A police force is a constituted body of persons empowered by a state
to enforce the law, to protect people and property, and to prevent
crime and civil disorder. Their powers include power of arrest and
the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated
with police services of a sovereign state that are authorized to
exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or
territorial area of responsibility.
Police forces are often defined as
being separate from military or other organizations involved in the
defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie
are military units charged with civil policing. The police force is
usually a public sector service, funded through taxes.
Law enforcement is only part of policing activity.
included an array of activities in different situations, but the
predominant ones are concerned with the preservation of order. In
some societies, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, these
developed within the context of maintaining the class system and the
protection of private property.
Police forces have become
ubiquitous and indispensable in modern societies, though some are
involved to varying degrees in corruption, police brutality and the
enforcement of authoritarian rule.
Alternative names for a police force include constabulary,
gendarmerie, police department, police service, crime prevention,
protective services, law enforcement agency, civil guard or civic
guard. Members may be referred to as police officers, troopers,
sheriffs, constables, rangers, peace officers or civic/civil guards.
The word police is most universal and can be seen in many non-English
As police are often interacting with individuals, slang terms are
numerous. Many slang terms for police officers are decades or
centuries old with lost etymology. One of the oldest, "cop", has
largely lost its slang connotations and become a common colloquial
term used both by the public and police officers to refer to their
2.1 Ancient policing
2.2 Medieval policing
2.3 Early modern policing
2.4 In London
2.4.1 Metropolitan police force
2.5 Other countries
2.5.6 United States
2.6 Development of theory
3 Personnel and organization
3.1 Uniformed police
3.3 Volunteers and auxiliary police
3.4 Specialized units
3.5 Administrative duties
3.7 Religious police
4 International policing
5.3.1 Other safety equipment
7 Power restrictions
8 Conduct, accountability and public confidence
8.1 Use of force
8.2 Protection of individuals
9 By country
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
First attested in English in the early 15th century, initially in a
range of senses encompassing '(public) policy; state; public order',
the word police comes from
Middle French police ('public order,
administration, government'), in turn from Latin politia, which
is the Latinisation of the Greek πολιτεία (politeia),
"citizenship, administration, civil polity". This is derived from
πόλις (polis), "city".
Main article: History of criminal justice
Law enforcement in ancient China was carried out by "prefects" for
thousands of years since it developed in both the Chu and Jin kingdoms
of the Spring and Autumn period. In Jin, dozens of prefects were
spread across the state, each having limited authority and employment
period. They were appointed by local magistrates, who reported to
higher authorities such as governors, who in turn were appointed by
the emperor, and they oversaw the civil administration of their
"prefecture", or jurisdiction. Under each prefect were "subprefects"
who helped collectively with law enforcement in the area. Some
prefects were responsible for handling investigations, much like
modern police detectives. Prefects could also be women. The
concept of the "prefecture system" spread to other cultures such as
Korea and Japan.
In ancient Greece, publicly owned slaves were used by magistrates as
police. In Athens, a group of 300
Scythian slaves (the
ῥαβδοῦχοι, "rod-bearers") was used to guard public meetings
to keep order and for crowd control, and also assisted with dealing
with criminals, handling prisoners, and making arrests. Other duties
associated with modern policing, such as investigating crimes, were
left to the citizens themselves.
In the Roman empire, the army, rather than a dedicated police
organization, provided security. Local watchmen were hired by cities
to provide some extra security. Magistrates such as procurators fiscal
and quaestors investigated crimes. There was no concept of public
prosecution, so victims of crime or their families had to organize and
manage the prosecution themselves.
Under the reign of Augustus, when the capital had grown to almost one
million inhabitants, 14 wards were created; the wards were protected
by seven squads of 1,000 men called "vigiles", who acted as firemen
and nightwatchmen. Their duties included apprehending thieves and
robbers and capturing runaway slaves. The vigiles were supported by
the Urban Cohorts who acted as a heavy-duty anti-riot force and even
Praetorian Guard if necessary.
The Santa Hermandades of medieval
Spain were formed to protect
pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
In medieval Spain, Santa Hermandades, or "holy brotherhoods",
peacekeeping associations of armed individuals, were a characteristic
of municipal life, especially in Castile. As medieval Spanish kings
often could not offer adequate protection, protective municipal
leagues began to emerge in the twelfth century against banditry and
other rural criminals, and against the lawless nobility or to support
one or another claimant to a crown.
These organizations were intended to be temporary, but became a
long-standing fixture of Spain. The first recorded case of the
formation of an hermandad occurred when the towns and the peasantry of
the north united to police the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela
in Galicia, and protect the pilgrims against robber knights.
Middle Ages such alliances were frequently formed by
combinations of towns to protect the roads connecting them, and were
occasionally extended to political purposes. Among the most powerful
was the league of North Castilian and Basque ports, the Hermandad de
las marismas: Toledo, Talavera, and Villarreal.
As one of their first acts after end of the War of the Castilian
Succession in 1479,
Ferdinand II of Aragon
Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile
established the centrally-organized and efficient Holy Brotherhood as
a national police force. They adapted an existing brotherhood to the
purpose of a general police acting under officials appointed by
themselves, and endowed with great powers of summary jurisdiction even
in capital cases. The original brotherhoods continued to serve as
modest local police-units until their final suppression in 1835.
The Vehmic courts of
Germany provided some policing in the absence of
strong state institutions.
