________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 8 . . . . October 24, 2014


Behind the Badge: Crime Fighters Through History.

Ed Butts. Art by Gareth Williams.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2014.
164 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-674-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-675-9 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Police-History-Juvenile literature.
Law enforcement-History-Juvenile literature.
Crime prevention-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

*** /4



In 14th-century England, laws stated what clothing people could wear. Commoners could not dress like aristocrats, even if they could afford it. Furs, silks, and precious stones were only for nobles. If the sheriff caught you dressed "above your state", he could confiscate the clothing and accessories on the spot. If you were a lowly peasant, the belt that held up your pants had better be made of rope, and not leather.

In this engaging introduction to the history of policing, Butts delves into human settlements around the world from prehistoric times to the present. The wide range of interesting facts and developments presented should appeal to readers irrespective of gender or ethnic ancestry.

internal art      Chapters follow chiefly a chronological arrangement beginning with the prehistoric world where tribal chiefs, camp police and elders took on the role of keeping the peace and settling disputes. From the ancient world, Butts introduces developments in Athens, Rome, China and India. England, the Ottoman Empire, and Japan are the focal locations in discussing the medieval world. Modern policing emerged in cities of Western Europe. Sir Robert Peel in early 19th century London implemented a new crime fighting force consisting of one thousand bobbies who pioneered a new role of police as helpful cops walking a beat instead of representing solely the "strong arm of the law". One chapter describes the variant methods of policing employed in the frontier regions of the U.S.A., Canada, and Australia in the last half of the 19th century. The 20th century is identified as a period when new technologies like photography and forensic sciences, including DNA analysis, were widely adopted by police.

      No discussion of law enforcement can avoid introducing the context of the law or authority that directs the enforcers. Butts embeds enough legal history to round out the policing narrative. He notes that in ancient Babylon, King Hammurabi's Code, heavily based on religion and prescribing an eye for an eye, was the earliest recorded legal code. Conflicts between church and state law were not uncommon in medieval Europe. Both India and England had ancient laws prescribing the clothes that people could wear based on their caste or social class. Readers will find this kind of information intriguing. Some concepts introduced are explained in context, but others, like prohibition, are defined in a glossary that is far from comprehensive. Additional useful features consist of a timeline, extensive bibliography including internet resources, and a good index.

      Girls, in particular, will be glad to find a chapter on the history of women in policing. Sadly, it is necessary to include chapters discussing "bad cops" and tyrannical "secret police" through the ages. Even if it may seem that corruption and state sponsored oppression runs rampant around the world, Butts finds some good news stories to include. In 1960s New York, agent Serpico fought police corruption. In eastern Europe in the country Georgia, almost the entire national police force was fired in 2005 in order to end corruption. Better pay and training for new hires has helped to reduce crime in the country.

      Gareth Williams' illustrations share a somber colour palette that brings a unifying look to the book. At their best, they bring the text to life, for example in the depiction of a medieval lawbreaker locked in a pillory. Others serve primarily a decorative purpose yet convey details such as clothing of the time and place.

      Behind the Badge is useful for its historical content, but it can also serve as an introduction to policing as a varied career option.


Val Ken Lem is a liaison librarian for history, English and Caribbean studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - October 24, 2014.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive