Law enforcement in the
United States is one of three major components
of the criminal justice system of the United States, along with courts
and corrections. Although each component operates semi-independently,
the three collectively form a chain leading from investigation of
suspected criminal activity to administration of criminal punishment.
Law enforcement operates primarily through governmental police
agencies. The law-enforcement purposes of these agencies are the
investigation of suspected criminal activity, referral of the results
of investigations to the courts, and the temporary detention of
suspected criminals pending judicial action. Law enforcement agencies,
to varying degrees at different levels of government and in different
agencies, are also commonly charged with the responsibilities of
deterring criminal activity and preventing the successful commission
of crimes in progress. Other duties may include the service and
enforcement of warrants, writs, and other orders of the courts.
Law enforcement agencies are also involved in providing first response
to emergencies and other threats to public safety; the protection of
certain public facilities and infrastructure; the maintenance of
public order; the protection of public officials; and the operation of
some correctional facilities (usually at the local level).
1 Types of police
1.3.1 County police
1.3.2 Sheriffs' offices
3.1 Styles of policing
4 Powers of officers
4.1 General powers
4.2 Civil asset forfeiture
4.3 Deadly force
5 Entry qualifications
5.2 Issues with recruitment
6.2 Less lethal weapons
6.3 Specialized weapons
6.4 Body armor
6.5 Body-worn camera
7.2 National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
8 Number of police
8.1 Changes in personnel numbers
10 See also
Types of police
Policing in the
United States is conducted by "close to 18,001
federal, state, local and city departments". Every state has its
own nomenclature for agencies, and their powers, responsibilities and
funding vary from state to state.
Main article: Federal law enforcement in the United States
See also: Law enforcement agency § Federal responsibilities
U.S. Park Police
U.S. Park Police officers standing by during the 2005 Inauguration Day
At the federal level, there exists both federal police, who possess
full federal authority as given to them under
United States Code
(U.S.C.), and federal law enforcement agencies, who are authorized to
enforce various laws at the federal level. Both police and law
enforcement agencies operate at the highest level and are endowed with
police roles; each may maintain a small component of the other (for
example, the FBI Police). The agencies have nationwide jurisdiction
for enforcement of federal law. Most federal agencies are limited by
the U.S. Code to investigating only matters that are explicitly within
the power of the federal government. However, federal investigative
powers have become very broad in practice, especially since the
passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. There are also federal law enforcement
agencies, such as the
United States Park Police, that are granted
state arrest authority off primary federal jurisdiction.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for most law
enforcement duties at the federal level. It includes the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF),
United States Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons
(BOP) and others.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is another branch with
numerous federal law enforcement agencies reporting to it. U.S.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs
Federal Air Marshal Service
Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), United States
Secret Service (USSS),
United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard (USCG), Homeland
Security Investigations (HSI), and the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) are some of the agencies that report to DHS. It
should be noted that the
United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard is assigned to the
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense in the event of war.
At a crime or disaster scene affecting large numbers of people,
multiple jurisdictions, or broad geographic areas, many police
agencies may be involved by mutual aid agreements, for example the
United States Federal Protective Service
United States Federal Protective Service responded to the Hurricane
Katrina natural disaster. Command in such situations remains a complex
and flexible issue.
In accordance with the federal, as opposed to unitary or confederal,
structure of the
United States government, the national (federal)
government is not authorized to execute general police powers by the
Constitution of the
United States of America. Each of the United
States' 50 federated states (referred to simply as 'states' in the
United States despite their lack of full sovereignty)
retain their own police, military and domestic law-making powers. The
US Constitution gives the federal government the power to deal with
foreign affairs and interstate affairs (affairs between the states).
For policing, this means that if a non-federal crime is committed in a
US state and the fugitive does not flee the state, the federal
government has no jurisdiction. However, once the fugitive crosses a
state line he violates the federal law of interstate flight and is
subject to federal jurisdiction, at which time federal law enforcement
agencies may become involved.