France during the Middle Ages, there were two Great Officers of the
France with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France
Constable of France. The military policing responsibilities of
the Marshal of
France were delegated to the Marshal's provost, whose
force was known as the Marshalcy because its authority ultimately
derived from the Marshal. The marshalcy dates back to the Hundred
Years' War, and some historians trace it back to the early 12th
century. Another organisation, the
Connétablie), was under the command of the
Constable of France. The
constabulary was regularised as a military body in 1337. Under Francis
France (who reigned 1515–1547), the Maréchaussée was merged
with the Constabulary. The resulting force was also known as the
Maréchaussée, or, formally, the
Constabulary and Marshalcy of
The English system of maintaining public order since the Norman
conquest was a private system of tithings, led by a constable, which
was based on a social obligation for the good conduct of the others;
more common was that local lords and nobles were responsible for
maintaining order in their lands, and often appointed a constable,
sometimes unpaid, to enforce the law. There was also a system
The Assize of Arms of 1252, which required the appointment of
constables to summon men to arms, quell breaches of the peace, and to
deliver offenders to the sheriffs or reeves, is cited as one of the
earliest creation of the English police. The
Statute of Winchester
of 1285 is also cited as the primary legislation regulating the
policing of the country between the Norman Conquest and the
Metropolitan Police Act 1829.
From about 1500, private watchmen were funded by private individuals
and organisations to carry out police functions. They were later
nicknamed 'Charlies', probably after the reigning monarch King Charles
II. Thief-takers were also rewarded for catching thieves and returning
the stolen property.
The first use of the word police ("Polles") in English comes from the
book "The Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England"
published in 1642.
Early modern policing
The first centrally organised police force was created by the
government of King
Louis XIV in 1667 to police the city of Paris, then
the largest city in Europe. The royal edict, registered by the
Paris on March 15, 1667 created the office of lieutenant
général de police ("lieutenant general of police"), who was to be
the head of the new
Paris police force, and defined the task of the
police as "ensuring the peace and quiet of the public and of private
individuals, purging the city of what may cause disturbances,
procuring abundance, and having each and everyone live according to
their station and their duties".
Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, founder of the first uniformed police
force in the world.
This office was first held by Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, who had 44
commissaires de police (police commissioners) under his authority. In
1709, these commissioners were assisted by inspecteurs de police
(police inspectors). The city of
Paris was divided into 16 districts
policed by the commissaires, each assigned to a particular district
and assisted by a growing bureaucracy. The scheme of the
force was extended to the rest of
France by a royal edict of October
1699, resulting in the creation of lieutenants general of police in
all large French cities and towns.
After the French Revolution,
Napoléon I reorganized the police in
Paris and other cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants on February
17, 1800 as the Prefecture of Police. On March 12, 1829, a government
decree created the first uniformed police in France, known as sergents
de ville ("city sergeants"), which the
Paris Prefecture of Police's
website claims were the first uniformed policemen in the world.
In 1737, George II began paying some
London and Middlesex watchmen
with tax monies, beginning the shift to government control. In 1749
Henry Fielding began organizing a force of quasi-professional
constables known as the Bow Street Runners. The
Macdaniel affair added
further impetus for a publicly salaried police force that did not
depend on rewards. Nonetheless, In 1828, there were privately financed
police units in no fewer than 45 parishes within a 10-mile radius of
The word "police" was borrowed from French into the English language
in the 18th century, but for a long time it applied only to French and
continental European police forces. The word, and the concept of
police itself, were "disliked as a symbol of foreign oppression"
(according to Britannica 1911). Before the 19th century, the first use
of the word "police" recorded in government documents in the United
Kingdom was the appointment of Commissioners of
1714 and the creation of the Marine
Police in 1798.
Patrick Colquhoun, founder of the Thames River Police.
Patrick Colquhoun was able to persuade the West Indies
merchants who operated at the
Pool of London
Pool of London on the River Thames, to
establish a police force at the docks to prevent rampant theft that
was causing annual estimated losses of £500,000 worth of cargo.
The idea of a police, as it then existed in France, was considered as
a potentially undesirable foreign import. In building the case for the
police in the face of England's firm anti-police sentiment, Colquhoun
framed the political rationale on economic indicators to show that a
police dedicated to crime prevention was "perfectly congenial to the
principle of the British constitution". Moreover, he went so far as to
praise the French system, which had reached "the greatest degree of
perfection" in his estimation.
Poster against "detested"
Police at the town of Aberystwyth, Wales;
With the initial investment of £4,200, the new trial force of the
Thames River Police
Thames River Police began with about 50 men charged with policing
33,000 workers in the river trades, of whom Colquhoun claimed 11,000
were known criminals and "on the game". The force was a success after
its first year, and his men had "established their worth by saving
£122,000 worth of cargo and by the rescuing of several lives". Word
of this success spread quickly, and the government passed the Marine
Police Bill on 28 July 1800, transforming it from a private to public
police agency; now the oldest police force in the world. Colquhoun
published a book on the experiment, The Commerce and
Policing of the
River Thames. It found receptive audiences far outside London, and
inspired similar forces in other cities, notably, New York City,
Dublin, and Sydney.
Colquhoun's utilitarian approach to the problem – using a
cost-benefit argument to obtain support from businesses standing to
benefit – allowed him to achieve what Henry and
John Fielding failed
for their Bow Street detectives. Unlike the stipendiary system at Bow
Street, the river police were full-time, salaried officers prohibited
from taking private fees. His other contribution was the concept
of preventive policing; his police were to act as a highly visible
deterrent to crime by their permanent presence on the Thames.
Colquhoun's innovations were a critical development leading up to
Robert Peel's "new" police three decades later.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Glasgow,
petitioned the government to pass the
Police Act establishing
the City of
Police in 1800. Other Scottish towns soon followed
suit and set up their own police forces through acts of
parliament. In Ireland, the Irish
Constabulary Act of 1822 marked
the beginning of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Act established a
force in each barony with chief constables and inspectors general
under the control of the civil administration at
Dublin Castle. By
1841 this force numbered over 8,600 men.
Metropolitan police force
A Peeler of the
Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service in the 1850s.
London was fast reaching a size unprecedented in world history, due to
the onset of the Industrial Revolution. It became clear that the
locally maintained system of volunteer constables and "watchmen" was
ineffective, both in detecting and preventing crime. A parliamentary
committee was appointed to investigate the system of policing in
London. Upon Sir
Robert Peel being appointed as
Home Secretary in
1822, he established a second and more effective committee, and acted
upon its findings.
