Police (Gr. Police 1300623 , government), a civil force organized in connection with the judicial and executive system of a state or city, for the preservation of order and the enforcement of the laws. Little is known of the police systems which prevailed in the various cities of Greece. In Eome the duties of the policeman seem to have been shared by several classes of officials; the lictor arrested criminals and conducted them into court, and the inspectors, subprefects, and other officers, either personally or by their subordinates, performed most of the civil duties now devolving on the police. In despotic governments the police have exercised important and often oppressive functions. Its beneficent action in sanitary matters, in preventing and detecting frauds, larcenies, and petty crimes, and in promoting the reformation of juvenile offenders, is of recent date. - The police system in France is of considerable antiquity. Previous to the middle of the 15th century, the provost of Paris and his lieutenants, civil and criminal, were charged with maintaining the peace of the city, and with the suppression of vagrancy.

About 1446 or 1447 the city was divided into 16 districts, over each of which a commissary of police presided, having under him a certain number of sergeants, the whole being under the control of the provost, to whom in 1448 Charles VII. committed a general jurisdiction over vagrants and malefactors. About 1520 Francis I. deprived the provost of the city of his extensive jurisdiction, and created a provost marshal (prevot de marechaux) for the city and district of Paris, who was authorized to apprehend and punish vagrants and disorderly persons, without appeal. The superintendence of the markets, weights and measures, and cesspools, the cleansing of the streets, the inspection of buildings, and the prohibition of noxious trades, were all subjects of legislation in France at a very early period, statutes having been passed relative to them at various dates between 1350 and 1560. But each had its own inspectors, amenable to no common head. In 1577 the privilege of electing their own police magistrates was granted to the inhabitants of each district of the city. Under Louis XIV. the police attained its highest measure of perfection as a repressive force.

A universal espionage was established, and the slightest intimation of restiveness under the yoke of oppression, or the smallest departure from the monarch's views of orthodoxy, was visited with summary arrest and punishment. In its more humane and protective functions it was less successful. Under Louis XV. it partook of the general decay and demoralization which had infected the other departments of government, and furnished ready means of extortion and oppression. The national convention in 1794 reorganized the police and defined its duties. These duties comprised almost every department of administrative government, including the securing of the safety of traffic; the repair of dangerous structures; the superintendence of the cleansing and lighting of the city; the removal of public nuisances; the repression and punishment of all offences against the public peace; the maintenance of good order in and supervision of all public gatherings, festivities, and places of public amusement and resort; the inspection of weights, measures, and food; precautions against accidents, casualties, and epidemics, and measures in mitigation of them if they occurred; the delivery of passports, residence licenses, etc, and the repression of beggary and vagrancy; the supervision of drinking and gaming houses, and of prostitutes; the dispersion of crowds; the police of religious worship and of printing and bookselling; the oversight of theatres, powder mills, saltpetre works, and storehouses of arms; the pursuit of deserters and escaped criminals; the care of the highways, of the public health, and of fires, inundations, and accidents; the superintendence of the exchanges of commerce, of the taxes, of the provision markets, and of prohibited wares; and the protection of public monuments.

To these multifarious duties were soon after added the regulation of the fees of health officers and veterinary surgeons, the removal of sick persons and corpses, the recovery of drowned persons, and the care of the public pounds. During the administration of Napoleon I. the city police of Paris attained a high degree of efficiency. Under Louis Philippe the number of the regular policemen (sergents de mile) had risen in 1847 to 1,800. During that reign the present system of police respecting prostitution, which had been for many years under police surveillance, was adopted. Under Napoleon III. the Parisian police was metropolitan, comprising the whole department of the Seine, the districts of St. Cloud, Sevres, and Meudon in Seine-et-Oise, and the market of Poissy. It was in charge of a prefect, who was under the authority of the minister of the interior. He was president of a council of health of 20 members, all physicians, surgeons, or chemists, which had charge of all sanitary matters. Besides this council, there were 11 bureaus, in three divisions, each under a competent head, and each in charge of a class of police regulations.

