parish | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

A parish is a church-based administrative division of territory that corresponds to a county in modern usage.

In historical context, a parish was originally a geographic and administrative division of territory in medieval Europe, corresponding to a county or district in modern usage. The term originated from the Latin word “parochia” which referred to the jurisdiction of a priest in the Christian church.

Over time, the concept became important in law enforcement, particularly in England. The Constable was a law enforcement officer responsible for maintaining law and order within the boundaries of a parish. This system of law enforcement was prevalent in England from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. The Parish Constable had limited powers and was typically an unpaid position filled by a member of the community.

As England’s population grew and the need for a more centralized system of policing became evident, the Constable system was gradually replaced by professional police forces. However, the legacy of the parish system can still be seen in some aspects of modern law enforcement. For example, in Louisiana, a parish is equivalent to a county and is the primary administrative division of the state, with each parish having its own Sheriff’s Office responsible for law enforcement.

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Last Modified: 07/12/2023

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