Royal assent to the
Metropolitan Police Act 1829
Metropolitan Police Act 1829 was given and the
Metropolitan Police Service
Metropolitan Police Service was established on September 29, 1829 in
London as the first modern and professional police force in the
Peel, widely regarded as the father of modern policing, was
heavily influenced by the social and legal philosophy of Jeremy
Bentham, who called for a strong and centralized, but politically
neutral, police force for the maintenance of social order, for the
protection of people from crime and to act as a visible deterrent to
urban crime and disorder. Peel decided to standardise the police
force as an official paid profession, to organise it in a civilian
fashion, and to make it answerable to the public.
Albertine i politilægens venteværelse
Albertine i politilægens venteværelse (1885–1887), painting by
Due to public fears concerning the deployment of the military in
domestic matters, Peel organised the force along civilian lines,
rather than paramilitary. To appear neutral, the uniform was
deliberately manufactured in blue, rather than red which was then a
military colour, along with the officers being armed only with a
wooden truncheon and a rattle to signal the need for assistance. Along
with this, police ranks did not include military titles, with the
exception of Sergeant.
To distance the new police force from the initial public view of it as
a new tool of government repression, Peel publicised the so-called
Peelian principles, which set down basic guidelines for ethical
Every police officer should be issued an warrant card with a unique
identification number to assure accountability for his actions.
Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of
arrests but on the lack of crime.
Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and
accountability are paramount. Hence, Peel's most often quoted
principle that "The police are the public and the public are the
Group portrait of policemen, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, c.
Metropolitan Police Act created a modern police force by
limiting the purview of the force and its powers, and envisioning it
as merely an organ of the judicial system. Their job was apolitical;
to maintain the peace and apprehend criminals for the courts to
process according to the law. This was very different to the
"continental model" of the police force that had been developed in
France, where the police force worked within the parameters of the
absolutist state as an extension of the authority of the monarch and
functioned as part of the governing state.
In 1863, the
Metropolitan Police were issued with the distinctive
custodian helmet, and in 1884 they switched to the use of whistles
that could be heard from much further away. The Metropolitan
Police became a model for the police forces in most countries, such as
the United States, and most of the British Empire. Bobbies can still
be found in many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Law enforcement in Australia
Police motorcycles are commonly used for patrols and escorts, as seen
here in Australia
Australia the first police force having centralised command as well
as jurisdiction over an entire colony was the South
formed in 1838 under Henry Inman.
However, whilst the New South
Police Force was established in
1862, it was made up from a large number of policing and military
units operating within the then Colony of New South
Wales and traces
its links back to the Royal Marines. The passing of the Police
Regulation Act of 1862 essentially tightly regulated and centralised
all of the police forces operating throughout the Colony of New South
The New South
Police Force remains the largest police force in
Australia in terms of personnel and physical resources. It is also the
only police force that requires its recruits to undertake university
studies at the recruit level and has the recruit pay for their own
Law enforcement in Brazil
Public Security Force (Força Nacional de Segurança
In 1566, the first police investigator of
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro was
recruited. By the 17th century, most captaincies already had local
units with law enforcement functions. On July 9, 1775 a Cavalry
Regiment was created in the state of
Minas Gerais for maintaining law
and order. In 1808, the Portuguese royal family relocated to Brazil,
because of the French invasion of Portugal. King João VI established
the "Intendência Geral de Polícia" (General
Police Intendancy) for
investigations. He also created a Royal
Police Guard for Rio de
Janeiro in 1809. In 1831, after independence, each province started
organizing its local "military police", with order maintenance tasks.
Federal Railroad Police
Federal Railroad Police was created in 1852, Federal Highway
Police, was established in 1928, and Federal
Police in 1967.
Law enforcement in Canada
In Canada, the Royal Newfoundland
Constabulary was founded in 1729,
making it the first police force in present-day Canada. It was
followed in 1834 by the Toronto Police, and in 1838 by police forces
Quebec City. A national force, the Dominion Police,
was founded in 1868. Initially the
Dominion Police provided security
for parliament, but its responsibilities quickly grew. The famous
Royal Northwest Mounted Police
Royal Northwest Mounted Police was founded in 1873. The merger of
these two police forces in 1920 formed the world-famous Royal Canadian
In Lebanon, modern police were established in 1861, with creation of
Policemen on patrol in Khaki uniform in the Greater Chennai Police
patrol car in India.
In India, the police is under the control of respective States and
union territories and is known to be under
State Police Services
(SPS). The candidates selected for the SPS are usually posted as
Deputy Superintendent of Police or Assistant Commissioner of Police
once their probationary period ends. On prescribed satisfactory
service in the SPS, the officers are nominated to the Indian Police
Service. The service color is usually dark blue and red, while the
uniform color is Khaki.
Law enforcement in the United States
In British North America, policing was initially provided by local
elected officials. For instance, the New York Sheriff's Office was
founded in 1626, and the Albany County Sheriff's Department in the
1660s. In the colonial period, policing was provided by elected
sheriffs and local militias.
In 1789 the
U.S. Marshals Service
U.S. Marshals Service was established, followed by other
federal services such as the U.S. Parks
Police (1791) and U.S.
Police (1792). The first city police services were
established in Philadelphia in 1751,
Richmond, Virginia in
Boston in 1838, and New York in 1845. The U.S.
Secret Service was founded in 1865 and was for some time the main
investigative body for the federal government.
A Deputy U.S. Marshal covers his fellow officers with an M4 carbine
during a "knock-and-announce" procedure
In the American Old West, policing was often of very poor
quality. The Army often provided some policing
alongside poorly resourced sheriffs and temporarily organized
posses. Public organizations were supplemented by
private contractors, notably the Pinkerton National
which was hired by individuals, businessmen, local governments and the
federal government. At its height, the Pinkerton Agency's numbers
exceeded those of the
United States Army.
In recent years, in addition to federal, state, and local forces, some
special districts have been formed to provide extra police protection
in designated areas. These districts may be known as neighborhood
improvement districts, crime prevention districts, or security
In 2005, the Supreme
Court of the
United States ruled that police do
not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm.