There was also a commissary of police in each of the 80 quarters of Paris. (For the present police organization of Paris, see Paris, vol. xiii., p. 87.) Besides the local police of Paris, which under some of the Bourbon kings assumed or was endowed with national jurisdiction, there has been for two centuries a system of national police in France, under the direction of a minister of police, whose functions have been mainly detective and repressive. The espionage of suspected strangers visiting the country, or of persons believed to be disaffected or to entertain designs against the government, the correspondence of those regarded as hostile to the reigning authority, and other similar subjects, have been the duties intrusted to it. - In England, from the time of the Saxon kings, there had been an organization, partly voluntary, for the repression of crime, the arrest of criminals, and the maintenance of order. The population was divided into hundreds, and these into tithings or companies of ten freeholders with their families. The principal man of the hundred was the justice of the peace, or local magistrate, for the trial of small causes, and the head man of the tithing was responsible for good order and the arrest of criminals in his limited district.

The high sheriff of the county, his deputies, and the constables appointed by the parishes, were eventually substituted for the voluntary officers of the earlier period; but while they answered their purpose tolerably well in the rural districts, they were neither numerous nor efficient enough to repress crime in London. In 1753 a paid police, of very moderate extent, was established in London; but such was the fear of the people lest this measure should lead to encroachment upon their liberties, that it met a violent opposition and was soon repealed. In 1792 an act was passed for the increase of the police courts, the employment of salaried magistrates, and the enlargement of their jurisdiction. In 1800 there were 6 police constables attached to each of the metropolitan police offices, or 48 in all; 60 other constables under the charge of the chief magistrate at Bow street, patrolled the metropolitan roads; the Thames police establishment, organized in 1798, consisted of 41 officers; the city of London employed and paid 40 more; and besides these there were 863 parish officers serving without pay.

The night watch and patrol consisted of 2,044 men for the entire metropolitan district, of whom 803 were in the city of London. The greater part of these men were aged, feeble, infirm, and many of them half starved; their compensation ranged from 17 to 36 cents a night; and they were under the control of more than 70 different boards of officers. This state of things continued with little amelioration till 1829, when Sir Kobert Peel's " act for improving the police in and near the metropolis " was passed. This act established an effective constabulary force under two commissioners, but left several petty detached bodies of peace officers within the district. In 1839 it was modified by an act consolidating the entire constabulary force of the metropolis, the city of London excepted. By this act also the entire executive duties of police were intrusted to the commissioners; their sphere of action in regard to all matters properly belonging to police was greatly enlarged; the police courts were assimilated to the other courts of justice, and a single magistrate was empowered to decide, without appeal, questions involving sums of money not exceeding 40 shillings, as well as those cases of offence against the person so constantly recurring in a police court; and the boundaries of the police districts were changed to adapt them to the growth of the metropolis.

In 1856 the joint commissioners were superseded by one commissioner, whose salary was fixed at £1,500, and two assistant commissioners were appointed, at a salary of £800 each. The metropolitan police district comprises all the parishes within 15 m. of Charing Cross, except the city of London proper, which has an independent police organization. It embraces an area of 687 sq. m., and in 1871 contained 3,808,360 inhabitants. The total length of streets patrolled day and night by the metropolitan police is 6,612 m. The police force on Jan. 1, 1874, consisted of 26 superintendents, 272 inspectors, 992 sergeants, and 8,593 constables, making a total of 9,883 men. Of these, 4 superintendents, 37 inspectors, 84 sergeants, and 504 constables were employed at the royal dockyards and military stations, and 14 inspectors, 54 sergeants, and 472 constables at various government and private establishments, leaving 22 superintendents, 221 inspectors, 854 sergeants, and 7,617 constables for ordinary duty in the metropolis.

The total number of arrests in 1873 was 73,857. The number of designated points where a constable may always be found increased from 103 in 1869, when the system was adopted, to 248 in 1873. There were 161 constables employed on short beats near the principal hackney carriage stands, and a large force is also detailed for the regulation of traffic in the streets and for the protection of passengers at the crossings. Arresting vagrants, licensing peddlers, inspecting public carriages, attending fires, registering the names of prostitutes and examining them under the contagious diseases act, and reporting nuisances, are prominent police functions. Cities, boroughs, and towns in England and Wales maintain police organizations. The rural police or county constabulary force in England is of recent origin. The difficulty of arresting criminals and preventing crime, especially among juvenile offenders, led to its organization. In 1840 parliament passed an act permitting any county, or part of a county, to organize a police force on a plan somewhat similar to that of the metropolitan police. The county of Essex availed itself of the permission the same year; and between 1840 and 1853, 18 English and 4 Welsh counties had adopted it for the whole of each county, and 7 others for parts.

In 1856 the "act to render more effectual the police in counties and boroughs" was passed, and there is now a constabulary force in every county, which reports annually to the secretary of state. The organization of this force has greatly diminished the amount of crime, especially among the young, who are now promptly committed to reformatories, and rendered property safer and the administration of justice more uniform. The strength and cost of the police force in England and Wales for two years were as follows:


Officers and constables.

Total cost.





County constabulary...





Borough police....





Metropolitan police, with her majesty's dockyard police





City of London police..










The number of indictable offences committed, so far as known to the police, was 58,441 in 1869, and 51,972 in 1870. The number of persons arrested for such crimes was 29,278 in 1869, and 26,613 in 1870. The number of persons proceeded against for offences summarily determined was 517,875 in 1869, and 526,869 in 1870. - In Scotland the organization of an efficient police in the large towns dates from 1834, and has been materially modified by subsequent laws. The rural police has been organized under the law of 1857, which is similar in its provisions to the English law of 1856. - In Ireland until 1814 the police was in a chaotic state. The law passed that year led to improvements, but did not remove the management of the force nor the functions of the inferior magistracy from partisan control, by which they were often made the instruments of outrageous abuses. The act of 1836, and its modifications in 1848 and 1857, have greatly improved it. It is quasi-military, being well armed and occupying barracks. The entire police force of Ireland in 1870 comprised 14,007 officers and constables, including the constabulary of 12,472 men and 1,085 metropolitan and 450 local police.

The cost of maintaining the entire force during the year was £963,896. There is a metropolitan police for the city of Dublin and vicinity. - In the United States, the provisions for the repression of crime and the detection and arrest of criminals were copied from those of Great Britain. Each county had its sheriff and deputies, and, where there were town organizations, each town its constables. Justices of the peace, of whom there was a considerable number in each county, and often in each town, appointed by the executive, or of late elected by the people of the town or county, had absolute jurisdiction in petty civil and criminal cases, and power to bind the accused over to a higher court in any case. In the larger towns, the danger to property from fires, burglaries, etc, in the night time, led to the appointment of watchmen, who, like those of London, were often aged and infirm men, few, and poorly paid. The organization of a day police is of recent date even in the large cities. New York had only an inefficient night watch till 1845, when a uniformed municipal police was organized, under the direction of the mayor. The present police organization of that city may be taken as representative of the police systems of American cities generally.

From 1857 to 1870 New York, with the counties of Kings, Westchester, and Kichmond, and the towns of Jamaica, Newtown, and Flushing in Queens county, constituted the metropolitan police district, which was under the supervision of commissioners appointed by the governor of the state. The police force possessed constabulary powers throughout the entire district. It has been claimed for this system that it was superior to the municipal, inasmuch as the police force possessed constabulary powers not limited to the city, and, as their appointment was vested in the chief magistrate of the state, they were removed from the influence of local politics. The city charter of 1870 abolished the metropolitan police organization in New York city, and created the department of police of the city of New York, which consists of a board of police comprising four commissioners, who are appointed by the mayor and receive an annual salary of $6,000, the president of the board receiving $8,000, and the police force and officers appointed by the board. With an area of 41 sq. m. and a population of more than 1,000,000, the city is divided into two inspection districts, 19 surgeons' districts, and 32 precincts, the last named being subdivided into patrol beats or posts.

This territory is patrolled by about 1,900 men, besides about 500 employed in special service. The day posts are about double the extent of the night posts, and consequently the number of men on duty during the night is twice as great as that during the day. The general administration of the police is vested in the board of police, who meet at irregular intervals, and are empowered to make orders, rules, and regulations of general discipline, to make appointments, transfers, and assignments to duty of officers and men, and to hear charges against members of the force. The police force (which varies in numbers from time to time) in July, 1875, consisted of a superintendent, 4 inspectors, 34 captains, 134 sergeants, 2',272 patrolmen, and 80 doormen, making a total of 2,527. There are also 19 surgeons. The superintendent is the chief executive officer. He is appointed by the board, to whom he makes written quarterly reports, and receives an annual salary of $6,000. He is required, among other things, to be present at all serious fires in the city; to command the police force in quelling riots or tumultuous assemblages; to see that the state laws and city ordinances are enforced in the metropolis; and to inform the board of police concerning the presence in the city of any epidemic, or contagious or infectious disease, or any nuisance detrimental to the public health.

Inspectors rank next to the superintendent; they perform general executive duties pertaining to the force, see that the rules and regulations of the board are complied with, and report quarterly in writing to the superintendent. A captain has charge of the police affairs of a precinct, in which he is required to preserve the peace and see that the law is not violated; the officers and men of the precinct are under his direct command. He reports every morning to the central office. The force of the precinct is divided into two platoons and four sections. A sergeant is assigned to the command of each section; he is required to patrol the precinct and see that the roundsmen and patrolmen are performing their duties properly. Each of the station houses is also in charge of a sergeant. The officers lowest in rank are the roundsmen, of whom there are four for each precinct, one being assigned to each platoon. They are required to see that patrolmen perform their duties faithfully. Among other duties patrolmen are required frequently during the night to examine all doors and low windows of dwellings, stores, and other buildings, as well as areas and area gates; to see that street lamps are burning; and to report concerning disorderly houses and places, and all persons known or suspected of being policy dealers, gamblers, receivers of stolen property, thieves, burglars, or offenders of any kind.

Besides the regular organization of the force for ordinary purposes, several bodies or squads are assigned to special duties. The sanitary police company, about 65 in number, are required to inspect buildings, premises, business pursuits, sewerage, drainage, ventilation, etc, and all matters supposed to be dangerous to life or detrimental to health, and to make report thereof to the board of police; to report nuisances; to seize meat, fish, and other food that may be unfit for consumption; and to enforce the orders and regulations of the board of health concerning the cleanliness and sanitary-needs of the city. Officers of this company-are detailed to visit the public schools and ascertain the names and residences of habitual truants, with a view to their commitment to the juvenile asylum or elsewhere. During the quarter ending March 31, 1875, 1,826 such visits were made by six officers to day schools, and 324 to evening schools. The steam-boiler inspection squad is also a part of the sanitary company. It is their duty to inspect all stationary steam boilers used for motive power in the city; and the examining engineers are required to examine applicants for the necessary certificates of qualification as engineers.

The mounted squad was established in 1871, to patrol on horseback the avenues leading to Central park, where the presence of mounted police is necessary to prevent fast and reckless driving. There is also a mounted patrol in four rural precincts, where police of this kind has been found more economical and efficient than the ordinary patrolmen, one of the former being equal to three of the latter. The harbor police, by means of a steamboat and row boats, patrol the waters of the harbor adjacent to the city. The ordinance squad, not exceeding 20 men, is under the direction of the mayor, for enforcing city ordinances. There are also the Broadway squad, on duty during the day in that thoroughfare to aid pedestrians in crossing; the detective squad, 13 in number; court squads, special service squads, etc. The police are required to assist, advise, and protect emigrants, strangers, and others in public streets, steamboats, ship landings, and railroad depots, and to take charge of all lost children and foundlings found in the streets. They also have general supervision over all carts, hacks, omnibuses, and other public vehicles, pawnbrokers, venders, second-hand dealers, junk shops, intelligence offices, and auctions.

The recovery and restoration to the owner of lost or stolen property is a prominent duty. Two important functions, not strictly of a police nature, which have been imposed upon the New York police, relate to street cleaning and elections. In 1872 it was made the duty of the board of police to see that all public thoroughfares, places, etc, are kept in a clean, healthful, unobstructed condition; the immediate supervision of this department is vested by the board in the bureau of street cleaning. All elections held in the city are under the direction of the board of police, who appoint inspectors and other election officers, and to whom the returns are transmitted. The police telegraph is an essential feature of the organization, without which an increased force of nearly 50 per cent, would be necessary. The central office is connected with all station houses and some public institutions. The public parks of the city are guarded by a separate force under the control of the park commissioners. The total number of arrests made by the police of New York during the quarter ending March 31, 1875, was 18,679, including 7,533 native, 7,608 Irish, and 1,916 German persons.

The value of property delivered to owners was $298,613; 448 lost children were recovered, of whom 414 were restored to parents or guardians and 34 sent to the commissioners of charities and correction; lodgings were furnished in the station houses to 79,105 indigent and unfortunate persons; 1,267 stores, dwellings, and buildings were found open; 1,503 complaints of nuisances were reported to the health department; 907 examinations for engineers were held, and 555 steam boilers were inspected. The total expenditures of the department of police amounted to $985,088, of which $796,581 were for police purposes, $187,256 for street cleaning, and $1,249 for elections. Other statistics of the New York police are given in the article on that city, vol. xii., p. 393.