In the late 1800’s, the West wasn’t as “wild” as the stereotype suggests, but there were plenty of reasons to require some kind of law enforcement. In most Western towns, that meant a Sheriff, but there was also the U.S. Marshall Service, and the Pinkertons aka the Pinkteron Detective Agency. The Pinkertons had such a good reputation, that the federal government hired them in 1871. However, primarily due to their conflicts with labor unions, Congress passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act in 1893 to prevent anyone from the agency or any other similar agency from working for the federal Government.
You can read more about Allan Pinkerton & his start in the detective business here.
Lawmen were needed in part because of gangs like the Dalton Brothers or the James-Younger gang.
The James-Younger Gang consisted of brothers Jesse & Frank James and Cole & Jim Younger, as the core of the gang. They lasted much longer than most other gangs, but eventually they all got caught or killed. Biography has a great documentary about Jesse here. (Warning: The “coming up next” at the end during the credits is for a Larry Flynn thing, so maybe turn it off before the credits roll.)
The Dalton Brothers murdered more than stole, as opposed to the James-Younger Gang, who tried not to hurt people whenever possible. Ironically enough, the two of the most famous gangs of the “wild west” were related! The Dalton Brothers’ mother was the aunt of Cole & Jim Younger of the James-Younger gang. The Daltons didn’t start off bad though, they were U.S. Marshals. They turned to a life of crime when they weren’t paid for their work as lawmen. Their first robbery was in February of 1891. Their last robbery was Oct5, 1892, in Coffeyville, Kansas. When they attempted to rob both Coffeyville banks at the same time, the town responded with deadly force.
Enjoy a 1954 episode of Stories of the Century, featuring the Dalton Gang:
More Resources about the Dalton Brothers: