The Criminal Justice Ennead

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

An ennead refers to any grouping of nine but the historic origins of the term trace back to ancient Egypt.  The original term referred to the group of nine major gods of the Egyptian pantheon.  This makes it a fitting term for the collection of organizations charged with policing America today.

A nation devoted to the rule of law, police have become the primary arbiters of life; a god-like power.  Police agencies today hold the power of life and death, liberty or enslavement just as the gods of old held such powers.  As such, police agencies have become in effect, the gods of the modern world.

The United States currently has an Ennead of Law Enforcement Agencies

Ensconced within the recently formed Department of Homeland Security in 2003 are five of these police organizations:  Customs, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Naturalization, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration (Department of Homeland Security, 2010).  Additionally, there are approximately 15,800 local police agencies, 49 state agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Marshals (Schmalleger, 2009).  These agencies developed as the nation grew with the first possessing roots in America as early as 1634.

Before the United States existed the colonies began to develop sheriffs and constables appointed for the serving of papers and other similar functions; a practice continued today.  The first record of an organized force dates to the Boston Watch of 1634.  All male citizens served in the watch with some wealthier citizens paying others to serve in their stead.  Not until many years later however did the first organization resembling a modern police force appear.  This occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1837 when local authorities established the Slave Patrol (Walker & Katz, 2008).

The United States Customs Service

Upon adoption of the U.S. Constitution the first of a string of new police powers began to appear.  After winning an expensive war against England, the new nation was nearly bankrupt.  On July 4, 1789, Congress passed the Tariff Act, which permitted the collection of customs duties.  A month later, the Customs service was made operational and it was from this revenue stream that the new nation eliminated all debt, purchased additional lands, and built Washington, DC.  This single organization funded all national growth for 125 years (U.S. Customs Service, 2010).  In 2003, the Customs Service became part of the Department of Homeland Security (Department of Homeland Security, 2010).

The U.S. Marshals Service

Whereas many may not think of the Customs Service as a police organization, in fact it is.  According to the U.S. Customs website, “in addition to its own laws” the department “enforces well over 400 other provisions of law for at least 40 agencies” (U.S. Customs Service, 2010) ; the ability to enforce is one of the primary characteristics of a police agency.  Of course, by having this particular police agency in operation, funding for additional organizations was made possible.  One such organization was the U.S. Marshals Service.

After Congress passed the Judiciary Act in late 1789, President Washington appointed the first U.S. Marshals.  In the early years, the U.S. Marshals conducted a wide array of duties ranging from the execution of federally convicted prisoners to handling the census.  The Marshals conducted the census every 10 years until 1870.  In addition, the Marshals investigated counterfeiting, were at the forefront in putting down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and enforcing the Sedition Act of 1798.   The Marshals were the primary means of law in the Old West.  During the Civil War, the service also acted as an arm of the military by confiscating property that could be used by the Confederacy.  By the time alcohol prohibition arrived, the U.S. Marshals were the primary enforcers of the Volstead Act because the Federal Bureau of Investigation was still in its infancy (The U.S. Marshals Service, 2010).

Entering the twentieth century, the U.S. Marshals divided into more specialized departments.  As a result, the Marshals often simply provided assistance and expertise to other organizations when called upon.  This was the case until 1970 when the Marshals service developed the Witness Security Program in response to the national crackdown on organized crime.  Most efforts today by the Marshals focus on the apprehension of fugitives.  After more than 200 years of existence and repeated dismantling to form specialized units, the U.S. Marshals Service remains the most powerful force with the greatest jurisdiction of any police agency in America (The U.S. Marshals Service, 2010).

The U.S. Coast Guard

One year later, in 1790, came the formation of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Initially operating with only 10 vessels, the Coast Guard’s primary duty was the enforcing of the tariff laws at sea.  The Coast Guard also conducts search and rescue missions, inspections of vessels, ports, and coasts, works toward protecting marine wildlife, and serves as a front-line of protection for the nation’s sea borders during times of peace, currently under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security.  In times of war, Coast Guard authority transfers to the Navy department (U.S. Coast Guard, 2010).

The U.S. Secret Service

By 1865, America saw the need for a full-time organization to fight counterfeiting and established the U.S. Secret Service.  Before long, additional duties included all crimes related to fraud.  This included investigating postage stamp counterfeiting, mail-bombs, Ku Klux Klan activities, smugglers, and even land fraud.  After the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, Congress acted quickly in securing funding for presidential protection by the Secret Service.  In 1908 the foundation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was comprised of Secret Service agents.  Best known for their role in protecting the President, Secret Service duties include protection of diplomats, investigation of credit card, telemarketing, and electronic fraud, and other such as determined by the head of the Department of Homeland Security (The U.S. Secret Service, 2010).

The service has since been reorganized and split up into two agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, mainly the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with a Customs Service inscription. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]


For the primary purpose of aiding foreign immigrants as well as protecting the borders from infringements of immigration policies, the United States created the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in 1891.  In 2003, the department was dismantled and divided into three new organizations under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2010).

State Police

By 1905, the nation had undergone considerable changes in policing.  Numerous states had adopted state level police agencies but until the creation of the Pennsylvania State Constabulary, nothing similar to the modern State Police existed.  The State established the Constabulary along staunchly militaristic lines mainly to control labor strikes and before long, many other states followed suit (Walker & Katz, 2008).


In 1908, President Roosevelt created the Bureau of Investigation along these same lines and used Secret Service agents to form the foundation of the new national police force (Walker & Katz, 2008).  At the time, the idea was very controversial; it was one thing for the Federal government to regulate commerce and foreign affairs, but quite another for it to become involved in policing (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010).  States Rights advocates spoke out to no avail.  President Roosevelt, having served as a police commissioner in New York some years earlier was not to be swayed (Walker & Katz, 2008).  Known today as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the powers and jurisdiction of that agency have expanded far beyond anything imagined in the early years.

TSA and the Department of Homeland Security

The final point in the enneagram forming the modern criminal justice system was created shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001.  The Transportation Security Administration, created to secure all modes of transportation including airline, rail, and pipelines while ensuring maximum freedom of movement, transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 (Transportation Security Administration, 2010).

Starting as nothing more than a few colonies with very little need for oversight of activities, this nation responded at various times as needed to strengthen and expand police powers.  Today the nine primary police powers responsible for ensuring the public good often have overlapping jurisdictions and duplication of efforts that is the main reason for the Department of Homeland Security.  Several organizations have transferred to this department and even local agencies are beginning to merge some of their services under its control.  This has resulted in increased efficiency and effectiveness.  Because of the complexity of the ennead, what additional changes will come remains to be seen.


  • Department of Homeland Security. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • Schmalleger, PhD., F. (2009). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century (10th ed.). : Prentis-Hall.
  • The U.S. Marshals Service. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • The U.S. Secret Service. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • Transportation Security Administration. (2010). What is TSA. Retrieved from
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2010). Our History. Retrieved from
  • U.S. Coast Guard. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • U.S. Customs Service. (2010). History. Retrieved from
  • Walker, S., & Katz, C. (2008). The Police in America: An Introduction (6th ed.). : McGraw-Hill.

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