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The History of Technology in Policing

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The History of Technology in Policing

Pamela Wingle

CJ216 Assignment 2

The History of Technology in Policing

Throughout history there have been different styles of policing. Technology and policing styles changed over the centuries. Within this paper three of the main eras of policing history will be explained. These eras are the Political Era, The Professional Era and the Community Oriented Era. These eras are very different and show how things changed over the years as technology increased. Each era is significant to how criminal justice practitioners operate today and what technologies they now have.

The Political Era

The Political Era ran from 1840 to about 1920. The name for this era came about due to the beneficial ties politicians and police had in certain areas. The officers were greatly influenced by politicians and wealthy community members.  During this era, the police were starting to be armed with a nightstick and a firearm. Between the 1870s and 1880s technology advances such as the telephone, telegraph, development and adoption of the Bertillon system, installation of callboxes specifically to call the police and the development of systems used to assist with fingerprinting. (Seaskate, Inc, 1998) With additional advances like cars and police radios, the officers were able to respond to calls quicker. This led to more pre-emptive patrolling. This era included a greater amount of corruption. Curb side justice was a major problem within this era. The “good ole’ boy” system was run by politicians. These politicians were the ones to hire and fire officers and did so whenever they deemed necessary. The police were also able to be “bought” by criminals and would sometimes let robbers go free if they were given a portion of earnings from the crime. This era was all about money and power.

The Professional Era

The era following the Political Era was the Professional Era. This era was from 1920 to approximately 1970. In this era, there was a great desire to get rid of the negative political influences, corruption and government control of the police. The end goal was to get to a place where the police departments appeared as professionals. This era led to the emphasis on equal enforcement of law, emphasized discipline and centralized decision making. The creator of the crime laboratory located in a police department in Berkeley, CA, August Vollmer, was considered to be the “foremost champion” of this era. (Seaskate, Inc, 1998) Vollmer established the classification systems for fingerprints and handwriting. He also led the way to the use of the polygraph in investigations. Vollmer’s lab was the exclusive model for all labs throughout the nation. Wanting a better laboratory, the FBI opened its own facility in 1932. This lab was ultimately acknowledged as “the most comprehensive and technologically advanced laboratory in the world.” (Seaskate, Inc, 1998) The 1930s also gave way to specified police vehicles and two-way radios that allowed for better communication between officers. During this era was the Vietnam war which had a huge impact on criminal justice practitioners and communities.

The Community Oriented Era

 The final era was The Community Oriented Era. This era started in the 1970s and is still being used today. In this era there became more structure for the officers. Their areas of patrol were broken down to specific areas that one or two officers would patrol at a time. This allowed for more widespread patrolling and the reduction of criminal activity. This era adapted “a philosophy that promotes organization strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues, such as crime social disorder, and fear of crime. (Kelling & Moore, 1998) Basically, this area led to more community involvement. The communities are taught and shown how the police are there to help them. This era relied heavily on the criminal justice officers working with the community and making it known that they are present and available to stop and solve crimes to make the communities a better and safer place to live.



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