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The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by the state to enforce the law, protect property, and limit civil disorder. Their powers include the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with police services of a state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. Police forces are often defined as being separate from military or other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie and military police are military units charged with civil policing.
Law enforcement, however, constitutes 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. Some parts of the world may suffer from police corruption.
Alternative names for police force include constabulary, gendarmerie, police department, police service, crime prevention, protective services, law enforcement agency, civil guard or civic guard. Members may be referred to as police officers, troopers, sheriffs, constables, rangers, peace officers or civic/civil guards. Police of the Soviet-era Eastern Europe were (or are, in some cases, as in Belarus) called the militsiya. The Irish police are called the Garda Síochána ("guardians of the peace"); a police officer is called a garda. As police are often in conflict with individuals, slang terms are numerous. Many slang terms for police officers are decades or centuries old with lost etymology.
First attested in English c.1530, the word police comes from Middle French police, in turn from Latin politia, which is the Latinisation of the Greek πολιτεία (politeia), "citizenship, administration, civil polity". This is derived from πόλις (polis), "city".
Law enforcement in Ancient China was carried out by "prefects". The notion of a "prefect" in China has existed for thousands of years. The prefecture system developed in both the Chu and Jin kingdoms of the Spring and Autumn period. In Jin, dozens of prefects were spread across the state, each having limited authority and employment period.
In Ancient China, prefects were government officials appointed by local magistrates, who reported to higher authorities such as governors, who in turn were appointed by the head of state, usually the emperor of the dynasty. The prefects oversaw the civil administration of their "prefecture", or jurisdiction.
Prefects usually reported to the local magistrate, just as modern police report to judges. Under each prefect were "subprefects" who helped collectively with law enforcement of the area. Some prefects were responsible for handling investigations, much like modern police detectives.
Eventually the concept of the "prefecture system" would spread to other cultures such as Korea and Japan. Law enforcement in Ancient China was also relatively progressive, allowing for female prefects. Some examples of ancient Chinese prefects include: Chong Fu - prefect of the Ying District in the East Han Dynasty and Qing Tsao - prefect of the modern Shang-tung Province. An example of a female prefect would by Lady Qu of Wuding (serving 1531-ca. 1557).
Recent portrayals of prefects in modern popular culture include Jet Li’s portrayal of the nameless prefect in the movie Hero.
In Ancient Greece, publicly owned slaves were used by magistrates as police. In Athens, a group of 300 Scythian slaves (the ῥαβδοῦχοι, "rod-bearers") was used to guard public meetings to keep order and for crowd control, and also assisted with dealing with criminals, handling prisoners, and making arrests. Other duties associated with modern policing, such as investigating crimes, were left to the citizens themselves.
In most of the Empire, the Army, rather than a dedicated police organization, provided security. Local watchmen were hired by cities to provide some extra security. Magistrates such as procurators fiscal and quaestors investigated crimes. There was no concept of public prosecution, so victims of crime or their families had to organize and manage the prosecution themselves.
Under the reign of Augustus, when the capital had grown to almost one million inhabitants, 14 wards were created; the wards were protected by seven squads of 1,000 men called "vigiles", who acted as firemen and nightwatchmen. Their duties included apprehending thieves and robbers and capturing runaway slaves. The vigiles were supported by the Urban Cohorts who acted as a heavy-duty anti-riot force and the even the Praetorian Guard if necessary.
Modern police in Europe has a precedent in the Hermandades, or "brotherhoods", peacekeeping associations of armed individuals, a characteristic of municipal life in medieval Spain, especially in Castile. As medieval Spanish kings often could not offer adequate protection, protective municipal leagues began to emerge in the 12th century against bandits and other rural criminals, and against the lawless nobility or to support one or another claimant to the crown.
These organizations were intended to be temporary, but became a long-standing fixture of Spain. The first recorded case of the formation of an hermandad occurred when the towns and the peasantry of the north united to police the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, and protect the pilgrims against robber knights.
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, Talavera, and Villarreal.
As one of their first acts after the war of succession, Ferdinand and Isabella established the centrally organized and efficient Holy Brotherhood (Santa Hermandad) 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 Fehmic courts of Germany provided some policing in the absence of strong state institutions.
The Gendarmerie is the direct descendant of the Marshalcy of the ancien régime, more commonly known by its French title, the Maréchaussée. During the Middle Ages, there were two Grand Officers of the Kingdom of France with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France and the 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 King Francis I (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 (French: connétablie et maréchaussée de France). During the revolutionary period, marshalcy commanders generally placed themselves under the local constitutional authorities. As a result, the Maréchaussée, whose title was associated with the king, was not disbanded but simply renamed gendarmerie nationale in February 1791. Its personnel remained unchanged, and the role remained much as it was. However, from this point, the gendarmerie, unlike the marshalcy, was a fully military force.
