The police are a constituted body
empowered by a state
, with the aim to enforce the law
, to ensure the safety
and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime
and civil disorder
. Their lawful powers include arrest
and the use of force legitimized by the state via the monopoly on violence
. The term is most commonly associated with the police forces 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 the military
and other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie
are military units charged with civil policing.
Police forces are usually public sector services, funded through taxes.
Law enforcement is only part of policing activity. Policing has 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 in modern societies. Nevertheless, their role can be controversial, as they may be involved to varying degrees in corruption
, police brutality
and the enforcement of authoritarian rule
A police force may also be referred to as a police department, police service, constabulary
, crime prevention
, protective services, law enforcement agency
, civil guard, or civic guard. Members may be referred to as police officer
s, peace officer
s or civic/civil guards. Ireland differs from other English-speaking countries by using the Irish language terms ''Garda'' (singular) and ''Gardaí'' (plural), for both the national police force
and its members. The word ''police'' is the most universal and similar terms can be seen in many non-English speaking countries.
terms exist for the police. Many slang terms for police officers
are decades or centuries old with lost etymologies. 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 profession.
First attested in English in the early 15th century, originally 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
Law enforcement in ancient China
was carried out by "prefects" for thousands of years since it developed in both the Chu
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. Local citizens could report minor judicial offenses against them such as robberies at a local prefectural office. The concept of the "prefecture system" spread to other cultures such as Korea and Japan.
, law enforcement tasks were initially entrusted to individuals with military backgrounds or imperial magnates during the Old Babylonian period, but eventually, law enforcement was delegated to officers known as ''paqūdus'', who were present in both cities and rural settlements. A ''paqūdu'' was responsible for investigating petty crimes and carrying out arrests.
In ancient Egypt
evidence of law enforcement exists as far back as the Old Kingdom period
. There are records of an office known as "Judge Commandant of the Police" dating to the fourth dynasty
. During the fifth dynasty
at the end of the Old Kingdom period, officers armed with wooden sticks were tasked with guarding public places such as markets, temples, and parks, and apprehending criminals. They are known to have made use of trained monkeys, baboons, and dogs in guard duties and catching criminals. After the Old Kingdom collapsed, ushering in the First Intermediate Period
, it is thought that the same model applied. During this period, Bedouins
were hired to guard the borders and protect trade caravans. During the Middle Kingdom
period, a professional police force was created with a specific focus on enforcing the law, as opposed to the previous informal arrangement of using warriors as police. The police force was further reformed during the New Kingdom
period. Police officers served as interrogators, prosecutors, and court bailiffs, and were responsible for administering punishments handed down by judges. In addition, there were special units of police officers trained as priests who were responsible for guarding temples and tombs and preventing inappropriate behavior at festivals or improper observation of religious rites during services. Other police units were tasked with guarding caravans, guarding border crossings, protecting royal necropolis
es, guarding slaves at work or during transport, patrolling the Nile River
, and guarding administrative buildings. By the Eighteenth Dynasty of the New Kingdom period, an elite desert-ranger police force called the Medjay
was used to protect valuable areas, especially areas of pharaonic interest like capital cities, royal cemeteries, and the borders of Egypt. Though they are best known for their protection of the royal palaces and tombs in Thebes
and the surrounding areas, the Medjay were used throughout Upper
and Lower Egypt
. Each regional unit had its own captain. The police forces of ancient Egypt did not guard rural communities, which often took care of their own judicial problems by appealing to village elders, but many of them had a constable to enforce state laws.
In ancient Greece
, publicly owned slaves were used by magistrates as police. In Athens
, the Scythian Archers
(the , "rod-bearers"), a group of about 300 Scythian slaves, 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. Athenian police forces were supervised by the Areopagus
. In Sparta
, the Ephor
s were in charge of maintaining public order as judges, and they used Sparta's Hippeis
, a 300-member royal guard of honor, as their enforcers. There were separate authorities supervising women, children, and agricultural issues. Sparta also had a secret police force called the crypteia
to watch the large population of helots
, or slaves.
In the Roman Empire
, the army, rather than a dedicated police organization, initially provided security. Local watchmen were hired by cities to provide some extra security. Magistrates such as ''procurators fiscal
'' and ''quaestor
s'' 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 night watchmen and firemen. Their duties included apprehending thieves and robbers, capturing runaway slaves, guarding the baths at night, and stopping disturbances of the peace. The vigiles primarily dealt with petty crime, while violent crime, sedition, and rioting was handled by the Urban Cohort
s and even the Praetorian Guard
if necessary, though the vigiles could act in a supporting role in these situations.
