In all communities’ people understand that they must abide by rules and are restrained to certain impulses. Each ancient civilization has had their own form of police and law and each of these ancient police had their own way of handling situations.
In the origins of cultural behavior was watched by MA ‘at as the harmony and balance or life. Ancient Egyptians believed that they could live by this law and their next life in the spirit world would be paradise.
After time Egyptians had to introduce a police force to make sure laws were abided by. Many officers were used originally to guard tombs and wealthy homes. In the years 2040-1782 BCE Egypt saw its first army under Amenemhat I. Throughout the years the police force became more organized with the judicial system around 1570-1069 BCE.
The army and security guards were used to police the borders, guard homes and tombs, and police the markets. While there is not as much history as one would like about the ancient police force of Egypt, we do know some of their tactics.
Known as the Cohortes Urbanae (urban cohorts) were the troops of Rome created between 27 BCE – 14 CE. The original troops were created by Augustus for extra security for the city and emperor. The Cohortes Urbanae protected the capital and other large cities in the Roman Empire. These troops not only acted as a police force, but also in battle when needed.
This group of officers was commanded by Praefectus Urbi (urban perfect). The commander of these cohorts held a lot of power in the capital. These cohorts mostly consisted of Italians to guarantee a stronger sense of loyalty.
There are currently no records as to what the ancient police of Rome exactly did; however, as with many police there were most likely many crowd control instances. This was especially true for large public events at the Colosseum and Circus Maximus. The only evidence is from writers of Rome allowing the assumptions of ancient police to arrest criminals and bring them to trial.
Stemming from the Latin word “politia” (forming today’s word police), the Greeks used politeia for citizenship, administration, and civil commonwealth. However, for police the Greek word is astynomia.
Until 5th century BCE the police force in Greece has no known history. From this on the ancient police force began to form in Athens. During this time slaves were often used as the police force. The Greek police force was used to guard markets, hygiene, morals, supervise construction, watch foreigners, and prevent accidents. The ancient police force in Athens was monitored by the Athenian supreme court.
However, in Sparta the police were run differently. The police in Sparta were run separately than under one body of government. These officers maintained public order, the city-state regulations, and ruled as judges. There were also officers who supervised agriculture, children, and women.
In Colonial Americathe police force was very informal. This was a for-profit and privately funded system. Many of the officers were only part time workers as they often worked elsewhere. The police force also had volunteers for the nights looking out for gambling and prostitution.
In the beginning of the U.S. police force many policemen chose not to wear badges. This was due to the fact that police officers did not have good reputations and did not want to be associated with that. However, as the nation grew, and cities became more urban night-watch volunteers were rendered impractical.
In 1838 Boston created the first official full-time officers. Before the first official force was created private security guards were used to watch over transported goods and property. The wealthy of the city decided to create a police force to save money for themselves from private security guards to guards that are meant for the city. However, down south the police force was used for different reasons. The police in the South were used for preservation of slavery. Their main tasks were to patrol runaway slaves and prevent uprisings.
After Boston New York and Philadelphia followed suit of police forces in 1844 and 1854 respectively. While police still refused to wear uniforms NYPD required that their officers wear uniforms as of 1854. Many of these were Civil War hand me downs creating the iconic blue uniforms.
Today’s US Police:
Not much has changed with ancient police to todays. All over the world police are modernized and wear uniforms to show their position. Depending on the country the police force takes on different roles. In Europe many civilian police enforce local law where larger tasks are federal or military. However, in less developed countries these police forces can take on multiple roles. From ancient police to today’s police there are many ways in which they are similar – keeping the peace – but also many ways in which they are different.
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