Main article: State police
Most states operate statewide government agencies that provide law
enforcement duties, including investigations and state patrols. They
may be called state police or highway patrol, and are normally part of
the state Department of Public Safety. In addition, the Attorney
General's office of each state has its own state bureau of
investigation. In Texas, the
Texas Ranger Division fulfill this role
though they have their history in the period before
Texas became a
Various departments of state governments may have their own
enforcement divisions, such as capitol police, campus police, state
hospitals, Departments of Correction, water police, environmental
(fish and game/wildlife) game wardens or conservation officers (who
have full police powers and statewide jurisdiction). In Colorado, for
instance, the Department of Revenue has its own investigative branch,
as do many of the state-funded universities.
Also known as parishes and boroughs, county law enforcement is
provided by sheriffs' departments or offices and county police.
Main article: County police
County police tend to exist only in metropolitan counties and have
countywide jurisdiction. In some areas, there is a sheriff's
department which only handles minor issues such as service of papers
and security for the local courthouse. In other areas, there are no
county police and the local sheriff is the exclusive law enforcement
agency and acts as both sheriff and county police, which is more
common than there being a separate county police force. County police
tend to fall into three broad categories:
Full service - provide the full spectrum of police services to the
entire county, irrespective of local communities, and may provide
contractual security police services to special districts within the
Limited service - provide services to unincorporated areas of the
county (and may provide services to some incorporated areas by
contract), and usually provide contractual security police services to
special districts within the county.
Restricted service - provide security police to county owned and
operated facilities and parks. Some may also perform some road patrol
duties on county built and maintained roads, and provide support to
municipal police departments in the county. Some northeastern states
maintain county detectives in their county attorneys' offices.
For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not have overlapping
County and City jurisdictions, whereas in the other 49 states most
municipalities fall within (and share jurisdiction and many other
governmental responsibilities with) a County. In Virginia,
governmental power flows down from the State (or in Virginia's case,
Commonwealth) directly to either a County or an Independent City.
Thus, policing in Virginia is more streamlined: the County Sheriff's
Office/Department or County
Police Department does not overlap with an
Police Department. Unincorporated Townships remain
part of their parent County, but may have Town
Police Departments to
augment their County law enforcement. Town
Police Departments are
often small, and may deploy a combination of paid and nonpaid, full
and part-time law enforcement officers, including auxiliary officers
who typically serve as part-time, unpaid volunteers. If present,
Independent City Sheriff's Offices usually follow the Restrictive
model shown below for Sheriff's Departments, with limited law
enforcement authority including warrant service, jail bailiff, etc.
Mutual assistance compacts may exist where neighboring law enforcement
agencies will assist each other, however, in addition to State
(Commonwealth) law enforcement resources.
Main article: Sheriffs in the United States
Full service - The most common type, provide all traditional
law-enforcement functions, including countywide patrol and
investigations irrespective of municipal boundaries.
Limited service - along with the above, perform some type of
traditional law-enforcement function such as investigations and
patrol. This may be limited to security police duties on county
properties (and others by contract) to the performance of these duties
in unincorporated areas of the county, and some incorporated areas by
Restricted service - provide basic court related services such as
keeping the county jail, transporting prisoners, providing courthouse
security and other duties with regard to service of process and
summonses that are issued by county and state courts. The sheriff also
often conducts auction sales of real property in foreclosure in many
jurisdictions, and is often also empowered to conduct seizures of
chattel property to satisfy a judgment. In other jurisdictions, these
civil process duties are performed by other officers, such as a
marshal or constable.
In Texas, the sheriff's office is normally the agency responsible for
handling mental health calls. If the situation is dangerous, a
sheriff's deputy has the power to take a person to a hospital on a
mental health commitment immediately. However, if the situation is not
actively dangerous, a warrant must be sought. With the rise in mental
health units across the state, the
Texas CIT Association was formed.
Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor of the New York City Police
Municipal police departments of the
United States for a list
Municipal police range from one-officer agencies (sometimes still
called the town marshal) to the 40,000 person-strong New York City
Police Department. Most municipal agencies take the form (Municipality
Police Department. Most municipalities have their own police
Metropolitan departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police
Department, have jurisdiction covering multiple communities and
municipalities, often over a wide area typically share geographical
boundaries within one or more cities or counties. Metropolitan
departments have usually been formed by a merger between local
agencies, typically several local police departments and often the
local sheriff's department or office, in efforts to provide greater
efficiency by centralizing command and resources and to resolve
jurisdictional problems, often in communities experiencing rapid
population growth and urban sprawl, or in neighboring communities too
small to afford individual police departments. Some county sheriff's
departments, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, are
contracted to provide full police services to local cities within
See Specialist police departments of the
United States for a list
There are other types of specialist police departments with varying
jurisdictions. Most of these serve special-purpose districts and are
known as special district police. In some states, they serve as little
more than security police, but in states such as California, special
district forces are composed of fully sworn peace officers with
These agencies can be transit police, school district police, campus
police, airport police, railroad police, park police or police
departments responsible for protecting government property, such as
the former Los Angeles General Services Police. Some agencies, such as
the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Police Department, have
multi-state powers. There are also some
Private Police agencies, such
as the Parkchester
Department of Public Safety and Co-op City
Department of Public Safety
Puerto Rico Police
Main article: Puerto Rico Police
Puerto Rico Police
Puerto Rico Police traces back to 1837, when Spanish governor
Francisco Javier de Moreda y Prieto created La Guardia Civil de Puerto
Rico (Puerto Rico Civil Guard) to protect the lives and property of
Puerto Ricans who at the time were Spanish subjects, and provide
police services to the entire island, even though many municipalities
maintain their own police force. The
United States invaded and took
possession of Puerto Rico in July 1898 as a result of the
Spanish–American War and has controlled the island as a US territory
since then. The Insular
Police of Puerto Rico was created on February
21, 1899, under the command of Col. Frank Thacher (US Marine officer
during the Spanish–American War), with an authorized strength of 313
sworn officers. As of 2009, the PRPD had over 17,292 officers.
Florida Highway Patrol
Florida Highway Patrol state trooper at the scene of a motor vehicle
FBI Evidence Response Team
Textbooks and scholars have identified three primary police agency
functions. The following is cited from The American System of Criminal
Justice, by George F. Cole and Christopher E. Smith, 2004, 10th
edition, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning:
Order maintenance. This is the broad mandate to keep the peace or
otherwise prevent behaviors which might disturb others. This can deal
with things ranging from a barking dog to a fist-fight. By way of
description, Cole and Smith note that police are usually called-on to
"handle" these situations with discretion, rather than deal with them
as strict violations of law, though of course their authority to deal
with these situations are based in violations of law.
Law enforcement. Those powers are typically used only in cases where
the law has been violated and a suspect must be identified and
apprehended. Most obvious instances include robbery, murder, or
burglary. This is the popular notion of the main police function, but
the frequency of such activity is dependent on geography and season.
Service. Services may include rendering first aid, providing tourist
information, guiding the disoriented, or acting as educators (on
topics such as preventing drug use). Cole and Smith cited one study
which showed 80% of all calls for police assistance did not involve
crimes, but this may not be the case in all parts of the country.
Because police agencies are traditionally available year-round, 24
hours a day, citizens call upon police departments not only in times
of trouble, but also when just inconvenienced. As a result, police
services may include roadside auto assistance, providing referrals to
other agencies, finding lost pets or property, or checking locks on
Early policing in American history was based on the ancient English
common law system which relied heavily on citizen volunteers, watch
groups, and a conscription system known as posse comitatus similar to
the militia system, which continued until the mid-Nineteenth
Styles of policing
Given the broad mandates of police work, and yet having limited
resources, police administrators must develop policies to prioritize
and focus their activities. Some of the more controversial policies
restrict, or even forbid, high-speed vehicular pursuits. Researchers
Falcone, Wells, & Weisheit’s describe a historical separation of
police models between small towns and larger cities. The distinction
has also been defined between rural and urban policing models, which
tended to function differently with separate hierarchical systems
Three styles of policing develop from a jurisdiction's socioeconomic
characteristics, government organization, and choice of police
administrators. According to a study by James Q. Wilson ("Varieties of
Police Behavior", 1968, 1978, Harvard University Press), there were
three distinct types of policing developed in his study of eight
communities. Each style emphasized different police functions, and
were linked to specific characteristics of the community the
department served. (Wilson's field of study was in the United States,
and it is not clear if similar studies have been done for other
countries with different governmental organization and laws.)