Development of theory
Michel Foucault claims that the contemporary concept of police as a
paid and funded functionary of the state was developed by German and
French legal scholars and practitioners in
Public administration and
Statistics in the 17th and early 18th centuries, most notably with
Nicolas Delamare's Traité de la
Police ("Treatise on the Police"),
first published in 1705. The German
Polizeiwissenschaft (Science of
Police) first theorized by
Philipp von Hörnigk a 17th-century
Political economist and civil servant and much more famously
Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi
Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi who produced an important theoretical
work known as
Cameral science on the formulation of police.
Foucault cites Magdalene Humpert author of Bibliographie der
Kameralwissenschaften (1937) in which the author makes note of a
substantial bibliography was produced of over 4000 pieces of the
Polizeiwissenschaft however, this maybe a mistranslation
of Foucault's own work the actual source of Magdalene Humpert states
over 14,000 items were produced from the 16th century dates ranging
As conceptualized by the Polizeiwissenschaft, according to Foucault
the police had an administrative, economic and social duty ("procuring
abundance"). It was in charge of demographic concerns and needed to be
incorporated within the western political philosophy system of raison
d'état and therefore giving the superficial appearance of empowering
the population (and unwittingly supervising the population), which,
according to mercantilist theory, was to be the main strength of the
state. Thus, its functions largely overreached simple law enforcement
activities and included public health concerns, urban planning (which
was important because of the miasma theory of disease; thus,
cemeteries were moved out of town, etc.), and surveillance of
Jeremy Bentham, philosopher who advocated for the establishment of
preventive police forces and influenced the reforms of Sir Robert
The concept of preventive policing, or policing to deter crime from
taking place, gained influence in the late 18th century. Police
Magistrate John Fielding, head of the Bow Street Runners, argued that
"...it is much better to prevent even one man from being a rogue than
apprehending and bringing forty to justice."
The Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, promoted the views of
Italian Marquis Cesare Beccaria, and disseminated a translated version
of "Essay on
Crime in Punishment". Bentham espoused the guiding
principle of "the greatest good for the greatest number:
It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them. This is the chief
aim of every good system of legislation, which is the art of leading
men to the greatest possible happiness or to the least possible
misery, according to calculation of all the goods and evils of
Patrick Colquhoun's influential work, A Treatise on the
Police of the
Metropolis (1797) was heavily influenced by Benthamite thought.
Thames River Police
Thames River Police was founded on these principles, and
in contrast to the Bow Street Runners, acted as a deterrent by their
continual presence on the riverfront, in addition to being able to
intervene if they spotted a crime in progress.
Edwin Chadwick's 1829 article, "Preventive police" in the London
Review, argued that prevention ought to be the primary concern of
a police body, which was not the case in practice. The reason, argued
Chadwick, was that "A preventive police would act more immediately by
placing difficulties in obtaining the objects of temptation." In
contrast to a deterrent of punishment, a preventive police force would
deter criminality by making crime cost-ineffective - "crime doesn't
pay". In the second draft of his 1829
Police Act, the "object" of the
new Metropolitan Police, was changed by
Robert Peel to the "principal
object," which was the "prevention of crime." Later historians
would attribute the perception of England's "appearance of orderliness
and love of public order" to the preventive principle entrenched in
Peel's police system.
Development of modern police forces around the world was contemporary
to the formation of the state, later defined by sociologist Max Weber
as achieving a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force" and
which was primarily exercised by the police and the military. Marxist
theory situates the development of the modern state as part of the
rise of capitalism, in which the police are one component of the
bourgeoisie's repressive apparatus for subjugating the working class.
Personnel and organization
Police forces include both preventive (uniformed) police and
detectives. Terminology varies from country to country. Police
functions include protecting life and property, enforcing criminal
law, criminal investigations, regulating traffic, crowd control, and
other public safety duties. Regardless of size, police forces are
generally organized as a hierarchy with multiple ranks. The exact
structures and the names of rank vary considerably by country.
Federal Highway Police
Federal Highway Police at work.
Preventive Police, also called
Uniform Branch, Uniformed Police,
Uniform Division, Administrative Police, Order Police, or Patrol,
designates the police that patrol and respond to emergencies and other
incidents, as opposed to detective services. As the name "uniformed"
suggests, they wear uniforms and perform functions that require an
immediate recognition of an officer's legal authority, such as traffic
control, stopping and detaining motorists, and more active crime
response and prevention.
Preventive police almost always make up the bulk of a police service's
Australia and Britain, patrol personnel are also known
as "general duties" officers. Atypically, Brazil's preventive
police are known as
Police Force officers search the vehicle of a
suspected drug smuggler at a border crossing. Wentworth, New South
Police detectives are responsible for investigations and detective
work. Detectives may be called Investigations Police,
Judiciary/Judicial Police, and Criminal Police. In the UK, they are
often referred to by the name of their department, the Criminal
Investigation Department (CID). Detectives typically make up roughly
15–25% of a police service's personnel.
Detectives, in contrast to uniformed police, typically wear 'business
attire' in bureaucratic and investigative functions where a uniformed
presence would be either a distraction or intimidating, but a need to
establish police authority still exists. "Plainclothes" officers dress
in attire consistent with that worn by the general public for purposes
of blending in.
In some cases, police are assigned to work "undercover", where they
conceal their police identity to investigate crimes, such as organized
crime or narcotics crime, that are unsolvable by other means. In some
cases this type of policing shares aspects with espionage.
