By Georgia Ray
Georgia Ray is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Cognitive Science with a minor in American Public Policy.
In a small town in Texas, something out of the ordinary happened. A motorist held another man at gunpoint, waiting for the police to arrive, after witnessing him beating a woman in a nearby car. This civilian momentarily took on the role of a police officer, and by performing a citizen’s arrest he made real change in the life of the victimized woman . That said, the concept of citizen’s arrest is rarely understood and is often treated as no more than a hyperbolic plan of action.
The concept of citizen’s arrest originated in medieval Britain when police departments were understaffed and relied on citizens to help keep the peace . Not only were citizens allowed to make arrests, but some citizens would even take it upon themselves to do detective work in their communities. This reliance on the general population continued even past the establishment of America where tiny towns with small police forces needed citizens to be involved in regulating their neighborhoods and friends. However, as cities grew, police departments received more funds, hired more staff, and were allocated more resources. Suddenly, a veil of anonymity settled on the population and with it, this type of neighborly accountability became almost obsolete.