Watchman. Emphasizes maintaining order, usually found in communities
with a declining industrial base, and a blue-collar, mixed
ethnic/racial population. This form of policing is implicitly less
pro-active than other styles, and certain offenses may be "overlooked"
on a variety of social, legal, and cultural grounds, as long as the
public order is maintained. Cole and Smith comment the broad
discretion exercised in this style of policing can result in charges
of discrimination, when it appears police treatment of different
groups results in the perception that some groups get better treatment
Legalistic. Emphasizes law enforcement and professionalism. This is
usually found in reform-minded cities, with mixed socioeconomic
composition. Officers are expected to generate a large number of
arrests and citations, and act as if there were a single community
standard for conduct, rather than different standards for different
groups. However, the fact that certain groups are more likely to have
law enforcement contact means this strict enforcement of laws may seem
overly harsh on certain groups;
Service. Emphasizes the service functions of police work, usually
found in suburban, middle-class communities where residents demand
Police in homogeneous communities can view their
work as protecting their citizens against "outsiders", with frequent
but often-informal interventions against community members. The
uniform make-up of the community means crimes are usually more
obvious, and therefore less frequent, leaving police free to deal with
service functions, and traffic control.
Wilson's study applies to police behavior for the entire department,
over time. At any given time, police officers may be acting in a
watchman, service, or legalistic function by nature of what they're
doing at the time, or temperament, or mood. Individual officers may
also be inclined to one style or another, regardless of supervisor or
Community-oriented policing is a shift in policing practices in the
U.S. that moved away from standardization and towards a more
preventative model where police actively partner with the community it
Powers of officers
Law enforcement officers are granted certain powers to enable them to
carry out their duties. When there exists probable cause to believe
that a person has committed a serious crime, a law enforcement officer
can handcuff and arrest a person, who will be held in a police station
or jail pending a judicial bail determination or an arraignment.
The procedural use of strip searches and cavity searches by law
enforcement has raised civil liberties concerns. The
practice of taking an arrested person on a perp walk, often
handcuffed, through a public place at some point after the arrest,
creating an opportunity for the media to take photographs and video of
the event, has also raised concerns.
In 2010, the FBI estimated that law enforcement agencies made
13,120,947 arrests (excluding traffic violations). Of those persons
arrested, 74.5% were male and 69.4 percent of all persons arrested
were white, 28.0 percent were black, and the remaining 2.6 percent
were of other races.
A law enforcement officer may briefly detain a person upon reasonable
suspicion of involvement in a crime but short of probable cause to
arrest. Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood-style depictions in
TV and movies, merely lawfully detaining a person—in and of
itself—does not deprive a person of their Fourth Amendment right
against unlawful searches. Federal, state, and local laws, and
individual law enforcement departmental policies govern when, where,
how, and upon whom a law enforcement officer may perform a "pat down,"
"protective search," or "Terry frisk," based on several U.S. Supreme
Court decisions (including Terry v. Ohio (1968), Michigan v. Long
(1983), and Maryland v. Buie (1990)):
In Terry v. Ohio, the landmark decision introducing the term "Terry
frisk," or "frisk," to the broader public:
"Our evaluation of the proper balance that has to be struck in this
type of case leads us to conclude that there must be a narrowly drawn
authority to permit a reasonable search for weapons for the protection
of the police officer, where he has reason to believe that he is
dealing with an armed and dangerous individual, regardless of whether
he has probable cause to arrest the individual for a crime. The
officer need not be absolutely certain that the individual is armed;
the issue is whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances
would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was
in danger (italics added)."
New York City Police Department
New York City Police Department came under scrutiny in 2012 for
its use of a stop-and-frisk program.