The relationship between detective and uniformed branches varies by
country. In the United States, there is high variation within the
country itself. Many US police departments require detectives to spend
some time on temporary assignments in the patrol division.[citation
needed] The argument is that rotating officers helps the detectives to
better understand the uniformed officers' work, to promote
cross-training in a wider variety of skills, and prevent "cliques"
that can contribute to corruption or other unethical
behavior. Conversely, some countries regard detective
work as being an entirely separate profession, with detectives working
in a separate agencies and recruited without having to serve in
uniform. A common compromise in English-speaking countries is that
most detectives are recruited from the uniformed branch, but once
qualified they tend to spend the rest of their careers in the
Another point of variation is whether detectives have extra status. In
some forces, such as the
New York Police Department
New York Police Department and Philadelphia
Police Department, a regular detective holds a higher rank than a
regular police officer. In others, such as British police forces and
Canadian police forces, a regular detective has equal status with
regular uniformed officers. Officers still have to take exams to move
to the detective branch, but the move is regarded as being a
specialization, rather than a promotion.
Volunteers and auxiliary police
Police services often include part-time or volunteer officers, some of
whom have other jobs outside policing. These may be paid positions or
entirely volunteer. These are known by a variety of names, such as
reserves, auxiliary police or special constables.
Other volunteer organizations work with police and perform some duties
normally handled by police. Groups in the U.S. including Retired and
Senior Volunteer Program,
Community Emergency Response Team
Community Emergency Response Team and the
Police Explorers provide training, traffic and crowd
control, disaster response and other policing duties. In the U.S., the
Volunteers in Police Service program assists over 200,000 volunteers
in almost 2,000 programs. Volunteers may also work on the support
staff. Examples of these schemes are
Volunteers in Police Service in
Police Support Volunteers in the UK and Volunteers in Policing
in New South Wales.
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the
Mumbai Police created specialized,
quick response teams to deal with terror threats.
Specialized preventive and detective groups, or Specialist
Investigation Departments exist within many law enforcement
organizations either for dealing with particular types of crime, such
as traffic law enforcement and crash investigation, homicide, or
fraud; or for situations requiring specialized skills, such as
underwater search, aviation, explosive device disposal ("bomb squad"),
and computer crime.
Most larger jurisdictions also employ specially selected and trained
quasi-military units armed with military-grade weapons for the
purposes of dealing with particularly violent situations beyond the
capability of a patrol officer response, including high-risk warrant
service and barricaded suspects. In the
United States these units go
by a variety of names, but are commonly known as
And Tactics) teams.
In counterinsurgency-type campaigns, select and specially trained
units of police armed and equipped as light infantry have been
designated as police field forces who perform paramilitary-type
patrols and ambushes whilst retaining their police powers in areas
that were highly dangerous.
Because their situational mandate typically focuses on removing
innocent bystanders from dangerous people and dangerous situations,
not violent resolution, they are often equipped with non-lethal
tactical tools like chemical agents, "flashbang" and concussion
grenades, and rubber bullets. The
London Metropolitan police's
Specialist Firearms Command (CO19) is a group of armed police used
in dangerous situations including hostage taking, armed
robbery/assault and terrorism.
Police may have administrative duties that are not directly related to
enforcing the law, such as issuing firearms licenses. The extent that
police have these functions varies among countries, with police in
France, Germany, and other continental European countries handling
such tasks to a greater extent than British counterparts.
Police Service of Northern
Ireland barracks in Northern Ireland. The
high walls are to protect against mortar bomb attacks.
Military police may refer to:
a section of the military solely responsible for policing the armed
forces (referred to as provosts)
a section of the military responsible for policing in both the armed
forces and in the civilian population (most gendarmeries, such as the
French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri, the Spanish Guardia Civil
Portuguese Republican National Guard
Portuguese Republican National Guard also known as GNR)
a section of the military solely responsible for policing the civilian
population (such as the Romanian Gendarmerie)
the civilian preventive police of a
Brazilian state (Policia Militar)
a special military law enforcement service, like the Russian Military
Two members of the Taliban religious police (Amr bil Ma-roof, or
Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) beating
a woman for removing her burqa in public.
Islamic societies have religious police, who enforce the
Sharia law. Their authority may include the
power to arrest unrelated men and women caught socializing, anyone
engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic
dress codes, and store closures during
Islamic prayer time.
They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of
alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and
media regarded as un-Islamic, such as CDs/DVDs of various Western
musical groups, television shows and film. In Saudi Arabia,
Mutaween actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of
Islamic religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are
Most countries are members of the International Criminal Police
Organization (Interpol), established to detect and fight transnational
crime and provide for international co-operation and co-ordination of
other police activities, such as notifying relatives of the death of
Interpol does not conduct investigations or arrests
by itself, but only serves as a central point for information on
crime, suspects and criminals. Political crimes are excluded from its
The terms international policing, transnational policing, and/or
global policing began to be used from the early 1990s onwards to
describe forms of policing that transcended the boundaries of the
sovereign nation-state (Nadelmann, 1993), (Sheptycki, 1995).
These terms refer in variable ways to practices and forms for policing
that, in some sense, transcend national borders. This includes a
variety of practices, but international police cooperation, criminal
intelligence exchange between police agencies working in different
nation-states, and police development-aid to weak, failed or failing
states are the three types that have received the most scholarly
Historical studies reveal that policing agents have undertaken a
variety of cross-border police missions for many years (Deflem,
2002). For example, in the 19th century a number of European
policing agencies undertook cross-border surveillance because of
concerns about anarchist agitators and other political radicals. A
notable example of this was the occasional surveillance by Prussian
Karl Marx during the years he remained resident in London.
The interests of public police agencies in cross-border co-operation
in the control of political radicalism and ordinary law crime were
primarily initiated in Europe, which eventually led to the
Interpol before the Second World War. There are also
many interesting examples of cross-border policing under private
auspices and by municipal police forces that date back to the 19th
century (Nadelmann, 1993). It has been established that modern
policing has transgressed national boundaries from time to time almost
from its inception. It is also generally agreed that in the
Cold War era this type of practice became more significant and
frequent (Sheptycki, 2000).
