Discuss the Historical Development of Policing and Criminal Law in the United States

Policing in America continues to evolve and provide a balance between safeguarding the rights of the people as contained in the constitution and service through enforcing law and order. Three eras have emerged so far. In the political era of 1840 to 1930, the police provided a wide range of social service in their area of jurisdiction. The departments were decentralized, and an intimate relationship existed. The reform era took effect in the 1930-1980 and was necessitated by the corruption cases affecting officers. The period introduced crime control models and professional, centralized police departments. Consequently, the law informant lost the intimate relationship it had with the community, who did not trust the police anymore. However, the community era of 1980 to the present bridged the distance between police and the community. This period offers both crime control and community service collaborations with the central aim of increasing the safety of neighborhoods (Brody & Acker, 2015).

The main source of criminal law is the constitution. Law outside this document is unconstitutional. The second source includes the statutes and ordinances, which are laws that the Congress and state legislature create. Examples of these regulations are those that define homicides, burglary, and rape (Spillane & Walcot 2013). Administrative rules from US government commissions are another source of criminal law. These commissions create rules and probes violation cases before striking sanctions. Finally, the appellate court deals with cases whereby some rules have not been codified into statutes. The two primary functions of criminal law are retribution and deterrence. Retribution functions balance the scales in regards to an offense. Deterrence, on the other hand, offers penalties to discourage acts of crime (Stuntz, 2013).


Some of the amendments of the US constitution have had a major influence on the criminal justice system. For example, the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments ensure that people are treated fairly if suspected to have committed crimes (Jacobson, 2018). If it is determined that the right of a suspect has been violated, then the perpetrators face retribution.



Brody, D. C., & Acker, J. R. (2015). Criminal law. Open Textbooks. Retrieved from http://www.opentextbooks.org.hk/system/files/export/28/28025/pdf/Criminal_Law_28025.pdf

Jacobson, B. (2018). The US Constitution. US Constitution. Retrieved from https://www.usconstitution.net/const.pdf

Spillane, J. F., & Wolcott, D. B. (2013). A history of modern American criminal justice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Retrieved from https://journals.openedition.org/chs/pdf/1034.

Stuntz, W. J. (2013). The collapse of American criminal justice. Patience Fruit. Retrieved from http://patiencefruitco.com/the_collapse_of_american_criminal_justice.pdf