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 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.
The Anglo-Saxon system of maintaining public order since the Norman conquest was a private system of tithings, led by a constable, which was based on a social obligation for the good conduct of the others; more common was that local lords and nobles were responsible for maintaining order in their lands, and often appointed a constable, sometimes unpaid, to enforce the law. There was also a system 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 sheriffs or reeves, is cited as one of the earliest creation of the English police. The Statute of Winchester of 1285 is also cited as the primary legislation regulating the policing of the country between the Norman Conquest and the Metropolitan Police Act 1829.
In the England and the United Kingdom, the development of police forces was much slower than in the rest of Europe. The British police function was historically performed by private watchmen (existing from 1500 on), thief-takers, and so on. The former were funded by private individuals and organisations and the latter by privately funded rewards for catching criminals, who would then be compelled to return stolen property or pay restitution.
The first use of the word police ("Polles") in English comes from the book "The Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England" published in 1642
In London, night watchmen were the first paid law enforcement body in the country, augmenting the force of unpaid constables. They guarded the streets from 1663. They were later nicknamed 'Charlies', probably after the reigning monarch King Charles II.
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 in 1798 (set up to protect merchandise at the Port of London). This force is still in operation today as part of the Metropolitan Police and is the oldest police force in the world. Even today, many British police forces are referred to officially by the term "Constabulary" rather than "Police".
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. Other Scottish towns soon followed suit and set up their own police forces through acts of parliament.
The first organized police force in Ireland came about through the Peace Preservation Act of 1814, but the Irish Constabulary Act of 1822 marked the true beginning of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Among its first duties was the forcible seizure of tithes during the "Tithe War" on behalf of the Anglican clergy from the mainly Catholic population as well as the Presbyterian minority.
The Act established a force in each barony with chief constables and inspectors general under the control of the civil administration at Dublin Castle. By 1841 this force numbered over 8,600 men.
The force had been rationalized and reorganized in an 1836 act and the first constabulary code of regulations was published in 1837. The discipline was tough and the pay poor. The police also faced unrest among the Irish rural poor, manifested in organizations like the Ribbonmen, which attacked landlords and their property.
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 promoted the preventive role of police as a deterrent to urban crime and disorder.
These police are often referred to as "Bobbies" or "Peelers" after Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel, who introduced the Police Act. They became a model for the police forces in most countries, such as the United States, and most of the British Empire. Bobbies can still be found in many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations. The primary role of the police in Britain was keeping the Queen's Peace, which continues into the present day.
Michel Foucault claims in Western culture, the contemporary concept of police paid by the government was developed by French legal scholars and practitioners in the 17th and early 18th centuries, 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 Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi was also an important theoretical work on the formulation of police.
As conceptualized by the Polizeiwissenschaft, the police had an 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.
Development of modern police was contemporary to the formation of the state, later defined by sociologist Max Weber as achieving a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force" and which was primarily exercised by the police and the military. Marxist theory situates the development of the modern state as part of the rise of capitalism, in which the police are one component of the bourgeoisie's repressive apparatus for subjugating the working class.
In 1566, the first police investigator of Rio de Janeiro was recruited. By the 17th century, most "capitanias" already had local units with law enforcement functions. On July 9, 1775 a Cavalry Regiment was created in 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.
In Canada, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was founded in 1729, making it the first police force in present-day Canada. It was followed in 1834 by the Toronto Police, and in 1838 by police forces in Montreal and Quebec City. A national force, the Dominion Police, was founded in 1868. Initially the Dominion Police provided security for parliament, but its responsibilities quickly grew. The famous Royal Northwest Mounted Police was founded in 1873. The merger of these two police forces in 1920 formed the world-famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In British North America, policing was initially provided by local elected officials. For instance, the New York Sheriff's Office was founded in 1626, and the Albany County Sheriff's Department in the 1660s. In the colonial period, policing was provided by elected sheriffs and local militias.
In 1789 the US Marshals Service was established, followed by other federal services such as the US Parks Police (1791) and US 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 US Secret Service was founded in 1865 and was for some time the main investigative body for the federal government.
After the civil war, policing became more para-military in character, with the increased use of uniforms and military ranks. Before this, sheriff's offices had been non-uniformed organizations without a para-military hierarchy.
In the American Old West, policing was often of very poor quality. The Army often provided some policing alongside poorly resourced sheriffs and temporarily organised posses. Public organizations were supplemented by private contractors, notably the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which was hired by individuals, businessmen, local governments and the federal government. At its height, the Pinkerton Agency's numbers exceeded those of the standing army of the United States.
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.
In 2005, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that police do not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm.
There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States.
In Australia 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 Lebanon, modern police were established in 1861, with creation of the Gendarmerie.
