((Recently while suffering the aftereffects of a flashbang during a training exercise I started thinking about the different methodologies of law enforcement in the modern world, and the evolution of law in our world (specifically England and Wales) and began to think about how this would look in CoE. The following article is an adaptation of a mix of Medieval and Renaissance policing ideals with a bit of Victorian and modern theories intertwined and is written in character. As always actual in-game practices will be limited by the mechanics available.))
y Lords and Ladies of the Council during my travels around our fair realm I have come across several different methods of maintaining order and internal security which I present now for your information.
The Hue and Cry
In rural communities too small or too poor to afford watchmen and too remote for regular attention from the nearest baron or count the hue and cry becomes the principal method of law enforcement. The guiding thought behind this system is a sense of communal responsibility for safety and justice.
As part of the system of the hue and cry victims and witnesses to criminal activity alert the other members of the community by shouting and calling loudly (in fact hue and cry seems to descend from the proto-neran for shouting and calling). All those who hear the hue and cry are to attend the scene of the crime and if necessary pursue and capture the criminal, failure to do so is generally frowned upon and in some counties is even considered criminal.
Once the criminal is caught he is either punished by the community, usually through a beating or some forfeiture of goods, or he is bound over (that is detained in someway) until he can be put before a court.
There are various advantages and disadvantages to this system. The hue and cry is low-cost, emphasises a community spirit and in smaller communities is more efficient than formal law enforcement. However the hue and cry breaks down in larger communities and settlements, encourages a vigilante mentality and tends to deliver a slower form of justice then a more professional force is apt to do.
The Town Watch
Sometimes called the town guard the town watch tends to be found in midsized and large urban settlements. Generally paid for by the settlement via taxation town watches are founded to defend the town, keep the peace and to actively deter criminal behaviour. How effective these bodies are depends mostly on the quality of men they attract due to wages, training and equipment. The structure and duties of the town watch depend on locality but usually the watch consists of between four and twenty watchmen (depending on population) divided into a day and night shift and led by a commander of some sort. Depending on the settlement the town watch will spend time patrolling the streets actively seeking disorder or be based at watch stations for crime to be reported to them.
The duties of the town watch tend to be similar in almost every settlement. The primary duty of a watchman is to prevent a breach of the peace and to maintain order. Watchmen also commonly maintain the fire watch, patrol the town walls (should there be any), guard the gates, enforce the curfew, collect taxes and tolls on behalf of the Mayor and guard important civic buildings. If the watch catches a criminal they tend to be kept in a specialised detention area until they can be brought before the court.
The advantages of town watches tend to be in the professionalisation of law enforcement, allowing a few to take up the burden of maintaining order while the remainder do not have to engage actively in enforcement meaning a general rise in economic productivity. This is especially true with larger settlements or trading hubs with transient populations where a close sense of community may have been eroded. Unfortunately town watches can cost a significant amount for infrastructure, training and equipment which makes them unsuitable for low population settlements and for settlements with low tax income.
Most Counts in Nirath maintain guards to protect their person and their property. A number, usually among those Counts who enter into baronial contracts with their Duke expand their guards and provide a travelling patrol throughout their county. These travelling patrols tend to be mounted and move along the main roads of a county between the major settlements, only travelling the lesser roads if there is a bandit problem. Most County forces operate to keep the roads safe and to collect the county taxes though some Counts train their men in advanced tracking techniques and use them to actively hunt for bandit camps. I have even seen one county where the militia is trained in ‘investigative science’ and tracks down murderers and thieves who have evaded the watch and the hue and cry.
The advantages to rural communities and travellers are obvious though this does as with the watch come with associated expenses that are either borne by the count or by his mayors in tax.
In most rural areas patrols by ducal and baronial forces are the only formal form of law enforcement. This use of the military to deter crime during peacetime is fairly common as it makes use of a resource that was already being paid for. The use of the military in law enforcement has several advantages, the first of which I’ve already mentioned in that the training, housing and equipping of the military is already being paid for at some level by the Duke. The use of the military to keep roads safe and to hunt bandits also ensures that the military is kept active during peacetime rather than being left idle at the Duke’s expense.
There are commensurate disadvantages as well in that the profession of the military is war, not internal security and forces that are trained and equipped for pitched battle may operate effectively against bandits but are less effective at maintaining curfew or collecting tolls. Using military forces as internal security has attendant problems during time of war as the military focuses on the objectives of the war, patrolling the countryside to protect travellers becomes a secondary concern to engaging and defeating the enemy. The use of baronial forces as law enforcers can also lead to issues for counties with no or few barons who must content with neighbouring counties sending patrols, if the Count is unwilling to pay to raise his own force.