Civil asset forfeiture
Main article: Civil forfeiture in the United States
Court ruled that law enforcement officers may enter a
house without knocking if they have “a reasonable suspicion” that
announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow a suspect to
destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet). In
addition, rules on civil asset forfeiture allow law enforcement
officers to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the
proceeds of a crime. The property-owner need not be convicted of that
crime; if officers find drugs in a house, they can take cash from the
house and possibly the house itself. Commentators have said these
rules provide an incentive for law enforcement officers to focus on
drug-related crimes rather than rape and murder investigations. They
also provide an incentive to arrest suspected drug-dealers inside
their houses, which can be seized, and to raid stash houses after most
of their drugs have been sold, when officers can seize the
Police use of deadly force in the United States
Police use of deadly force in the United States and
List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States
Use of deadly force is often granted to law enforcement officers when
the person or persons in question are believed to be an immediate
danger to people around them, or when a person poses a significant
threat to a law enforcement officer, usually when the officer is at
risk of serious bodily injury or death. Most law enforcement agencies
establish a use of force continuum and list deadly force as a force of
last resort. With this model, agencies try to control excessive use of
force. Nonetheless, some question the number of killings by law
enforcement officers, including killings of people who are unarmed,
raising questions about widespread and ongoing excessive use of
force. Other non-fatal incidents and arrests have raised
Police accountability §
Police reform in the
Police misconduct § United States, Police
brutality in the United States,
Police perjury in the United States,
Police riots in the United States
Several serious cases of police misconduct have raised questions
surrounding abuse of powers by individual or groups of officers.
Historical examples include the Chicago
Police Department's torture of
felony suspects between 1972-1991 by and under Jon Burge, Los Angeles
Police Department's 1991 beating of
Rodney King and late-1990s LAPD
Rampart Scandal, New York City
Police Department's 1970s fatal
Clifford Glover (1973) and
Randolph Evans (1976), the
1980s chokehold of Michael Stewart (1983), shootings of Eleanor
Bumpers (1984) and
Edmund Perry (1985), the stun gun torture of Mark
Davidson (1985), the 1990s torture of
Abner Louima and shooting of
Amadou Diallo, the 2000s shootings and record-publicizing of Patrick
Dorismond, and Sean Bell, Philadelphia
Police Department's torture of
suspects in the 1970s to improve then-mayor Frank Rizzo's reputation
and Torrington, Connecticut's Tracey Thurman.
Nearly all U.S. states and the federal government have by law adopted
minimum-standard standardized training requirements for all officers
with powers of arrest within the state. Many standards apply to
in-service training as well as entry-level training, particularly in
the use of firearms, with periodic re-certification required. These
standards often comply with standards promoted by the US Department of
Justice. These standards typically require a thorough background check
that potential police recruits:
United States citizen (waived in certain agencies if the
applicant is a lawful resident).
Must have a high school diploma or a GED and if necessary a college
degree or served in the
United States military without a dishonorable
Be in good medical, physical, and psychological condition;
Maintain a clean criminal record without either serious or repeated
misdemeanor or any felony convictions;
Must have a valid driver's license with a clean driving record and
that is not currently or has a history of being suspended or revoked;
Be of high moral character;
Not have a history of prior narcotic or repeated marijuana use or
Not have a history of ethical, professional, prior employment, motor
vehicle, educational, or financial improprieties;
Not have a history of domestic violence or mental illness;
Not to pose a safety and security risk;
Be legally eligible to own and carry a firearm.
Repeated interviews, written tests, medical examinations, physical
fitness tests, comprehensive background investigations,
fingerprinting, drug testing, a police oral board interview, a
polygraph examination and consultation with a psychologist are common
practices used to review the suitability of candidates. Recruiting in
most departments is competitive, with more suitable and desirable
candidates accepted over lesser ones, and failure to meet some minimum
standards disqualifying a candidate entirely.
Police oral boards are
the most subjective part of the process and often disqualifies the
biggest portion of qualified candidates. Departments maintain
records of past applicants under review, and refer to them in the case
of either reapplication or requests between other agencies.