Not a lot of empirical work on the practices of inter/transnational
information and intelligence sharing has been undertaken. A notable
exception is James Sheptycki's study of police cooperation in the
English Channel region (2002), which provides a systematic content
analysis of information exchange files and a description of how these
transnational information and intelligence exchanges are transformed
into police case-work. The study showed that transnational police
information sharing was routinized in the cross-Channel region from
1968 on the basis of agreements directly between the police agencies
and without any formal agreement between the countries concerned. By
1992, with the signing of the Schengen Treaty, which formalized
aspects of police information exchange across the territory of the
European Union, there were worries that much, if not all, of this
intelligence sharing was opaque, raising questions about the efficacy
of the accountability mechanisms governing police information sharing
in Europe (Joubert and Bevers, 1996).
Studies of this kind outside of Europe are even rarer, so it is
difficult to make generalizations, but one small-scale study that
compared transnational police information and intelligence sharing
practices at specific cross-border locations in North America and
Europe confirmed that low visibility of police information and
intelligence sharing was a common feature (Alain, 2001).
Intelligence-led policing is now common practice in most advanced
countries (Ratcliffe, 2007) and it is likely that police
intelligence sharing and information exchange has a common morphology
around the world (Ratcliffe, 2007).
James Sheptycki has analyzed
the effects of the new information technologies on the organization of
policing-intelligence and suggests that a number of 'organizational
pathologies' have arisen that make the functioning of
security-intelligence processes in transnational policing deeply
problematic. He argues that transnational police information circuits
help to "compose the panic scenes of the security-control
society". The paradoxical effect is that, the harder policing
agencies work to produce security, the greater are feelings of
Police development-aid to weak, failed or failing states is another
form of transnational policing that has garnered attention. This form
of transnational policing plays an increasingly important role in
United Nations peacekeeping and this looks set to grow in the years
ahead, especially as the international community seeks to develop the
rule of law and reform security institutions in States recovering from
conflict (Goldsmith and Sheptycki, 2007) With transnational police
development-aid the imbalances of power between donors and recipients
are stark and there are questions about the applicability and
transportability of policing models between jurisdictions (Hills,
Perhaps the greatest question regarding the future development of
transnational policing is: in whose interest is it? At a more
practical level, the question translates into one about how to make
transnational policing institutions democratically accountable
(Sheptycki, 2004). For example, according to the Global
Accountability Report for 2007 (Lloyd, et al. 2007)
Interpol had the
lowest scores in its category (IGOs), coming in tenth with a score of
22% on overall accountability capabilities (p. 19). As this
report points out, and the existing academic literature on
transnational policing seems to confirm, this is a secretive area and
one not open to civil society involvement.
Armored vehicle of CORE,
SWAT unit within the Civil
Police of Rio de
In many jurisdictions, police officers carry firearms, primarily
handguns, in the normal course of their duties. In the United Kingdom
(except Northern Ireland), Iceland, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand,
and Malta, with the exception of specialist units, officers do not
carry firearms as a matter of course.
Police often have specialist units for handling armed offenders, and
similar dangerous situations, and can (depending on local laws), in
some extreme circumstances, call on the military (since
to the Civil Power is a role of many armed forces). Perhaps the most
high-profile example of this was, in 1980 the Metropolitan Police
handing control of the
Iranian Embassy Siege
Iranian Embassy Siege to the
They can also be armed with non-lethal (more accurately known as "less
than lethal" or "less-lethal") weaponry, particularly for riot
control. Non-lethal weapons include batons, tear gas, riot control
agents, rubber bullets, riot shields, water cannons and electroshock
Police officers often carry handcuffs to restrain suspects.
The use of firearms or deadly force is typically a last resort only to
be used when necessary to save human life, although some jurisdictions
(such as Brazil) allow its use against fleeing felons and escaped
convicts. A "shoot-to-kill" policy was recently introduced in South
Africa, which allows police to use deadly force against any person who
poses a significant threat to them or civilians. With the country
having one of the highest rates of violent crime, president Jacob Zuma
South Africa needs to handle crime differently from other
Modern police forces make extensive use of two-way radio
communications equipment, carried both on the person and installed in
vehicles, to co-ordinate their work, share information, and get help
quickly. In recent years, vehicle-installed mobile data terminals have
enhanced the ability of police communications, enabling easier
dispatching of calls, criminal background checks on persons of
interest to be completed in a matter of seconds, and updating
officers' daily activity log and other, required reports on a
real-time basis. Other common pieces of police equipment include
flashlights/torches, whistles, police notebooks and "ticket books" or
A Ford Crown Victoria, one of the most recognizable models of American
police car. This unit belongs to
German (green) and Dutch (blue/red) police vehicles.
Police vehicles are used for detaining, patrolling and transporting.
The average police patrol vehicle is a specially modified, four door
sedan (saloon in British English).
Police vehicles are usually marked
with appropriate logos and are equipped with sirens and flashing light
bars to aid in making others aware of police presence.
Unmarked vehicles are used primarily for sting operations or
apprehending criminals without alerting them to their presence. Some
police forces use unmarked or minimally marked cars for traffic law
enforcement, since drivers slow down at the sight of marked police
vehicles and unmarked vehicles make it easier for officers to catch
speeders and traffic violators. This practice is controversial, with
for example, New York State banning this practice in 1996 on the
grounds that it endangered motorists who might be pulled over by
people impersonating police officers.
Motorcycles are also commonly used, particularly in locations that a
car may not be able to reach, to control potential public order
situations involving meetings of motorcyclists and often in escort
duties where motorcycle police officers can quickly clear a path for
Bicycle patrols are used in some areas because they
allow for more open interaction with the public. In addition, their
quieter operation can facilitate approaching suspects unawares and can
help in pursuing them attempting to escape on foot.
Police forces use an array of specialty vehicles such as helicopters,
airplanes, watercraft, mobile command posts, vans, trucks, all-terrain
vehicles, motorcycles, and armored vehicles.
Other safety equipment
Police cars may also contain fire extinguishers or
The advent of the police car, two-way radio, and telephone in the
early 20th century transformed policing into a reactive strategy that
focused on responding to calls for service. With this
transformation, police command and control became more centralized.
