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  1. #1
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    Oldest US law enforcement agency

    What is the oldest US law enforcement agency? I know the Guardia Municipal in San Juan, PR was created in the 1500s but I mean on the mainland states.

    Im assuming its constables/sheriffs in Plymouth or Jamestown?

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    Saint Mary's County Sheriff's Office in Maryland.

    www.firstsheriff.com
    In God we trust, all others are run MILES and NCIC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisF202
    What is the oldest US law enforcement agency? I know the Guardia Municipal in San Juan, PR was created in the 1500s but I mean on the mainland states.

    Im assuming its constables/sheriffs in Plymouth or Jamestown?
    I guess this could be one of those "it depends on whom you ask" deals, but I've alays understood it to be the United States Customs Service, currently constituted as the Customs and Border Protection Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security.
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    Oldest US Law Enforcement Agency

    I've seen the U.S. Postal Inspectors make the claim of oldest agency as well.

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    US Marshals Service makes the claim as well since they were created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 (I actually did a paper on the act during college for a History Class).....

    http://www.usdoj.gov/marshals/history/oldest.htm

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    The real deal:
    2nd act of Congress in 1789 established the Customs Service. The U.S. Marshals make the claim as the first "law enforcement only", while Customs was a Revenue agency. Nope, the Customs Service (and the Revenue Cutter Service, now Coast Guard), was the first agency constituted to enforce the laws of the United States.

    If you go to the Marshal's web site listed above, you will see that they are very careful about defining their claim. Sorry fellows, you do great work, but it was U.S. Customs first, feeding the Treasury and enforcing anti-smuggling laws since 1789.

    Why were we the first? Because most of the "Founding Fathers" had made fortunes smuggling past the Brits! The new country needed the money, and the anti-smuggling laws were the way to get it. (There was no income tax until 1918, IIRC).
    Last edited by Sleuth; 07-12-2006 at 06:56 PM.
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    I swear my dept has some equipment from that time period we still use...

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    Not to add fuel to the fire, but my good friend is a Postal Inspector and she swears they are the oldest LE agency. She claims their agency can be traced back to 1772, when Postmaster General Ben Franklin appointed a surveyor or special agent to regulate and audit the mails; thus, the Service's origins predate the Declaration of Independence (wording with the help of Wikipedia).

    She even gave me a nice USPIS wall calender a few years ago which clearly said they were the oldest LE agency...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metro174
    Saint Mary's County Sheriff's Office in Maryland.

    www.firstsheriff.com
    One of the first...lol...oldest Sheriff's office in Maryland...

    I agree that it may be the Postal Service!

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    Postal Inspectors

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    Quote Originally Posted by SoCalFed
    Not to add fuel to the fire, but my good friend is a Postal Inspector and she swears they are the oldest LE agency. She claims their agency can be traced back to 1772, when Postmaster General Ben Franklin appointed a surveyor or special agent to regulate and audit the mails; thus, the Service's origins predate the Declaration of Independence (wording with the help of Wikipedia).

    She even gave me a nice USPIS wall calender a few years ago which clearly said they were the oldest LE agency...
    Yeah...it's a big feud btwn USMS, USPIS, and USCG about who is the oldest FLEO service.....

    I have the same calender at my office back in Missouri......one of my buddies that is with the USMS Office out of KC about crapped when he saw that.....and started bitching.....

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    Jamestown, VA

    How about Captain John Smith, who defended the Jamestown, VA settlement starting in 1607. Jamestown may not exist any longer, but I don't think that is the criteria here.

    Not only did he defend indian attacks, he also enforced strict laws that basically said, "no work, no food." What a concept!

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    Is this the oldest law enforcement agency in America, or the oldest agency formed after we became a nation?

    adding

    http://www.nleomf.com/TheMemorial/Facts/impdates.htm
    Last edited by willowdared; 07-13-2006 at 01:53 AM.
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    Beyond federal, I believe Boston claims to be the first city with a "professional" police force.
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    Not Quite

    You need to define exactly how the question will be asked. To be the oldest LE agency in the US it had to have some type of jurisdiction. If it was created before the ratification of the Constitution then it can’t be federal. It will be an agency with inter-state authority.

    The Constitution was officially ratified and became effective March 4, 1789, and the Marshals Service was formed by the Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1789. It was a dedicated body for law enforcement and intended for such purpose.

    In 1772, Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin created the position of “Surveyor”, which later changed its name to "Chief Postal Inspector", but appears to have served the same function. The Postal Inspection Service is currently a federal law enforcement agency, but was it always considered as such? NO…..

    Benjamin Franklin position was not intended to be a dedicated body of law enforcement, so it doesn’t count.

    Of course if you want to get all technical and stuff, the oldest settlement/city in the US was formed in Florida; St. Augustine, 1565. The Spanish government had soldiers that enforced Spanish rule on the settlement. So then they could be considered as the oldest LE agency since they had clear responsibilities of enforcing laws and regulations.

    But wait!!! Before those Spaniards came, the Native Americans had set out rules and regulations that were enforced by Indian tribe’s chiefs and their deputies. So then they have the oldest running LE agency in the US; the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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    Well let’s set the rules for this. Customs will when any way you go. LOL

    If you go from the day we became a nation they were the first created by the U.S. Government to collect the money.

