The modern police must protect the public against physical dangers, rescue lives, regulate traffic and preserve law and order in the streets and public places. It also has a definite duty with regard to the prevention of juvenile delinquency and atrocities against women, children and weaker sections of the society.
Any discussion on ‘police’ will remain incomplete without a word about the historical origin and evolution of this institution. Originally, the word ‘police’ was used in a wider sense to connote the management of internal economy and the enforcement of government regulations in a particular country. With the passage of time, the term ‘police’ began to be used in a much narrower sense to connote an agency of the State to maintain law and order and enforce the regulations of the criminal procedure law.
The word ‘police’ is derived from the Greek word politeia or its Latin equivalent politia. The term politia stands for the ‘State’ or ‘administration’. In the present context, the term ‘police’ connote a body of civil servants whose primary duties are preservation of order, prevention and detection of crimes and enforcement of law. As pointed out by Ernest Fround, police functions generally relate to promoting public welfare by restraining and regulating the use of property and liberty of persons.
Police force has always been an indispensible appendage of State organisation in almost all the civil societies of the world. Only the persons of proven ability and those having thorough knowledge of local region and its people were recruited in the police force so that they could tackle the problem of law enforcement efficiently.
However, with the progress of civilization and development of knowledge, the dimensions of police functions have extended beyond limits. Now it has assumed the role of a social service organisation in the modem welfare states and has no longer remained a mere watch-dog agency.