Law enforcement systems existed in the various kingdoms and empires of ancient India
. The Apastamba Dharmasutra
prescribes that kings should appoint officers and subordinates in the towns and villages to protect their subjects from crime. Various inscriptions and literature from ancient India suggest that a variety of roles existed for law enforcement officials such as those of a constable, thief catcher, watchman, and detective.
The Persian Empire
had well-organized police forces. A police force existed in every place of importance. In the cities, each ward was under the command of a Superintendent of Police, known as a ''Kuipan'', who was expected to command implicit obedience in his subordinates. Police officers also acted as prosecutors and carried out punishments imposed by the courts. They were required to know the court procedure for prosecuting cases and advancing accusations.
In ancient Israel and Judah
, officials with the responsibility of making declarations to the people, guarding the king's person, supervising public works, and executing the orders of the courts existed in the urban areas. They are repeatedly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible
, and this system lasted into the period of Roman rule. The first century Jewish historian Josephus
related that every judge had two such officers under his command. Levite
s were preferred for this role. Cities and towns also had night watchmen. Besides officers of the town, there were officers for every tribe. The temple in Jerusalem had special temple police to guard it. The Talmud
mentions various local police officials in the Jewish communities the Land of Israel and Babylon who supervised economic activity. Their Greek-sounding titles suggest that the roles were introduced under Hellenic influence. Most of these officials received their authority from local courts and their salaries were drawn from the town treasury. The Talmud also mentions city watchmen and mounted and armed watchmen in the suburbs.
In many regions of pre-colonial Africa
, particularly West and Central Africa, guild-like secret societies
emerged as law enforcement. In the absence of a court system or written legal code, they carried out police-like activities, employing varying degrees of coercion to enforce conformity and deter antisocial behavior. In ancient Ethiopia
, armed retainers of the nobility enforced law in the countryside according to the will of their leaders. The Songhai Empire
had officials known as ''assara-munidios'', or "enforcers", acting as police.
Pre-Columbian Mesoamarican civilizations also had organized law enforcement. The city-states of the Maya civilization
had constables known as ''tupils'', as well as bailiff
s. In the Aztec Empire
, judges had officers serving under them who were empowered to perform arrests, even of dignitaries. In the Inca Empire
, officials called ''curaca'' enforced the law among the households they were assigned to oversee, with inspectors known as ''tokoyrikoq'' (lit. "he who sees all") also stationed throughout the provinces to keep order.
In medieval Spain
, ''Santas 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
, and protect the pilgrims against robber knights.
Throughout the 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
, and Villarreal
As one of their first acts after end of the War of the Castilian Succession
in 1479, 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 court
s of Germany provided some policing in the absence of strong state institutions. Such courts had a chairman who presided over a session and lay judge
s who passed judgement and carried out law enforcement tasks. Among the responsibilities that lay judges had were giving formal warnings to known troublemakers, issuing warrants, and carrying out executions.
In the medieval Islamic Caliphate
s, police were known as Shurta
. Bodies termed "Shurta" existed perhaps as early as the Caliphate of Uthman
. The Shurta is known to have existed in the Abbasid
and Umayyad Caliphate
s. Their primary roles were to act as police and internal security
forces but they could also be used for other duties such as customs and tax enforcement, rubbish collection, and acting as bodyguards for governors. From the 10th century, the importance of the Shurta declined as the army assumed internal security tasks while cities became more autonomous and handled their own policing needs locally, such as by hiring watchmen. In addition, officials called muhtasib
s were responsible for supervising bazaar
s and economic activity in general in the medieval Islamic world.
during the Middle Ages
, there were two Great Officers of the Crown of France
with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France
and the Grand 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 Constabulary
(French: Connétablie), was under the command of the Constable of France
. The constabulary was regularised as a military body in 1337. Under Francis I of 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 France.
