Police service has never been an especially high-paying career, but most police officers today enjoy much better wages than their earliest forebears.

That's because modern police forces can trace their roots to a volunteer system of “watch and ward” duty that was imposed on English men after the Normans conquered their country in 1066.

English colonists brought that system to America , where it was common for men to take turns “standing watch” without pay. (Some of the watchers were compensated, however, by wealthy citizens who hired them to take their place.)

As cities grew, volunteer systems became unwieldy and insufficient to protect the populace. Boston became one of the first U.S. cities to establish a paid police department when it set up a six-man force for daytime patrol in 1838. A few years later, in 1844, New York established an 800-man police force for both day and night duty, and over the next 30 years many other cities adopted the New York model.

The first statewide police organization predated Boston 's effort. The Texas Rangers were organized in 1835, serving first as a border patrol and later taking over general police work.

Back in England, Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police of London in 1829, creating a paid police force that was trained for both night and day duty. The men were called “peelers” or “bobbies” after the man who organized them, and the latter nickname has stuck to this day.

Source: The World Book Encyclopedia