14 Police Stud.: Int'l Rev. Police Dev. 1 (1991)
Some Comments on the Origin of the Police

handle is hein.journals/polic14 and id is 11 raw text is: Some Comments on the Origin of the

Patrick B. Adamson, Nor
The earliest history of a police force is to be
found in records from Egypt and Mesopotamia
dated  to  c.1500 BCE. Egyptian police
originated slightly earlier and were more fully
developed than in Mesopotamia. The civilian
force developed independently in these two
countries. The police were efficiently organised
under control of civilian officials, but often had
a bad reputation for harsh treatment of prison-
ers, and they may have tortured suspects in
order to obtain evidence. Nevertheless, evi-
dence given by the police in the courts was con-
sidered to be accurate and trustworthy.
The earliest records of peaceful administration
in Egypt are to be found in the statements of
Uni, who maintained law and military justice
in that country during the reign of Pepi I
(dynasty V1, 2315-2262 BCE);' he also con-
trolled the Medjay, nomadic tribesmen in
Nubia, during the reign of Mernere (2261-2254
BCE).2 The Medjay were mobile, militant and
troublesome to the peaceful farming set-
tlements in Nubia, so the southern boundaries
of Egypt required continual military supervi-
sion. These tribesmen were disturbers of the
peace and seriously interfered with trade;3
punitive expeditions against these nomads
were, in fact, police actions to maintain border
peace in Nubia.
However, by the time of the late period of
dynasty XVII (c. 1600 BCE), the Medjay were
being enrolled in the Egyptian armies,4 and it
is clear that by dynasty XVIII (1567-1320
BCE) the Medjay certainly were being used as
policemen to patrol desert boundaries, to
guard cemeteries and to maintain order within
the state of Egypt itself.' Thus, the desert
tribesmen had been transformed into a civilian
police force.
This police force was controlled by civilian
Egyptian officers, the senior being called chief
of Medjay, and having deputies under him.
Each large town or district had its company of

th Yorkshire, Great Britain
police commanded by a captain of Medjay.6
The Medjay usually carried spears and shields,
but sometimes may have been armed with
bows. Apparently the police tortured suspects
in order to obtain evidence.7 As early as the
reign of Tuthmosis I (1525-1512 BCE), there
was a settlement at Deir el-Medina which had a
permanent post for a company of police.8 The
police were responsible officials who gave
evidence which could be used in the courts,9
but they were also under strict discipline, and,
if necessary, could be punished for any in-
fringement of the law.10
In Mesopotamia, by the Old Babylonian
period (c. 1800 BCE), civil law and justice were
being practiced by the king and his ad-
ministrators.1 Although there was no official
police force at this time, towns had a civilian
night watchman (dgkU), and the semi-military
official (rdz), was armed and maintained order
in the city.2 Later, in Assyria, the rab dWi was
an official who administered the law in a
specific city, often having additional military
duties as well.'3 The Itua, a militant tribe, was
effectively controlled by this official, who
employed them as semi-military policemen.
Serious breaches of the peace were dealt with
by this special branch of the army. They were
usually armed with bows, and were under
direct control of their own officer (9aknu). They
had a reputation for cruelty and for harsh
treatment of prisoners.
By the middle of the 2nd millenium BCE,
civilian officials were now enforcing the law;
this was also noted at Mari, Alalakh and
Nuzi.1 The ridct had become a policeman with
some military associations, and he now carried
an official staff but had no weapon. The man-
zattuhlu was a court offical employed by
judges as legal witness to the carrying out of
sentence. He was a civilian and was equivalent
to a policeman of the court.5 Thus, by the mid-
dle of the 2nd millenium BCE, Mesopotamian
civil administration had a simple police force,
whose members were civilians attached to the

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