In most Western police forces, perhaps the most significant division is between preventive (uniformed) police and detectives. Terminology varies from country to country.
Police functions include protecting life and property, enforcing criminal law, criminal investigations, regulating traffic, crowd control, and other public safety duties.
Preventive Police, also called Uniform Branch, Uniformed Police, Uniform Division, Administrative Police, Order Police, or Patrol, designates the police that patrol and respond to emergencies and other incidents, as opposed to detective services. As the name "uniformed" suggests, they wear uniforms and perform functions that require an immediate recognition of an officer's legal authority, such as traffic control, stopping and detaining motorists, and more active crime response and prevention.
Preventive police almost always make up the bulk of a police service's personnel. In Australia and Britain, patrol personnel are also known as "general duties" officers. Atypically, Brazil's preventive police are known as Military Police.
Police detectives are responsible for investigations and detective work. Detectives may be called Investigations Police, Judiciary/Judicial Police, and Criminal Police. In the UK, they are often referred to by the name of their department, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Detectives typically make up roughly 15%-25% of a police service's personnel.
Detectives, in contrast to uniformed police, typically wear 'business attire' in bureaucratic and investigative functions where a uniformed presence would be either a distraction or intimidating, but a need to establish police authority still exists. "Plainclothes" officers dress in attire consistent with that worn by the general public for purposes of blending in.
In some cases, police are assigned to work "undercover", where they conceal their police identity to investigate crimes, such as organized crime or narcotics crime, that are unsolvable by other means. In some cases this type of policing shares aspects with espionage.
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 may also take on auxiliary administrative duties, such as issuing firearms licenses. The extent that police have these functions varies among countries, with police in France, Germany, and other continental European countries handling such tasks to a greater extent than British counterparts.
Specialized preventive and detective 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 specialized skills, such as underwater search, aviation, explosive device disposal ("bomb squad"), and computer crime.
Most larger jurisdictions also employ specially selected and trained quasi-military units armed with military-grade weapons for the purposes of dealing with particularly violent situations beyond the capability of a patrol officer response, including high-risk warrant service and barricaded suspects. In the United States these units go by a variety of names, but are commonly known as SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) teams.
In counterinsurgency-type campaigns, select and specially trained units of police armed and equipped as light infantry have been designated as police field forces who perform paramilitary-type patrols and ambushes whilst retaining their police powers in areas that were highly dangerous.
Because their situational mandate typically focuses on removing innocent bystanders from dangerous people and dangerous situations, not violent resolution, they are often equipped with non-lethal tactical tools like chemical agents, "flashbang" and concussion grenades, and rubber bullets. The London Metropolitan police's Specialist Firearms Command (CO19) is a group of armed police used in dangerous situations including hostage taking, armed robbery/assault and terrorism.
Military police may refer to:
Some Islamic 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.
They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic, such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film. In Saudi Arabia, religious police actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of non-Islamic religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned.
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. In some places there may be multiple police forces operating in the same area, with different ones having jurisdiction according to the type of crime or other circumstances.
For example in the UK, policing is primarily the responsibility of a regional police force; however specialist units exist at the national level. In the US, there is typically a state police force, but crimes are usually handled by local police forces that usually only cover a few municipalities. National agencies, such as the FBI, only have jurisdiction over federal crimes or those with an interstate component.
In addition to conventional urban or regional police forces, there are other police forces with specialized functions or jurisdiction. In the United States, the federal government has a number of police forces with their own specialized jurisdictions.
Some examples are 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, or Amtrak Police which patrol Amtrak stations and trains.
There are also some government agencies that perform police functions in addition to other duties. The U.S. Coast Guard carries out many police functions for boaters.
In major cities, there may be a separate police agency for public transit systems, such as the New York City Port Authority Police or the MTA police, or for major government functions, such as sanitation, or environmental functions.
The term transnational policing entered into use in the mid-1990s as a description for forms of policing that transcended the boundaries of the sovereign nation-state (Sheptycki, 1995). It is distinguished against the terms ‘international policing’ and ‘global policing’. The former term would seem to indicate only those types of policing that are formally directed by institutions usually responsible for international affairs (for example the State Department in the US, the Foreign Office in the UK, etc.). The latter term would seem to indicate only those forms of policing that are fully global in scope.
Transnational policing pertains to all those forms for policing that, in some sense, transcend national borders. This includes a variety of practices, but cross-border 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, 2004). For example, in the 19th century a number of European policing agencies undertook cross-border surveillance because of concerns about anarchist agitators and other political radicals. A notable example of this was the occasional surveillance by Prussian 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 transnational information and intelligence sharing has been undertaken. A notable exception is James Sheptycki's study of police cooperation in the English Channel region (2002), which provides a systematic content analysis of information exchange files and a description of how these transnational information and intelligence exchanges are transformed into police case-work. The study showed that transnational police information sharing was routinized in the cross-Channel region from 1968 on the basis of agreements directly between the police agencies and without any formal agreement between the countries concerned. By 1992, with the signing of the Schengen Treaty, which formalized aspects of police information exchange across the territory of the European Union, there were worries that much, if not all, of this intelligence sharing was opaque, raising questions about the efficacy of the accountability mechanisms governing police information sharing in Europe (Joubert and Bevers, 1996).
