Learn more about Police
Police are public servants of a city, town, municipality, county, or state, with the responsibility of maintaining law and order (law enforcement). The word comes from French police, itself from Latin politia ("civil administration"), itself from Ancient Greek πολιτεία, referring to government or administration, from Greek πόλις (polis) = "city". The word police was first recorded in the French language in 1250 (in the sense of "administration, political organisation"), but it acquired its modern sense of preservation of law and order only in the 17th century. The police may also be known as a constabulary, after constables, who were an early manifestation of police officers, although the term constable is still in use in some jurisdictions. In North America, typically the legal term for "police officer" is peace officer. Other names include trooper, sheriff, marshal, constable, and ranger.
In ancient times, the military was mostly responsible for maintaining law and order in cities. The Roman Empire had a reasonably effective law enforcement system until the decline of the empire, though there was never an actual police force in the city of Rome. Beginning in the 5th century, policing became a function of clan chiefs and heads of state. Local lords and nobles were responsible to maintain order in their lands, and often appointed a constable, sometimes unpaid, to enforce the law.
The concept of police in the modern sense was developed by French legal scholars and practitioners in the 17th century and early 18th century, with notably Nicolas de La Mare's authoritative Traité de la Police ("Treatise of the Police") published between 1705 and 1738. As a result of this development of jurisprudence, the first police force in the modern sense was created by the government of King Louis XIV in 1667 to police the city of Paris, then the largest city of Europe and considered the most dangerous European city. 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 police as the task of "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". The lieutenant général de police had under his authority 44 commissaires de police ("police commissioners"), who were later assisted by some inspecteurs de police ("police inspectors") created in 1709. The city of Paris was divided into 16 districts policed by the 44 commissaires de police, each assigned to a particular district and assisted in their districts by clerks and 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 lieutenant generals of police in all large French cities.
After the troubles of the French Revolution the Paris police force was reorganized by Napoléon I on February 17, 1800 as the Prefecture of Police, along with the reorganization of police forces in all French cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants. On March 12, 1829, a government decree created the first uniformed policemen in Paris and all French cities, 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 the United Kingdom, the development of police forces was much slower than in the rest of Europe. 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). Prior to the 19th century, the only official use of the word "police" recorded in the United Kingdom was the appointment of Commissioners of Police for Scotland in 1714 and the creation of the Marine Police in 1798 (set up to protect merchandise at the Port of London).
On June 30 1800, the authorities of Glasgow, Scotland successfully petitioned the Government to pass the Glasgow Police Act establishing the City of Glasgow Police. This was the first professional police service in the country and was different from previous law enforcement in that it practiced preventative policing. This was quickly followed in other Scottish towns, which set up their own police forces by individual Acts of Parliament . In London, there existed watchmen hired to guard the streets at night since 1663, the first paid law enforcement body in the country, augmenting the force of unpaid constables. On September 29, 1829, the Metropolitan Police Act was passed by Parliament, allowing Sir Robert Peel, the then home secretary, to found the London Metropolitan Police. This group of Police are often referred to as ´Bobbies´ due to the fact that it was Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel who authorised it. They were regarded as the most efficient forerunners of a modern Police force and became a model for the police forces in most countries, such as the United States, and most of the then British Empire (Commonwealth) Bobbies can still be found in many parts of the world. (Normally British Overseas Territories or ex-colonies, Bermuda, Gibraltar or St Helena for example).
In Northern America, the Toronto Police was founded in Canada in 1834, one of the first municipal police departments on that continent, followed by police forces in Montréal and Québec City both founded in 1838. In the United States, the first organized police service was established in Boston in 1838, New York in 1844, and Philadelphia in 1854.
 Police armament and equipment
In many jurisdictions, police officers carry firearms in the normal course of their duties.
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 when, in 1980 the Metropolitan Police handed control of the Iranian Embassy Siege to the Special Air Service. They can also be equipped with non-lethal (more accurately known as "less than lethal" or "less-lethal") weaponry, particularly for riot control. Non-lethal weapons include batons, riot control agents, rubber bullets and stun guns. 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 allow its use against fleeing felons and escaped convicts. Police officers often carry handcuffs to restrain suspects.
Modern police forces make extensive use of 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 computers 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 the officer's daily activity log and other required reports on a real-time basis. Other common pieces of police equipment include flashlights, whistles, and, most importantly, notebooks and "ticketbooks" or citations.
