’Ancien Re´gime a` nos jours. Nouveau Monde e´ditions, Paris
  3. Curilla W (2006) Die deutsche Ordnungspolizei und der Holocaust im Baltikum und in Weißrussland 1941–1944. Ferdinand Scho¨ ningh, Paderborn
  4. De Koster M (2008) Routines et contraintes de la police urbaine a` Anvers, 1890–1914. In: Berlie`re JM, Denys C, Kalifa D, Milliot V (eds) Etre policier: Les me´tiers de police en Europe, XVIIIe–XXe sie`cle. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes, pp 345–362
  5. Deluermoz Q (2012) Policiers dans la ville. La construction d’un ordre public a` paris (1854–1914). Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris
  6. Emsley C (1991) The english police: a political and social history. Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead
  7. Emsley C (2000) The policeman as worker: a comparative survey c. 1800–1940. Int Rev Soc History 45:89–110
  8. Emsley C (2009) The Great British Bobby: a history of British policing from the 18th century to the present. Quercus, London
  9. Emsley C, Shpayer-Makov H (2006) Police detectives in history. Ashgate, Aldershot
  10. Emsley C, Weinberger B (1991) Policing Western Europe: politics, professionalism, and public order, 1850–1940. Greenwood Press, New York
  11. Fijnaut C (2009) A history of the Dutch police. Boom, Amsterdam
  12. Funk A (1986) Polizei und Rechtsstaat. Die Entwicklung des staatlichen Gewaltmonopols in Preußen 1848–1914. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/Main
  13. Jessen R (1991) Polizei im Industrierevier. Modernisierung und Herrschaftspraxis im westf€alischen Ruhrgebiet 1948–1914. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Go¨ ttingen
  14. Johansen A (2005) Soldiers as police: the French and Prussian armies and the policing of popular protest, 1889–1914. Ashgate, Aldershot
  15. Kalifa D (2007) Histoire des detectives prive´s en France (1832–1942). Nouveau Monde e´ditions, Paris
  16. Kalifa D, Karila-Cohen P (2008) Les commissaires de police au XIXe sie`cle. Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris
  17. Keunings L (2009) Des polices si tranquilles. Une histoire de l’appareil policier belge au XIXe sie`cle. Presses Universitaires de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve
  18. Klein J (2010) Invisible men: the secret lives of police constables in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, 1900–1939. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool
  19. Meershoek G (1999) Dienaren van het gezag. De Amsterdams politie tijdens de bezetting. Van Gennep, Amsterdam
  20. Meershoek G (2007) De geschiedenis van de Nederlandse politie. De Gemeentepolitie in een veranderende samenleving. Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam
  21. Reiner R (1978) The blue-coated worker: a sociological study of police unionism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  22. Reiner R (2000) The politics of the police. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  23. Reinke H (1993) ‘… nur fur die Sicherheit da.. .’? Zur Geschichte der Polizei im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/Main
  24. Roth A (1997) Kriminalit€atsbek€ampfung in deutschen Großst€adten 1850–1914. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des strafrechtlichen Ermittlungsverfahrens. Erich Schmidt, Berlin
  25. Shpayer-Makov H (2002) The making of a policeman: a social history of a labour force in metropolitan London, 1829–1914. Ashgate, Aldershot/Burlington
  26. Shpayer-Makov H (2011) The ascent of the detective: police sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  27. Spencer EG (1992) Police and the social order in German cities: the Dusseldorf District, 1848–1914. Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb
  28. van der Wal R (2007) De geschiedenis van de Nederlandse politie. De vakorganisatie en het beroepsonderwijs. Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam
  29. Wagner P (1996) Volksgemeinschaft ohne Verbrecher. Konzeptionen und Praxis der Kriminalpolizei in der Zeit der Weimarer Republik und des Nationalsozialismus. Hans Christians, Hamburg
  30. Williams CA (2011) Police and policing in the twentieth century. Ashgate, Aldershot

See also:

Free research papers are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to buy a custom research paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price.


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655