Ohio History Journal

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Early Efforts at State-Level Law

Enforcement: The Failure of

Ohio's Supervision of Local

Police Authorities, 1902-1925



At the time of its founding in 1803, Ohio placed responsibility for

enforcing its criminal statutes and maintaining public order in the

hands of traditional local officials, and did little to change this prac-

tice for ninety-nine years.1 County sheriffs, township constables,

city and village mayors and marshals, and city watches carried the

burden until 1859. The modern concept of"police" authorities estab-

lished explicitly for these purposes first appeared in Cincinnati dur-

ing that year; exercising its power, the state abolished the offices of

city marshal and city watch in favor of this new alternative.

Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century the central

government gradually imposed the police idea upon municipal gov-

ernments, and by 1902 police departments-marked by the centra-

lization of power in the hands of one agency, a primary focus upon

combatting crime and public disorder, preventative policing, and

the permanence of staff as opposed to a periodic turnover of person-

nel-existed in all cities.2


Stanley L. Swart is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of

North Florida.



1. For the first century of Ohio policing, see Stanley L. Swart, "The Development

of State-Level Police Activity in Ohio, 1802-1928" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation,

Northwestern University, 1974), Chaps. 1-2, cited below as Swart, "Ohio, 1802-

1928"; and Samuel Walker, A Critical History of Police Reform, The Emergence of

Professionalism (Lexington, Mass., 1977), 40-43, cited below as Samuel Walker,

Police Reform. For a general background of police reform in the United States during

the nineteenth century, see Samuel Walker, Police Reform, Part I; Barbara Raffel

Price, Police Professionalism, Rhetoric and Action (Lexington, Mass., 1977), Chaps.

1-2, cited below as Price, Police Professionalism: and James F. Richardson, Urban

Police in the United States (Port Washington, N.Y., 1974), Chaps. 1-4, cited below as

Richardson, Urban Police.

2. Swart, "Ohio, 1802-1928," Chaps. 1-2.