 Restrictions upon the power of the police
In order for police officers to do their job well, they are vested by the state with a monopoly in the use of certain powers. These include the powers to arrest, search, seize, and interrogate; and if necessary, to use lethal force. In nations with democratic systems and the rule of law, the law of criminal procedure has been developed to regulate officers' discretion, so that they do not exercise their vast powers arbitrarily or unjustly.
In U.S. criminal procedure, the most famous case is Miranda v. Arizona which led to the widespread use of Miranda warnings or constitutional warnings. U.S. police are also prohibited from holding criminal suspects for more than a reasonable amount of time (usually 72 hours) before arraignment, using torture 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. 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 prevents the use of the U.S. military for police activity, giving added importance to police SWAT units.
British police officers are governed by similar rules, particularly those introduced under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, 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) by an officer of the rank of Inspector, or the power to authorize a suspect's detention beyond 24 hours by a Superintendent.
 Difficult issues
Police organizations must sometimes deal with the issue of police corruption, which is often abetted by a code of silence that encourages unquestioning loyalty to one's comrades over the cause of justice. In the comparatively rare event that an officer breaks this code on a significant scale, they may receive death threats or even be left for dead, as in the case of Frank Serpico. One way to fight such corruption is by having an independent or semi-independent organization investigate, such as (in the United States) the FBI, internal affairs, or the Justice Department. However, truly independent organizations are generally not called in except for the most openly severe cases.
Some believe that police forces have traditionally been responsible for enforcing many bigoted perspectives which have been prevalent at various periods throughout history and which still are today. Ageism against teens, homophobia, racism, and sexism for instance, are four bigoted views which police are charged with having traditionally held and enforced.
Some police organizations, especially in multi-racial or multi-ethnic cities, are faced with routine accusations of racial profiling. Police forces also find themselves under criticism for their use of force, particularly deadly force, when a police officer of one race kills a suspect of another race. In the United States, such events routinely spark protests and accusations of racism against police. This issue is also viewed oppositely, the idea being that police organizations do what they do based on the laws they are paid and expected to enforce, regardless of race or gender.
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 accquital has depicted American police as dangerously lacking in appropriate controls. The fact that this trend has occurred contemporaneously with the rise of the US 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 authority of police specifically and the criminal justice system as a whole 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, local departments have been compelled by legal action initiated by the US Department of Justice under the 14th Amendment to enter into consent decree settlements to adopt such measures and submit to oversight by the Justice Department.
Finally, in many places, the social status and pay of police can lead to major problems with recruitment and morale. Jurisdictions lacking the resources or the desire to pay police appropriately, lacking a tradition of professional and ethical law enforcement, or lacking adequate oversight of the police often face a dearth of quality recruits, a lack of professionalism and commitment among their police, and broad mistrust of the police among the public. These situations often strongly contribute to police corruption and brutality. This is particularly a problem in countries undergoing social and political development; countries that lack rule of law or civil service traditions; or countries in transition from authoritarian or Communist governments in which the prior regime's police were little more than praetorians.
Some cities employ quotas of how many traffic tickets a police officer should write, although the practice is illegal in others. Furthermore, other cities deny that there are quotas, but many police officers have come forward stating that they are pressured to write traffic tickets, since they usually produce revenue for the local government issuing the tickets. Some cities make millions of dollars annually on traffic tickets, which helps fund local government. Many rural jurisdictions (towns) generate 90% of their revenue from traffic tickets. A few cities have actually admitted there are quotas. This can be an issue with the general populace as well as an issue within the police department. In some cities, police complain about being turned into tax collectors by the politicians preventing them from doing their real job, which they consider to be fighting crime and keeping the peace. A potential solution can be found in state of Texas, US. Texas allows cities to keep only a small percentage of the revenue generated by the traffic tickets, with another small percentage going to the county structure and the rest being allotted to the state. This approach has cut down on the profitablity of the traffic tickets and allowed for cities to concentrate on the public safety.
- Further information: Secret police, Police state, Corporate police state, Thought police, and Police brutality
 Internal police hierachies and divisions
Most police forces contain subgroups whose job it is to investigate particular types of crime.
In most Western police forces, perhaps the most significant division is between "uniformed" police and detectives. Uniformed police, as the name suggests, 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. Detectives, by contrast, 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, sometimes for long periods, to investigate crimes, such as organized crime, unsolvable by other means. This type of policing shares much with espionage.
Specialized groups 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 specialised 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, 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. 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.
Lastly, Western law enforcement commonly employs "internal affairs" police whose job is to oversee and investigate the officers themselves. They sometimes do not carry firearms and limit their work to fighting bribery, graft, and other forms of internal corruption.
