By Mike Sherman
From Victorian Crime & Punishment:
Old English law stressed that “coppers” were merely citizens who were individuals, paid full time, to do what was incumbent upon all citizens.
The first professional police force in the UK, funded by local taxation, was set up in Glasgow in 1800. At the time, the City of Glasgow police undertook more duties than modern police, including fire fighting. It served Glasgow right through until 1975. In 1822, the Irish Constabulary was set up and became the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1867.
It was the start of a campaign to improve public law. Reform, however, was slow as there was distrust of the police at all levels.
Most prosecutions were not carried out by the police, but by private individuals, normally the victims of the crime. Anyone who was thought to have committed a crime was taken to the parish constable or magistrate by the person who caught them. Even in places where there was a proper police force, most prosecutions were still started by private citizens.
It used to be the norm for the public to police themselves to a degree. It was not uncommon to see citizens step up to the plate if they witnessed a crime. “Citizen arrest” statutes are still on the books. When citizens were very active in crime prevention or apprehension of suspects, behavior patterns seemed to maintain a certain level of order and security in society.
People used to look out for one another. I remember truckers were considered the “knights of the highways” because they would not hesitate to bring their rig to a halt to assist a stranded motorist. If someone was acting out in a restaurant with shouting and profanities, others might very well confront the individual instead of calling the police.
Members of society used to protect each other. Guys would not hesitate to come to the aid of someone involved in a fight in an effort to break it up. I believe peer pressure helped keep the peace and maintain a certain level of order in society. Crime in general did not seem anything like we see today.
A perfect example is parents who had no worries or fears about letting their children play in the neighborhood: “Just be home before the streetlights come on!” Our parents never accompanied us as we spent hours going door to door over a huge radius in the neighborhood on Halloween, returning home with a bulging pillowcase full of goodies.
Times have certainly changed. Society seems to have withdrawn from being proactive in wanting to solve a problem on the spot. We’ve all heard the stories that have evolved over the years: folks turning a blind eye to a crime in progress. I recall the case in New York where a woman was being murdered in an apartment courtyard, and no one came to her defense, despite her screaming plea for help.
Now we have a public refusing to get involved, but many won’t hesitate to whip out their phones and start recording. Folks seem to avoid eye contact, and far too many have a sour disposition as they go about their daily business. I believe one of the reasons is fear: People are worried more and there are more things to worry about because the seriousness and volume of crime has steadily increased. Many of the criminals are so whacked out on drugs they are not fully aware of what they are doing. If you stepped in between two people having a verbal argument, you could easily end up dead for getting involved.
The safety and security of society is vital for there to be a level of peace and comfort as we go about our business. While we used to police ourselves, we now depend solely on law enforcement consisting of well-trained and well-equipped officers who won’t hesitate to run towards the problem, as the public tries to flee the area. And if we can’t flee, we are forced to deal with the problem. This helps explain why the Second Amendment is still quite popular and needs our support, even if we personally elect not to carry a weapon. To deny someone else that level of protection might constitute a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
After all, we have a right to “live long and prosper” if we can, considering our environment. Be safe and secure, so you can continue to RV!
Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.
Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at [email protected] if you have questions, or leave a comment below.