‘Police’ were often termed ‘Peace Officers‘. It indicated they would keep the peace (stop blood feuds and riots) by presenting complainants and offenders before a ‘Justice of the Peace‘ where, as far as possible, impartial, fair handed justice would be dealt out.
Police aren’t really there to protect the people, but to protect criminals from vigilante justice dealt out on the street.
Go ahead and defund the police, but get ready for vigilante justice
Those who are calling to end or radically alter the way this country is policed don’t have a good grasp of American history.
There was a time when vast swaths of this country were not policed, or were extremely under-policed.
In the late 19th Century, just three Deputy U.S. Marshals — Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, and Heck Thomas — were responsible for patrolling what would later become the State of Oklahoma. Their exploits are legendary.
For most Americans living outside of the large eastern metropolitan areas at that time, justice simply didn’t exist unless they meted it out themselves.
The first American police department wasn’t established until 1844 in New York City.
Boston and Philadelphia didn’t follow suit until a decade later.
These early departments were modeled upon the British police — the forerunner of the London Metropolitan Police was formed in 1789 — but they did not have detectives and were more concerned with preventing civil disorder and deterring thievery through visible patrol than investigating and solving crime.
In the West things were different.
Law and order were late in coming.
As a result, groups of citizens would band together to combat a specific threat — usually cattle rustling, horse thievery or a murder spree.
These extrajudicial citizen groups were called regulators, although today they would certainly be called vigilantes.
In Western towns without a police force, businesses would fund some of these vigilance groups to protect their property at night when the shop owners slept.
Nationally at this time, state governments granted authority to local businesses to create their own police forces — such as the Coal and Iron Police of Pennsylvania — which were accountable solely to the local CEO.
These “police departments,” which were routinely used as strike-breakers, further eroded public confidence in law and order, and were little more than vigilantes themselves.
Then, as now, when civil society broke down, Americans chose to arm themselves.