Despite popular conceptions promoted by movies and television, many US police departments prefer not to maintain officers in non-patrol bureaus and divisions beyond a certain period of time, such as in the detective bureau, and instead maintain policies that limit service in such divisions to a specified period of time, after which officers must transfer out or return to patrol duties. This is done in part based upon the perception that the most important and essential police work is accomplished on patrol in which officers become acquainted with their beats, prevent crime by their presence, respond to crimes in progress, manage crises, and practice their skills. Detectives, by contrast, usually investigate crimes after they have occurred and after patrol officers have responded first to a situation. Investigations often take weeks or months to complete, during which time detectives spend much of their time away from the streets, in interviews and courtrooms, for example. Rotating officers also promotes cross-training in a wider variety of skills, and serves to prevent "cliques" that can contribute to corruption or other unethical behavior.
 Police vehicles
Police vehicles are used for detaining, patrolling and transporting. The common Police patrol vehicle in the United States is a four door sedan, much like a normal sedan but with enhancements. Police vehicles are usually marked with town, county, or state logos and are equipped with sirens and lightbars 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 cities and counties have started using unmarked cars, or cars with minimal markings 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.
 Police around the world
In many countries, particularly those with a federal system of government, there may be several police or police-like organisations, each serving different levels of government and enforcing different subsets of the applicable law.
The majority of policing work is carried out by the police forces of the six states that make up the Australian federation. The Australian Federal Police are responsibile for policing duties in the Australian Capital Territory, and investigating crimes relating to federal criminal law (particularly crimes with an international dimension) nationwide.
In Brazil there are five types of police forces: the Brazilian Federal Police, the Brazilian Federal Highway Police, the Brazilian Federal Railway Police, the states military polices and states civilian polices. Some cities have City Guards.
In Canada, all criminal law (including the Criminal Code of Canada) falls under federal jurisdiction, but policing is a provincial responsibility. However, there is a national police force known as the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), which is tasked with enforcing certain federal laws throughout the country. Additionally, seven of the ten provinces choose to employ the RCMP as their provincial police force rather than establishing their own police services; the exceptions are Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In most provinces individual towns and cities are allowed, or required, by law to set up their own local police forces to provide policing inside their communities; where this is not required, many municipalities choose to use the RCMP (with the federal government absorbing some of the cost) or their provincial police instead.
Finland has a single national police force which is divided into local police and national units. The local police are responsible for the usual uniformed police functions and minor criminal investigations. The national police units include the
- National Bureau of Investigation, which is responsible for major criminal investigations. (Finnish: KRP=Keskusrikospoliisi)
- National Traffic Police, responsible for traffic safety, doubling as a national police reserve. (Finnish: Liikkuva poliisi)
- Security Police, responsible for the national security and the investigation of related crimes. (Finnish: SuPo=Suojelupoliisi)
In addition, the Police operate a technical support center, an IT center, a Police School, and a Police College.
There are three organizations having limited police powers, in additions to the Police. The Finnish Frontier Guard and the Customs have wide police powers in matters pertaining to their jurisdictions. In addition, the Finnish Defence Forces investigate most military-related crimes of military personnel and the unit commanders have some police powers in their respective units. In addition, the General Staff of the Finnish Defence Forces includes an investigative section responsible for crime investigation and counter-intelligence.
Germany is a federal republic of sixteen states. Each of those states has its own police force (Landespolizei). Each is supervised by the Minister (or, in Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin, the Senator) of Internal Affairs of the state.
In addition, the Federal Government has a Police, called the Bundespolizei (Federal Police). Until 2005 it was called Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Protection), but after expanded competence in the 1990s and the abolition of border controls in the European Union, its name was changed. The main acting field of the Bundespolizei today are train staitons, airports and the areas close to the border.
The Indian Police is a state-operated police force.
 International Police
The International Police is a functional organization made up of police officers from all over the world, serving mostly under the direction of the United Nations, to help train, recruit, and field police forces in war torn countries. The force is usually deployed into a war torn country initially acting as the police, and bringing order. In the process, they recruit and train a local police force, which eventually takes on the responsibilities of enforcing the law and maintaining order, whereas the International Police then take on a supporting role. To date, International Police forces have been deployed to East Timor, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia, Croatia, and Macedonia, among others.
The Republic of Ireland has an unarmed police agency, An Garda Síochána, although they are all trained to use firearms and all detectives and special units carry them. Gardaí usually patrol in patrol cars or on foot in urban areas. The most famous police officer from Ireland is James Meehan, who saved 8 lives during the Triangle Factory Fire.