In the United States,
August Vollmer introduced other reforms,
including education requirements for police officers. O.W. Wilson,
a student of Vollmer, helped reduce corruption and introduce
professionalism in Wichita, Kansas, and later in the Chicago Police
Department. Strategies employed by O.W. Wilson included rotating
officers from community to community to reduce their vulnerability to
corruption, establishing of a non-partisan police board to help govern
the police force, a strict merit system for promotions within the
department, and an aggressive recruiting drive with higher police
salaries to attract professionally qualified officers. During the
professionalism era of policing, law enforcement agencies concentrated
on dealing with felonies and other serious crime and conducting
visible car patrols in between, rather than broader focus on crime
Anti-riot armoured vehicle of the police of the Canton of
The Kansas City Preventive Patrol study in the early 1970s showed
flaws in this strategy. It found that aimless car patrols did little
to deter crime and often went unnoticed by the public. Patrol officers
in cars had insufficient contact and interaction with the community,
leading to a social rift between the two. In the 1980s and 1990s,
many law enforcement agencies began to adopt community policing
strategies, and others adopted problem-oriented policing.
'Broken windows' policing was another, related approach introduced in
the 1980s by
James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, who suggested that
police should pay greater attention to minor "quality of life"
offenses and disorderly conduct. This method was popularised in the
early 1990s by police chief
William J. Bratton
William J. Bratton and
New York City
New York City Mayor
The concept behind this method is simple: broken windows, graffiti,
and other physical destruction or degradation of property, greatly
increases the chances of more criminal activities and destruction of
property. When criminals see the abandoned vehicles, trash, and
deplorable property, they assume that authorities do not care and do
not take active approaches to correct problems in these areas.
Therefore, correcting the small problems prevents more serious
Building upon these earlier models, intelligence-led policing has
emerged as the dominant philosophy guiding police strategy.
Intelligence-led policing and problem-oriented policing are
complementary strategies, both which involve systematic use of
information. Although it still lacks a universally accepted
definition, the crux of intelligence-led policing is an emphasis on
the collection and analysis of information to guide police operations,
rather than the reverse.
A related development is evidence-based policing. In a similar vein to
evidence-based policy, evidence-based policing is the use of
controlled experiments to find which methods of policing are more
effective. Leading advocates of evidence-based policing include the
Lawrence W. Sherman and philanthropist Jerry Lee.
Findings from controlled experiments include the Minneapolis Domestic
Violence Experiment, evidence that patrols deter crime if they are
concentrated in crime hotspots and that restricting police powers
to shoot suspects does not cause an increase in crime or violence
against police officers. Use of experiments to assess the
usefulness of strategies has been endorsed by many police services and
institutions, including the US
Police Foundation and the UK College of
Police truck in
Traffic/highway patrol vehicle of the Western
In many nations, criminal procedure law has been developed to regulate
officers' discretion, so that they do not arbitrarily or unjustly
exercise their powers of arrest, search and seizure, and use of force.
In the United States,
Miranda v. Arizona
Miranda v. Arizona led to the widespread use of
Miranda warnings or constitutional warnings.
In Miranda the court created safeguards against self-incriminating
statements made after an arrest. The court held that "The prosecution
may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming
from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person
has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of
action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of
procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's
privilege against self-incrimination"
Police in the
United States are also prohibited from holding criminal
suspects for more than a reasonable amount of time (usually 24–48
hours) before arraignment, using torture, abuse or physical threats to
extract confessions, using excessive force to effect an arrest, and
searching suspects' bodies or their homes without a warrant obtained
upon a showing of probable cause. The four exceptions to the
constitutional requirement of a search warrant are:
Search incident to arrest
Motor vehicle searches
Terry v. Ohio
Terry v. Ohio (1968) the court divided seizure into two parts, the
investigatory stop and arrest. The court further held that during an
investigatory stop a police officer's search " [is] confined to what
[is] minimally necessary to determine whether [a suspect] is armed,
and the intrusion, which [is] made for the sole purpose of protecting
himself and others nearby, [is] confined to ascertaining the presence
of weapons" (U.S. Supreme Court). Before Terry, every police encounter
constituted an arrest, giving the police officer the full range of
search authority. Search authority during a
Terry stop (investigatory
stop) is limited to weapons only.
Using deception for confessions is permitted, but not coercion. There
are exceptions or exigent circumstances such as an articulated need to
disarm a suspect or searching a suspect who has already been arrested
(Search Incident to an Arrest). The
Posse Comitatus Act
Posse Comitatus Act severely
restricts the use of the military for police activity, giving added
importance to police
British police officers are governed by similar rules, such as those
Wales under the
Police and Criminal Evidence
Act 1984 (PACE), but generally have greater powers. They may, for
example, legally search any suspect who has been arrested, or their
vehicles, home or business premises, without a warrant, and may seize
anything they find in a search as evidence.
All police officers in the United Kingdom, whatever their actual rank,
are 'constables' in terms of their legal position. This means that a
newly appointed constable has the same arrest powers as a Chief
Constable or Commissioner. However, certain higher ranks have
additional powers to authorize certain aspects of police operations,
such as a power to authorize a search of a suspect's house (section 18
England and Wales) by an officer of the rank of Inspector, or
the power to authorize a suspect's detention beyond 24 hours by a
Conduct, accountability and public confidence
April 21, 2001:
CS gas at protesters during the Quebec
City Summit of the Americas.
The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP later concluded
the use of tear gas against demonstrators at the summit constituted
"excessive and unjustified force".
Police services commonly include units for investigating crimes
committed by the police themselves. These units are typically called
Inspectorate-General, or in the US, "internal affairs". In some
countries separate organizations outside the police exist for such
purposes, such as the British Independent Office for
Likewise, some state and local jurisdictions, for example,
Springfield, Illinois have similar outside review organizations.