system of maintaining public order since the Norman conquest was a private system of tithing
s known as the mutual pledge system. This system was introduced under Alfred the Great
. Communities were divided into groups of ten families called tithings, each of which was overseen by a chief tithingman. Every household head was responsible for the good behavior of his own family and the good behavior of other members of his tithing. Every male aged 12 and over was required to participate in a tithing. Members of tithings were responsible for raising "hue and cry" upon witnessing or learning of a crime, and the men of his tithing were responsible for capturing the criminal. The person the tithing captured would then be brought before the chief tithingman, who would determine guilt or innocence and punishment. All members of the criminal's tithing would be responsible for paying the fine. A group of ten tithings was known as a "hundred" and every hundred was overseen by an official known as a reeve
. Hundreds ensured that if a criminal escaped to a neighboring village, he could be captured and returned to his village. If a criminal was not apprehended, then the entire hundred could be fined. The hundreds were governed by administrative divisions known as shire
s, the rough equivalent of a modern county
, which were overseen by an official known as a shire-reeve, from which the term Sheriff
evolved. The shire-reeve had the power of ''posse comitatus
'', meaning he could gather the men of his shire to pursue a criminal. Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the tithing system was tightened with the frankpledge
system. By the end of the 13th century, the office of constable developed. Constables had the same responsibilities as chief tithingmen and additionally as royal officers. The constable was elected by his parish
every year. Eventually, constables became the first 'police' official to be tax-supported. In urban areas, watchmen
were tasked with keeping order and enforcing nighttime curfew. Watchmen guarded the town gates at night, patrolled the streets, arrested those on the streets at night without good reason, and also acted as firefighters. Eventually the office of justice of the peace
was established, with a justice of the peace overseeing constables. There was also a system of investigative "juries
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 sheriff or reeve, is cited as one of the earliest antecedents 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-taker
s were also rewarded for catching thieves and returning the stolen property.
The earliest English use of the word "police" seems to have been the term "Polles" mentioned in the book "The Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England" published in 1642.
Early modern policing
The first centrally organised and uniformed 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 ''Parlement
'' of 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".
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 Paris police 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 London.
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 Police for Scotland in 1714 and the creation of the Marine Police
Scotland and Ireland
Following early police forces established in 1779 and 1788 in Glasgow
, the Glasgow authorities successfully petitioned the government to pass the Glasgow Police Act
establishing the City of Glasgow 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 constable
s and inspectors general under the control of the civil administration at Dublin Castle
. By 1841 this force numbered over 8,600 men.
In 1797, Patrick Colquhoun
was able to persuade the West Indies
merchants who operated at the 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.
Origins of the Thames Police
''Thames Police Museum''. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
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.
[T.A. Critchley, ''A History of Police in England and Wales'', 2nd edition. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith, 38–39.]
With the initial investment of £4,200, the new force the Marine 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 part funded by the London Society of West India Planters and Merchants
. 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 Depredations on the Thames Act 1800
on 28 July 1800, establishing a fully funded police force the Thames River Police
together with new laws including police powers; 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
, 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.
Metropolitan police force
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.
to the Metropolitan Police Act 1829
and the Metropolitan Police Service
was established on September 29, 1829 in London
. 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 centralised, 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
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.
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 policing:
* Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests but on the deterrence 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 police."
The 1829 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 from 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 many countries, including the United States
and most of the British Empire
. Bobbies can still be found in many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations
, the first police force having centralised command as well as jurisdiction over an entire colony was the South Australia Police
, formed in 1838 under Henry Inman
However, whilst the New South Wales 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 Wales.
The New South Wales 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 education.
In 1566, the first police investigator of 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. The Federal Railroad Police
was created in 1852, Federal Highway Police
, was established in 1928, and Federal Police
Established in 1729, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
(RNC) was the first policing service founded in Canada. The establishment of modern policing services in the Canadas
occurred during the 1830s, modelling their services after the London Metropolitan Police, and adopting the ideas of the Peelian principles.
The Toronto Police Service
was established in 1834, whereas the Service de police de la Ville de Québec
was established in 1840.
A national police service, the Dominion Police
, was founded in 1868. Initially the Dominion Police provided security for parliament, but its responsibilities quickly grew. In 1870, Rupert's Land
and the North-Western Territory
were incorporated into the country. In an effort to police its newly acquired territory, the Canadian government established the North-West Mounted Police
in 1873 (renamed Royal North-West Mounted Police in 1904).
In 1920, the Dominion Police, and the Royal Northwest Mounted Police were amalgamated into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The RCMP provides federal law enforcement; and law enforcement in eight provinces, and all three territories. The provinces of Ontario
, and Quebec
maintain their own provincial police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police
(OPP), and the Sûreté du Québec
(SQ). Policing in Newfoundland and Labrador
is provided by the RCMP, and the RNC. The aforementioned services also provides municipal policing, although larger Canadian municipalities may establish form their own police service.
, the current police force were established in 1861, with creation of the Gendarmerie
, the police are 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''.
In Colonial 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 the 1700s, the Province of Carolina
- and South Carolina
) established slave patrol
s in order to prevent slave rebellions and enslaved people from escaping.
