History of Criminal Justice Careers

You might be aware of a number of different criminal justice careers. However, have you ever wondered where these careers actually came from? You might be interested to know that the field of criminal justice is over 7,000 years old, and the first criminal justice professionals designed many of the basic concepts that the criminal justice system still uses today. In fact, many legal concepts in our modern day courts, including concepts such as appealing a court’s decision and issuing punishments that fit the crime, date all the way back to biblical times. It is important to note, however, that these early criminal justice professionals were not like the professionals we see today, since many of them were required to carry out laws designed to protect kings, clergyman, and other prominent individuals of the land rather than the ordinary citizen. As a result, these early criminal justice professionals were more concerned with preserving the power of the ruling class rather than preserving peace.


Unfortunately, the belief that criminal justice was nothing more than a means to preserve power continued for thousands of years as emperors and kings throughout China, the Roman Empire, and the rest of the world attempted to solidify their power. These individuals, as a result, continued to use the law as a means to control the populace, but their desire for control eventually led to the development of some of the modern day criminal justice careers we now know. In fact, the first individuals to carry out tasks similar to those of modern day law enforcement professionals appeared in China around 220 B.C.E., when the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (also known as King Ying Zheng), combined the warring states of China into a single nation and divided the new nation into a series of prefectures. Each prefecture, basically the equivalent of a county, was controlled by a prefect responsible for ensuring that the Emperor’s laws were enforced. As such, these prefects apprehended criminals, carried out investigations, collected evidence, and presented the criminal and the evidence to a magistrate who would conduct a trial much like a modern day judge. While this system of law enforcement was very effective, it was still designed to protect the Emperor’s interests rather than the interests of the ordinary citizen. Subsequently, the system ultimately broke down when the peasants revolted in response to the prefects’ attempts to enforce some of the Emperor’s more unusual or unpleasant laws.

The role that criminal justice professionals played in politics and power struggles began to change in the mid 17th century when King Louis XIV of France created the first police force designed to preserve the peace in a specific city. This police force, formed to patrol the streets of Paris, consisted of a group of police commissioners and police inspectors tasked with investigating crimes that occurred within the city. Each police commissioner was assigned to a specific district and was required to monitor and control the law enforcement activities of the police force within that district. This system of law enforcement allowed King Louis XIV to reduce greatly the amount of crime taking place in Paris. In fact, it proved so successful that King Louis XIV ordered all the major cities and towns of France to create similar police forces near the end of the 17th century.

The success of the Parisian police force encouraged other European nations to establish their own police forces and eventually led to the creation of the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 1829. The MPS, also known as Scotland Yard (the location of this organization’s first headquarters), created many of the features we now see in modern day police forces. In fact, many of the features we commonly associate with police departments such as blue uniforms, police detectives, police stations, and fingerprinting (first used in 1901) come directly from the MPS.