    If you go before we were the United States and a colony of Britain it would still be Customs. You see what was basically British Customs became U.S. Customs. That is why Britain came to the new world for money. They quickly moved in and started collecting taxes. This was done by their version of Customs. We won the revolution and it became U.S. Customs.
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    oldest law enforcement.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisF202
    What is the oldest US law enforcement agency?
    That was the question, not the earliest, besides regardless of who started it does not matter. The idea here is what is the oldest form of LE in the US, as form of enforcement body that is dedicated to preserve law and order. Obviously most have a mindset of LE as a beat cop rather than a unify body of people who work under a given jurisdiction whether uniformed or not.

    The position of “Surveyor”, posted by Benjamin Franklin was nothing more than inspections of post offices. So that in itself was not considered LE then or now.

    The US Marshals is a different case, they were created solely as LE agency with the intention of cross-state jurisdiction. So if we are talking about purely LE as we know it today; then this would be it.

    I already had this discussion a long time ago with several other leo’s from another forum about whether the Marshal Service is the oldest against BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). I think that they go as far as 1824 making them the one oldest bureau. But as far as LE Marshals got them by 35 years. Of course I’m a historian so I could be wrong. I did a research paper once and I had all the information but I can’t find it right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyingpig
    How about Captain John Smith, who defended the Jamestown, VA settlement starting in 1607. Jamestown may not exist any longer, but I don't think that is the criteria here.

    Not only did he defend indian attacks, he also enforced strict laws that basically said, "no work, no food." What a concept!
    What they did was more of a militia/professional soldiers. It was an army at a fort designed to defend against Spanish attack, and ended up defending against Indian attack instead. Not really a "police" force though. As for James City PD, not that old.

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    Real History

    OK, so I have to call one of my historian geek friends and did some research on my own. I also asked several crusty super old po’s and I mean 30 to 40 years in LE, to guide me onto where to research. I also called a good friend of mine that happens teach law in UM and knows a thing or two about LE.

    So here's what I came up with that can be verified:

    In April of 1631, the City of Boston establishes the first system of law enforcement in the 13 colonies, called the "night watch," officers served part-time, without pay. This is the oldest recorded history of LE in the US.

    (Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Washington, D.C.)
    Certified by a professor that teaches law in the University of Miami who’s a friend of mine.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 1637, The St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office traces its history to Sheriff James Baldridge, and yes there is such record of a general assembly held at St. Maries, on the 25th Day of January of the same year. I read the whole proceedings and in deed James Baldridge was address as Sheriff of St. Maries County. So I guess he is the second oldest sheriff but I could not find any history on whether he had deputies of not.

    Source: Archives of Maryland, Vol. 1, p. 2 (proofed from gif files), Liber Z, folios 15-27
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 1712 The City of Boston hires the first full-time, paid law enforcement officers in the13 colonies.

    (Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Washington, D.C.)
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 1789, President George Washington appoints thirteen U.S. Marshals and establishes the first federal law enforcement agency in the US. I guess this is where I was wrong, they are the oldest federal LE.

    (Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Washington, D.C.)

    ================================================== ========

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    Change question

    Of course YES, the Brits would be the oldest as far as none native and tracing White American Roots. They had a form of laws and LE already established.

    The Spanish are the oldest as far as none native, having recorded history of setting up an actual settlement with its own laws and LE.

    The Native Americans claim that they are the true natives of the US who where here long before any Europeans set foot. They also claim to have the oldest form of laws in conjunction with enforcement.

    Now the Chinese claim that all aborigines are descended of a long nomadic tribe that originated in ancient China and who still exist in Alaska. If those aborigines travel from China to North America then this traces Indians way back to ancient China which had a well form of laws and LE; way before Christ.

    So the question should be changed to;

    Q: What is the oldest American (none native) recorded law enforcement agency in the US?

    A: The City of Boston, 1631.

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    Thanks guys, some pretty old agencies out there!

    My county's sheriff's office was created in 1670 as a ONE man department. Compare that to 1,300 sworn officers today.

  23. #23
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    The Virginia Capitol Police is America's oldest police department. It was established in 1618, by the "The Great Charter of 1618", at Jamestown, Virginia to protect the Governor of Virginia and the Colonial Assembly from Indian attack.
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  24. #24
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    [QUOTE=GatorPD]The Virginia Capitol Police is America's oldest police department. It was established in 1618, by the "The Great Charter of 1618", at Jamestown, Virginia to protect the Governor of Virginia and the Colonial Assembly from Indian attack.[/QUOTE

    Wrong again. The Capital Police were not formed until 1869, up until then it was the "Public Guard" that protected the Capital and the Gov, the Colonial Assembly and the Council.


    The capital Police can only claim as being recognized as the first organized policing agency in the nation. Not the First Police Agency.
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  25. #25
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    Thats just symantics. It was the same body of people under a different name. They didnt get rid of the guard then find a whole new bunch of people to be the police.

    It boils down to how you interpret the original question. Do you want the oldest policing agency still in the US, or the oldest policing agency formed since the US became the US? Do you even want the first policING group, or the first true "POLICE" agency?
    Sheriff: We just take turns being the sheriff. It's real easy. You just hang out here, eat some pie, and get drunk.
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