2. The Court Led to the First Modern Police Force
The disdain of begging and the sight of poverty led French politicians to take action against the Court of Miracles in the latter half of the 17th century. Jean-Baptiste Colbert presented King Louis XIV with a proclamation that would establish an office of Lieutenant General of Police, which would enable the office holder to create a police force comparable to modern police forces. King Louis XIV approved, and Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie was installed as the first holder of the office.
De la Reynie’s task was to create a force that would both protect and preserve the more beautiful portions of the city while inhibiting the growth of the unpopular slums known collectively as the Court of Miracles. De la Reynie held the office from 1667 to 1697. During his time in office, he held a very modern view of law enforcement and developed police units and tactics that influenced the development of current police forces.
One hallmark of De la Reynie’s time in office was the severe and extensive punishment of what he viewed as seditious writings. He also was brutal towards the poor, mentally ill and prostitutes. The hôtels-Dieu, or Houses of God, were French hospitals originally built to tend for the poor sick. De la Reynie used them to incarcerate the poor and anyone he deemed immoral in cramped, inhumane conditions.