Issues with recruitment
Further information: Gypsy cop
Despite these safeguards, some departments have at times relaxed
hiring and staffing policies, sometimes in violation of the law, most
often in the cases of local departments and federally funded drug task
forces facing staffing shortages, attrition, and needs to quickly fill
positions. This has included at times the fielding (and sometimes the
arming) of uncertified officers (who may be working temporarily in
what is supposed to be a provisional limited-duty status prior to
certification) and the hiring of itinerant "gypsy cops", who may have
histories of poor performance or misconduct in other
Police in the
United States usually carry a handgun on duty. Many are
required to be armed on-duty and often required to have a concealable
off-duty handgun. Among the most common sidearms are models produced
by Glock, Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, Beretta, and Heckler &
Koch, usually in 9mm, .40 S&W,
.357 SIG (US Secret Service and
other Federal Law Enforcement agencies) or .45 ACP.
Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, most US police officers carried
revolvers, typically in
.38 Special or
.357 Magnum calibers, as their
primary duty weapons. At the time, Smith & Wesson, Colt,
some Taurus models were popular with police officers, most popular
being the Smith & Wesson or Colt revolvers. Since then, most
agencies have switched to semiautomatic pistols. Two key events
influencing many US police forces to upgrade their primary duty
weapons to weapons with greater stopping power and round capacity were
Norco shootout and the 1986 FBI Miami shootout.
Some police departments allow qualified officers to carry shotguns
and/or semiautomatic rifles in their vehicles for additional
firepower, typically to be used if a suspect is involved in an active
shooter situation, or a hostage/barricade incident.
Less lethal weapons
ASP 21" tactical baton in collapsed and expanded states.
Police also often carry an impact weapon - a baton, also known as a
nightstick. The common nightstick and the side handle baton have been
replaced in many locations by expandable batons such as the Monadnock
Auto-Lock Expandable Baton or ASP baton. One advantage of the
collapsible baton is that the wearer can comfortably sit in a patrol
vehicle while still wearing the baton on their duty belt. The side
handle night stick usually has to be removed before entering the
vehicle. Many departments also use less-lethal weapons like mace,
pepper spray, electroshock guns, and beanbag shotgun rounds.
Another less lethal weapon that police officers often carry is an
electroshock gun, also known as a Taser. The handheld electroshock
weapon was designed to incapacitate a single person from a distance by
using electric current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles.
Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her
sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary
muscle contractions. Tasers do not rely only on pain compliance,
except when used in Drive Stun mode, and are thus preferred by some
law enforcement over non-Taser stun guns and other electronic control
Further information: SWAT
Most large police departments have elite
SWAT units which are called
in to handle situations, such as barricaded suspects, hostage
situations and high-risk warrant service, that require greater force,
specialized equipment, and special tactics. These units usually have
submachine guns, automatic carbines or rifles, semiautomatic combat
shotguns, sniper rifles, gas, smoke and flashbang grenades, and other
specialized weapons and equipment at their disposal. Some departments
are equipped with armored vehicles.
Further information: Body armor
Uniformed police officers are often issued body armor, typically in
the form of a lightweight Level IIA, II or IIIA vest that can be worn
under service shirts.
SWAT teams typically wear heavier Level III or
IV tactical armored vests, often with steel or ceramic trauma plates,
comparable to those worn by U.S. military personnel engaged in ground
operations. Officers trained in bomb disposal wear specialized heavy
protective armor designed to protect them from the effects of an
explosion when working around live ordnance. Local police foundations
have initiated programs to provide law enforcement agencies with
higher level vests that provide greater protection and vests for
police K-9s as well.
Further information: Body worn video (police equipment)
Multiple states have pending body-worn camera legislation that require
its law enforcement to be equipped with body-worn cameras when the
officers are on duty. Some of these states include California,
Washington, and Illinois, among others. Body-worn cameras are
video recording devices around three inches long that cost between
$129-$900. There are different body-worn camera models, but a
standard body-worn camera includes an on and off switch that enables
the image capturing technology to record and store data in the cloud.
Body-worn cameras have become standard due to the rise of civilian
complaints about police brutality across the nation. Supporters
argue that the use of a body-worn camera allows evidence to be viewed
from an unbiased perspective. Corporations are currently working on
body-worn camera models that will resolve the technology’s
limitations such as better audio capturing technology and battery
life, to name a few. Surveillance items that can be used by law
enforcement which have been scrutinized also include the automatic
number plate recognition due to its similarities to mass surveillance.
