Corruption, Prostitution, and Reform: Policing of the Progressive Era




Rodriguez, Ashley Nicole

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Semi-regulated prostitution, the oldest profession, was viewed as one of the most problematic issues of the Progressive Era. The relationship between law enforcement systems and the business of prostitution significantly influenced the formation of progressive reform movements that advocated for the amelioration of policing and eradication of vice. Policing of the nineteenth century was incredibly flawed, with little to no organization, and was left vulnerable to internal corruption. The booming business of prostitution became a primary interest of police systems as the desire for power and money rose. The vulnerability of police systems and corruption of officers supported the increasing toleration of vice and eventually led to its regulation in society. As the spread of vice became increasingly overwhelming for both government and progressive reform movements to bear, various committees in urban cities were set in motion to publish vice commissions. Vice commissions addressed the numerous problems occurring in society on account of semi-regulated prostitution and corrupt law enforcement systems, along with the negative effects they posed on the moral development of a city. Continuous criticism of policing procedures prompted the establishment of the professionalization movement. This historic movement was dominated by a demanding reform agenda that epitomized the professionalism foundation of the twentieth century, a foundation that has impacted the success of law enforcement agencies today.



law enforcement corruption, law enforcement reform, prostitution, progressive era, professionalization movement


Rodriguez, A. N. (2014). Corruption, prostitution, and reform: Policing of the progressive era (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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