The word Police is derived from the Greek word “Polis”, meaning that part of non-ecclesiastical administration having to do with the safety, health and order of the state. The Greek politeria, meant the art of governing and regulating the welfare, security needs and order of the city-state in the interest of the public.
Although Police is derived from the Greek, it was the Romans who perfected the system. The Roman politia meant the same thing as the Greek Politeira. It was a symbol of power residing in central Authority.
During the duration of the Roman Empire, Police in Rome was organized from the ranks. There was the Roman Prefect which had under his control fourteen Magistrates, each responsible for a district and assisted by vigiles who patrolled the streets, lictores who were law enforcement officers and stationaii who were residents of the city blocks.
In Britain, Policing developed as a local affair with a role which has remained till now. That it is the responsibility of every person to maintain law and order. This role is rooted in history and common law tradition of Britain that each citizen had a duty to suppress crime and disorder within his area. Failure to do so entailed the payment of fines.
The burden of policing was placed on every adult citizen. It was an avocational obligatory policing, manifesting itself in the forms of tythingman of the Saxon Police, the frankpledge in the South and East of England after the Norman conquest 1066 and later as the Parish Constable system after the enactment of the Statute of Winchester 1285.
Before describing these systems in brief, it is relevant to observe that policing and police work did not start as a paid profession. It started as a noble, incorruptible profession with considerable responsibility and distinction. It was the Justices of the Peace system, which corrupted the Parish Constable System.
When the first paid professional police force was proposed in Britain, it was strongly opposed by those who feared that such force would lead to repression and threat to the freedom of the individual and to democracy. The Police Force as we know it today went through three distinct stages before it became a profession. As Hewitt, W.A. puts it. “ At first the populace, though small was responsible for maintaining law and order. Then Justices of the Peace emerged on the scene to provide both the law and order and Justice at the bar. Then, in the present era, paid professional police were established to maintain law and order.