Most American police departments are dispatched from a centralized
communications center, using VHF,
UHF or, more recently, digitally
trunked radio transceivers mounted in their vehicles, with individual
officers carrying portable handsets or ear-worn headsets for
communication when away from their vehicles. American police cars are
also increasingly equipped with mobile data terminals (MDT's)or
portable computers linked by radio to a network allowing them access
to state department of motor vehicles information, criminal records,
and other important information.
Most police communications are now conducted within a regional pool of
area telecommunicators or dispatchers using 9-1-1 and 9-1-1 telephone
taxation. A large number of police agencies have pooled their 9-1-1
tax resources for Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) to streamline
dispatching and reporting. CAD systems are usually linked to MDT's
National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System
A variety of national, regional, state and local information systems
are available to law enforcement agencies in the U.S., with differing
purposes and types of information. One example is the National Law
Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS), an interstate
justice and public safety network owned by the states supporting
inquiry into state systems for criminal history, driver’s license
and motor vehicle registration, as well as supporting inquiry into
federal systems, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Law Enforcement Support
Drug Enforcement Administration
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Drug
Pointer Index (NDPIX), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Aircraft Registry, as well as the Government of Canada’s Canadian
Police Information Centre (CPIC).
NLETS operates primarily through a secure private network through
which each state has an interface to the network, and all agencies
within the state operate through this portal. The federal and
international components operate very similarly. Users include all
United States and territories, Federal agencies with a justice
mission, and certain international agencies. The primary operational
site for the network is housed in Arizona, with a secure backup site
located in the East Central U.S.
Through the Nlets network, law enforcement and criminal justice
agencies can access a wide range of information, from standard driver
license and vehicle queries to criminal history and Interpol
information. Operations consist of nearly 1.5 billion transactions
a year to over 1 million PC, mobile and handheld devices in the U.S.
and Canada at 45,000 user agencies and to 1.3 million individual
Police departments share arrest information with third-party news
organizations that archive names of citizens and legal allegations in
a "police blotter". However, if the allegations are dismissed in court
a citizen may not petition the third-party for removal.
Number of police
In 2008, federal police employed approx. 120,000 full-time law
enforcement officers, authorized to make arrests and carry firearms in
the United States.
The 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics' Census of State and Local Law
Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA), found there were 17,985 state and local
law enforcement agencies employing at least one full-time officer or
the equivalent in part-time officers.
In 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than
1.1 million people on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn
personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Agencies also
employed approximately 100,000 part-time employees, including 44,000
From 2004 to 2008, overall full-time employment by state and local law
enforcement agencies nationwide increased by about 57,000 (or 5.3%).
Sworn personnel increased by about 33,000 (4.6%), and nonsworn
employees by about 24,000 (6.9%). From 2004 to 2008, the number of
full-time sworn personnel per 100,000 U.S. residents increased from
250 to 251. From 1992 to 2008, the growth rate for civilian
personnel was more than double that of sworn personnel.
Local police departments were the largest employer of sworn personnel,
accounting for 60% of the total. Sheriffs' offices were next,
accounting for 24%. About half (49%) of all agencies employed fewer
than 10 full-time officers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of sworn personnel
worked for agencies that employed 100 or more officers.
Changes in personnel numbers
Fifteen of the 50 largest local police departments employed fewer
full-time sworn personnel in 2008 than in 2004. The largest declines
were in Detroit (36%), Memphis (23%), New Orleans (13%), and San
Ten of the 50 largest local police departments reported double-digit
increases in sworn personnel from 2004 to 2008. The largest increases
were in Phoenix (19%), Prince George's County (Maryland) (17%), Dallas
(15%), and Fort Worth (14%).
Salary varies widely for police officers, with most being among the
top third of wage-earners, age 25 or older, nationwide. In May
2012, the overall median was $56,980. The top 10% earned more than
$93,450 and bottom 10% less than $33,060.
The median wages for police and detective occupations in May 2012 were
$74,300 for detectives and criminal investigators
$55,270 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers
$55,210 for transit and railroad police
$48,070 for fish and game wardens
Grover Cleveland was
Sheriff of Erie County New York 1871-1872
Theodore Roosevelt as
Police Commissioner of New York City with Jacov
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