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by Peter Moskos

June 10, 2012

Ben Franklin and the first police force

In his autobiography Benjamin Franklin wrote:
On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual watch, the hiring of proper men to serve constantly in the at business; and as a more equitable way of supporting the charge the levying a tax than should be proportion'd to the property.... It paved the way for the law obtained a few years after.
And he said so in 1732, ninety-seven years before Robert Peel gets credit for London's Bobbies. What ever happened to the Benny's (as I will dub Franklin's police)? How long did they last? What did they do?


Johann Koehler said...

For whatever reason, I think I heard about this proposal, and I seem to recall being told it remained just that: a proposal. Franklin's 'Bennies' were never realised. I might be wrong, though.

Fielding's 'Runners', however, certainly did materialise, and they did so as early as 1749: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_Street_Runners

Unknown said...

Ah, yes, the hiring of "proper men" (and women?) We have similar paths, we both were sociologists who became cops. But I got stuck for 30+ years! Nevertheless, we both learned some things. I enjoyed your book. Mine was written some years after I retired. You may want to take a look at it and my blog on improving police, “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (Amazon.com). My blog is at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com.