For example, by 1785 the Charleston
Guard and Watch had "a distinct chain of command
s, sole responsibility for policing, salary
, authorized use of force
, and a focus on preventing 'crime'
In 1789 the United States Marshals Service
was established, followed by other federal services such as the U.S. Parks Police
(1791) and U.S. Mint Police
(1792). The first city police services were established in Philadelphia
in 1751, Richmond, Virginia
in 1807, 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.
In the American Old West
, law enforcement was carried out by local sheriffs, rangers, constables, and federal marshals. There were also town marshals responsible for serving civil and criminal warrants, maintaining the jails, and carrying out arrests for petty crime.
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 districts.
Development of theory
wrote 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
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 Austrian political economist
and civil servant and much more famously by 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 practice of Polizeiwissenschaft. However, this may be a mistranslation of Foucault's own work since the actual source of Magdalene Humpert states over 14,000 items were produced from the 16th century dates ranging from 1520 to 1850.
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 prices
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."
[R.J. Marin, "The Living Law." In eds., W.T. McGrath and M.P. Mitchell, ''The Police Function in Canada''. Toronto: Methuen, 1981, 18–19. ]
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 life.
's influential work, ''A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis'' (1797) was heavily influenced by Benthamite thought. Colquhoun's 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.
'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
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
. By contrast, the Peelian principles
argue that "the power of the police...is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior", a philosophy known as policing by consent
Personnel and organization
Police forces include both preventive (uniformed) police and detective
s. Terminology varies from country to country. Police functions include protecting life and property, enforcing criminal law
, criminal investigations, regulating traffic, crowd control, public safety duties, civil defense, emergency management, searching for missing persons, lost property and other duties concerned with public order. 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.
The police who wear uniform
s make up the majority of a police service's personnel. Their main duty is to respond to calls to the emergency telephone number
. When not responding to these call-outs, they will do work aimed at preventing crime, such as patrols. The uniformed police are known by varying names such as preventive police, the uniform branch/division, administrative police, order police, the patrol bureau/division or patrol. In Australia and the United Kingdom, patrol personnel are also known as "general duties" officers.
's preventive police are known as Military Police
As implied by the name, uniformed police wear uniforms. They perform functions that require an immediate recognition of an officer's legal authority and a potential need for force. Most commonly this means intervening to stop a crime in progress and securing the scene of a crime that has already happened. Besides dealing with crime, these officers may also manage and monitor traffic, carry out community policing
duties, maintain order at public events or carry out searches for missing people
(in 2012, the latter accounted for 14% of police time in the United Kingdom). As most of these duties must be available as a 24/7 service
, uniformed police are required to do shift work
s 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
s 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. 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 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 detective branch.
Another point of variation is whether detectives have extra status. In some forces, such as the 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 the police and perform some of their duties. Groups in the U.S. including Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
, Community Emergency Response Team
and the Boy Scout's 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 the US, Police Support Volunteers
in the UK and Volunteers in Policing
in New South Wales.
Specialized preventive and detective groups, or Specialist Investigation Department
s exist within many law enforcement organizations either for dealing with particular types of crime, such as traffic law enforcement, K9, crash investigation, homicide
, or fraud
; or for situations requiring specialized skills, such as underwater search
, explosive device disposal
("bomb squad"), and computer crime
Most larger jurisdictions also employ specially selected and trained quasi-military tactical 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 SWAT
(Special Weapons And Tactics) teams.
-type campaigns, select and specially trained units of police armed and equipped as light infantry
have been designated as police field force
s 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
" and concussion grenades, and rubber bullets. The Specialist Firearms Command
(CO19) of the Metropolitan Police in London 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
, and other continental Europe
an countries handling such tasks to a greater extent than British counterparts.
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 gendarmerie
s, such as the French Gendarmerie
, the Italian Carabinieri
, the Spanish Guardia Civil
and the 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
* a special military law enforcement service, like the Russian Military Police
societies have religious police
, who enforce the application of Islamic 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
[Saudi Arabia Catholic priest arrested and expelled from Riyadh – Asia News](_blank)
They enforce Muslim dietary laws
, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverage
s 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
, the Mutaween
actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of non-Islamic religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned.
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 foreign nationals. Interpol does not conduct investigations or arrests by itself, but only serves as a central point for information on crime, suspects and criminals. Political crime
s are excluded from its competencies.