The Police Service of Northern
Ireland is investigated by the Police
Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, an external agency set up as a result
of the Patten report into policing the province. In the Republic of
Garda Síochána is investigated by the Garda Síochána
Ombudsman Commission, an independent commission that replaced the
Garda Complaints Board in May 2007.
Special Investigations Unit
Special Investigations Unit of Ontario, Canada, is one of only a
few civilian agencies around the world responsible for investigating
circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in a
death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault. The agency
has made allegations of insufficient cooperation from various police
services hindering their investigations.
In Hong Kong, any allegations of corruption within the police will be
investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the
Police Complaints Council, two agencies which are
independent of the police force.
Due to a long-term decline in public confidence for law enforcement in
the United States, body cameras worn by police officers are under
Use of force
General Directorate of Security
General Directorate of Security riot control officer uses force on a
protester in Gezi Park protests.
Police forces also find themselves under criticism for their use of
force, particularly deadly force. Specifically, tension increases when
a police officer of one ethnic group harms or kills a suspect of
another one. In the United States, such events
occasionally spark protests and accusations of racism against police
and allegations that police departments practice racial profiling.
United States since the 1960s, concern over such issues has
increasingly weighed upon law enforcement agencies, courts and
legislatures at every level of government. Incidents such as the 1965
Watts Riots, the videotaped 1991 beating by Los Angeles Police
officers of Rodney King, and the riot following their acquittal have
been suggested by some people to be evidence that U.S. police are
dangerously lacking in appropriate controls.
The fact that this trend has occurred contemporaneously with the rise
of the civil rights movement, the "War on Drugs", and a precipitous
rise in violent crime from the 1960s to the 1990s has made questions
surrounding the role, administration and scope of police authority
increasingly complicated.
Police departments and the local governments that oversee them in some
jurisdictions have attempted to mitigate some of these issues through
community outreach programs and community policing to make the police
more accessible to the concerns of local communities, by working to
increase hiring diversity, by updating training of police in their
responsibilities to the community and under the law, and by increased
oversight within the department or by civilian commissions.
In cases in which such measures have been lacking or absent, civil
lawsuits have been brought by the
United States Department of Justice
against local law enforcement agencies, authorized under the 1994
Crime Control and
Law Enforcement Act. This has compelled
local departments to make organizational changes, enter into consent
decree settlements to adopt such measures, and submit to oversight by
Justice Department.
Protection of individuals
Since 1855, the Supreme
Court of the
United States has consistently
ruled that law enforcement officers have no duty to protect any
individual, despite the motto "protect and serve". Their duty is to
enforce the law in general. The first such case was in 1855 (South v.
State of Maryland (Supreme
Court of the
United States 1855). Text) and
the most recent in 2005 (Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales).
In contrast, the police are entitled to protect private rights in some
jurisdictions. To ensure that the police would not interfere in the
regular competencies of the courts of law, some police acts require
that the police may only interfere in such cases where protection from
courts cannot be obtained in time, and where, without interference of
the police, the realization of the private right would be
impeded. This would, for example, allow police to establish a
restaurant guest's identity and forward it to the innkeeper in a case
where the guest cannot pay the bill at nighttime because his wallet
had just been stolen from the restaurant table.
In addition, there are Federal law enforcement agencies in the United
States whose mission includes providing protection for executives such
as the President and accompanying family members, visiting foreign
dignitaries, and other high-ranking individuals. Such agencies
United States Secret Service and the
United States Park
Law enforcement by country
Police forces are usually organized and funded by some level of
government. The level of government responsible for policing varies
from place to place, and may be at the national, regional or local
level. Some countries have police forces that serve the same
territory, with their jurisdiction depending on the type of crime or
other circumstances. Other countries, such as Austria, Chile, Israel,
New Zealand, the Philippines,
South Africa and Sweden, have a single
national police force.
In some places with multiple national police forces, one common
arrangement is to have a civilian police force and a paramilitary
gendarmerie, such as the
Police Nationale and National
France. The French policing system spread to other countries
through the Napoleonic Wars and the French colonial
empire. Another example is the Policía Nacional and Guardia
Civil in Spain. In both
France and Spain, the civilian force polices
urban areas and the paramilitary force polices rural areas.
a similar arrangement with the
Polizia di Stato
Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri,
though their jurisdictions overlap more. Some countries have separate
agencies for uniformed police and detectives, such as the Military
Police and Civil
Brazil and the Carabineros and
Police in Chile.
Other countries have sub-national police forces, but for the most part
their jurisdictions do not overlap. In many countries, especially
federations, there may be two or more tiers of police force, each
serving different levels of government and enforcing different subsets
of the law. In
Australia and Germany, the majority of policing is
carried out by state (i.e. provincial) police forces, which are
supplemented by a federal police force. Though not a federation, the
United Kingdom has a similar arrangement, where policing is primarily
the responsibility of a regional police force and specialist units
exist at the national level. In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police (RCMP) are the federal police, while municipalities can decide
whether to run a local police service or to contract local policing
duties to a larger one. Most urban areas have a local police service,
while most rural areas contract it to the RCMP, or to the provincial
Ontario and Quebec.
United States has a highly decentralized and fragmented system of
law enforcement, with over 17,000 state and local law enforcement
agencies. These agencies include local police, county police
(often in the form of a sheriff's office), state police and federal
law enforcement agencies. Federal agencies, such as the FBI, only have
jurisdiction over federal crimes or those that involve more than one
state. Other federal agencies have jurisdiction over a specific type
of crime. Examples include the Federal Protective Service, which
patrols and protects government buildings; the postal police, which
protect postal buildings, vehicles and items; the Park Police, which
protect national parks; and
Amtrak Police, which patrol Amtrak
stations and trains. There are also some government agencies that
perform police functions in addition to other duties, such as the
Chief of police
Fraternal Order of Police
Law enforcement agency
Law enforcement and society
Law enforcement by country
The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc
Police training officer
Women in law
Women in law enforcement
List of basic law enforcement topics
List of countries by size of police forces
List of law enforcement agencies
List of protective service agencies
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