The Israeli Police (Mishteret Yisra'el) is a state-operated police force. It is currently headed by the commissioner Moshe Karadi. The Israeli Police has a military corps called the Border Guard (MAGAV), which has its own elite counter-terrorist units.
Italian public security is provided by three separate police forces: Arma dei Carabinieri (paramilitary police), Guardia di Finanza (customs police, border and financial police, also organized as a military force), Polizia di Stato (state police). In recent years Carabinieri units have been dispatched all over the world in peacekeeping missions, including Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Guardia di Finanza is a Special Italian Police force at the service of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance. The Guardia di Finanza is a Military Corps and is an integral part of the Italian Armed Forces as well as of the law enforcement agencies. Its duties primarily involve investigating money-related crimes, such as tax evasion, financial crimes, customs and border checks, money laundering, smuggling, international drugs trafficking, illegal immigration, Terrorist Financing, credit cards frauds, money counterfeiting, copyright violations, cybercrime, maintaining public order and safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders. The Guardia di Finanza has a great Naval Fleet for the overseeing of the sea border, and a great air force.
The Polizia di Stato (State Police) is the National Police of Italy. Among with common patrolling, investigative and law enforcement duties, it is responsible for patrolling the Autostrada (Italy's Express Highway network), and overseeing the security of railways, bridges and waterways.
Japan's police are an apolitical body under the general supervision of an independent agency, the National Police Agency, and free of direct central government executive control. They are checked by an independent judiciary and monitored by a free and active press. The police are generally well respected and can rely on considerable public cooperation in their work.
 New Zealand
The New Zealand Police are charged with enforcing law in New Zealand. They are the only body with a pure policing role (both law & traffic), although other agencies include the New Zealand Customs Service, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, and the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.
The police in Russia are called милиция (militsiya). This change of name started at the Russian Revolution via a Communist political idea of "replacing the capitalist police by a people's militia"; but the name "militsiya" has persisted after the Communist system collapsed. One reason may be to avoid confusion with the astonishing number and variety of words which start with pol- in Russian and related languages.
The standard Russian police baton is made of rubber. In some areas however wooden batons are used because the winter cold makes rubber brittle. The normal service uniform is grey with red piping and hat band. Fur hats and heavy greatcoats are worn in winter.
The Singapore Police Force (Abbreviation: SPF) is the main agency tasked with maintaining law and order in the city-state. Formerly known as the Republic of Singapore Police.
The police in Sweden (in Swedish: Polisen) is a national police force under the Department of Justice. It is divided into the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) and 21 regional police departments corresponding to the Counties of Sweden. The National Police Board is divided into the National Criminal Investigation Department (Rikskriminalpolisen) and SÄPO, or Säkerhetspolisen, the Swedish Security Service. There is also a the national response and counter-terrorism team called "National task force" or Nationella insatsstyrkan.
The Thai police is subdivided in several regions and services, each enjoying their own powers.
The police force in Vietnam is called the People's Police. It answers to the Ministry of Public Security.
 United Kingdom
There are 43 police constabularies in the United Kingdom, of varying sizes and responsibilities, as well as a number of other forces. The UK was also the inventer of the modern police service, first started by Sir Robert Peel, hence the reason UK police were once known as 'Peelers' and more commonly as 'Bobbies'.
 United States
In the United States, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and other federal agencies are limited to the enforcement of federal laws. All other offenses, including most types of crimes, fall under the purview of state police or the thousands of local police forces.
|Policing around the world|
Australia · Bermuda · Brazil · British Virgin Islands · Canada · Chile · People's Republic of China · France · Germany · Hong Kong · India · Indonesia · Ireland · Israel · Italy · Japan · Kenya · South Korea · Macau · Malaysia · Netherlands · New Zealand · Norway · Puerto Rico · Russia · Singapore · South Africa · Sweden · Republic of China (Taiwan) · Turkey · United Kingdom · United States · Vietnam
Most countries are members of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), established to detect and fight trans-national 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 nor arrests by itself, but only serves as a central point for information on crime, suspects and criminals. Political crimes are excluded from its competencies.
 See also
- List of law enforcement agencies
- Monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force
- Well-known police officers
- Law Enforcement Career and Education Information
 Police roles
 Ethical issues related to police
 Related concepts
- Mug shot
- Police car
- Police station
- Police academy
- Police training officer
- Posse comitatus
- Wanted poster
 External links
- DynCorp International (DI)
- International Justice Mission (IJM)
- International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
- Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) - Law enforcement
- Police Station Directorybs:Policija
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