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),
[Nadelmann, E.A. (1993) Cops Across Borders; the Internationalization of US Law Enforcement, Pennsylvania State University Press]
(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 attention.
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 Prussia
n police of 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 establishment of 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 post–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)
[Ratcliffe, J. (2007) ''Strategic Thinking in Criminal Intelligence'', Annadale, NSW: The Federation Press]
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 insecurity.
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, 2009).
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.
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. Norwegian police carry firearms in their vehicles, but not on their duty belts, and must obtain authorisation before the weapons can be removed from the vehicle.
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 Military Aid 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
to the Special Air Service
They can also be armed with non-lethal
(more accurately known as "less than lethal" or "less-lethal" given that they can still be deadly) weaponry, particularly for riot control
. Non-lethal weapon
s include batons
, tear gas
, riot control agent
s, rubber bullet
s, riot shield
s, water cannons
and electroshock weapon
s. Police officers typically 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. American police are allowed to use deadly force
if they "think their life is in danger." 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
states that South Africa needs to handle crime differently from other countries. Because lethal weapons are known to cause agonizing pain, they are also used to threaten people into compliance.
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 terminal
s 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 flashlight
s, police notebook
s and "ticket books" or citations
. Some police departments have developed advanced computerized data display and communication systems to bring real time data to officers, one example being the NYPD's Domain Awareness System
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
s 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 escorted vehicles. Bicycle
patrols are used in some areas because they allow for more open interaction with the public. Bicycles are also commonly used by riot police to create makeshift barricades against protesters. 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 extinguisher
s or defibrillators.
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 prevention
The Kansas City Preventive Patrol study
in the early 1970s showed flaws in using visible car patrols for crime prevention. 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. The concept behind this method is simple: broken windows, graffiti, and other physical destruction or degradation of property create an environment in which crime and disorder is more likely. The presence of broken windows and graffiti sends a message that authorities do not care and are not trying to correct problems in these areas. Therefore, correcting these small problems prevents more serious criminal activity. The theory was popularised in the early 1990s by police chief William J. Bratton
and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
. It was emulated in 2010s in Kazakhstan through zero tolerance policing. Yet it failed to produce meaningful results in this country because citizens distrusted police while state leaders preferred police loyalty over police good behavior.
Building upon these earlier models, intelligence-led policing
has also become an important strategy. Intelligence-led policing and problem-oriented policing are complementary strategies, both of 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 criminologist 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 Policing
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
'' led to the widespread use of Miranda warning
s 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"
[Supreme Court of the United States, ''Terry v. Ohio'' (No. 67), Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Retrieved 2010-05-12 fro]
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
* Exigent circumstances
In ''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 " sconfined to what sminimally necessary to determine whether suspectis armed, and the intrusion, which smade for the sole purpose of protecting himself and others nearby, sconfined 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 severely restricts the use of the military for police activity, giving added importance to police SWAT units.
British police officers are governed by similar rules, such as those introduced to England and 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 PACE in 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 Superintendent.
Conduct, accountability and public confidence
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 Police Conduct. However, due to American laws around Qualified Immunity, it has become increasingly difficult to investigate and charge police misconduct & crimes.
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 Ireland the Garda Síochána is investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, an independent commission that replaced the Garda Complaints Board in May 2007.
The 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 Independent 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 consideration.
Use of force
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.
In the 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 Violent 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 the Justice Department.
In May 2020, a global movement to increase scrutiny of police violence grew in popularity—starting in Minneapolis, Minnesota with the killing of George Floyd. Calls for defunding of the police and full abolition of the police gained larger support in the United States as more criticized systemic racism in policing.
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. The most recent in 2005: ''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 include the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.
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 Gendarmerie in 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. Italy has a similar arrangement with the 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 Police in Brazil and the Carabineros and Investigations 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 police in Ontario and Quebec.
The 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 law enforcement (often in the form of a sheriff's office, or county police), 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 Coast Guard.
* Chief of police
* Criminal citation
* Criminal justice
* Fraternal Order of Police
* Highway patrol
* Law enforcement agency
* Law enforcement and society
* Law enforcement by country
* The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc
* Police academy
* Police brutality
* Police car
* Police certificate
* Police foundation
* Police science
* Police state
* Police training officer
* Private police
* Public administration
* Public security
* Riot police
* State Police
* 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
* Police rank
* Mitrani, Samuel (2014). ''The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850–1894''. University of Illinois Press, 272 pages.
** Interview with Sam Mitrani
"The Function of Police in Modern Society: Peace or Control?"
(January 2015), ''The Real News''
United Nations Police Division