Studies of this kind outside of Europe are even rarer, so it is difficult to make generalizations, but one small-scale study that compared transnational police information and intelligence sharing practices at specific cross-border locations in North America and Europe confirmed that low visibility of police information and intelligence sharing was a common feature (Alain, 2001). Intelligence-led policing is now common practice in most advanced countries (Ratcliffe, 2007) and it is likely that police intelligence sharing and information exchange has a common morphology around the world (Ratcliffe, 2007). James Sheptycki has analyzed the effects of the new information technologies on the organization of policing-intelligence and suggests that a number of ‘organizational pathologies’ have arisen that make the functioning of security-intelligence processes in transnational policing deeply problematic. He argues that transnational police information circuits help to “compose the panic scenes of the security-control society”. The paradoxical effect is that, the harder policing agencies work to produce security, the greater are feelings of 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, Ireland, Norway, and New Zealand, with the exception of specialist units, officers do not carry firearms as a matter of course.
Police often have specialist units for handling armed offenders, and similar dangerous situations, and can (depending on local laws), in some extreme circumstances, call on the military (since 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 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 electroshock weapons. Police officers often carry handcuffs to restrain suspects. The use of firearms or deadly force is typically a last resort only to be used when necessary to save human life, although some jurisdictions (such as Brazil) allow its use against fleeing felons and escaped convicts. A "shoot-to-kill" policy was recently introduced in South Africa, which allows police to use deadly force against any person who poses a significant threat to them or civilians. With the country having one of the highest rates of violent crime, president Jacob Zuma states that South Africa needs to handle crime differently to other countries.
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/torches, whistles, and police notebooks and "ticketbooks" or citations.
Police vehicles are used for detaining, patrolling and transporting. The common Police patrol vehicle is an improved four door sedan (saloon in British English). Police vehicles are usually marked with appropriate 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 police forces use unmarked or minimally marked cars for traffic law enforcement, since drivers slow down at the sight of marked police vehicles and unmarked vehicles make it easier for officers to catch speeders and traffic violators. This practice is controversial, with for example, New York State banning this practice in 1996 on the grounds that it endangered motorists who might be pulled over by people impersonating police officers.
Motorcycles are also commonly used, particularly in locations that a car may not be able to reach, to control potential public order situations involving meetings of motorcyclists and often in escort duties where the motorcycle policeman can quickly clear a path for the escorted vehicle. Bicycle patrols are used in some areas because they allow for more open interaction with the public. In addition, their quieter operation can facilitate approaching suspects unawares and can help in pursuing them attempting to escape on foot.
Police departments use an array of specialty vehicles such as helicopters, airplanes, watercraft, command posts, vans, trucks, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, and SWAT armored vehicles.
Police cars may also contain fire extinguishers 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, rather than broader focus on crime prevention.
The Kansas City Preventive Patrol study in the 1970s found this approach to policing to be ineffective. Patrol officers in cars were disconnected from the community, and had insufficient contact and interaction with the community. In the 1980s and 1990s, many law enforcement agencies began to adopt community policing strategies, and others adopted problem-oriented policing.
Broken windows policing was another, related approach introduced in the 1980s by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, who suggested that police should pay greater attention to minor "quality of life" offenses and disorderly conduct. This method was first introduced and made popular by New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in the early 1990s.
The concept behind this method is simple: broken windows, graffiti, and other physical destruction or degradation of property, greatly increases the chances of more criminal activities and destruction of property. When criminals see the abandoned vehicles, trash, and deplorable property, they assume that authorities do not care and do not take active approaches to correct problems in these areas. Therefore, correcting the small problems prevents more serious criminal activity.
Building upon these earlier models, intelligence-led policing has emerged as the dominant philosophy guiding police strategy. Intelligence-led policing and problem-oriented policing are complementary strategies, both which involve systematic use of information. Although it still lacks a universally accepted definition, the crux of intelligence-led policing is an emphasis on the collection and analysis of information to guide police operations, rather than the reverse.
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 warnings or constitutional warnings.
In Miranda v. Arizona the court installed safeguards against self-incriminating statements made after an arrest. The court held that “The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination”
Police in the United States are also prohibited from holding criminal suspects for more than a reasonable amount of time (usually 24–48 hours) before arraignment, using torture, abuse or physical threats to extract confessions, using excessive force to effect an arrest, and searching suspects' bodies or their homes without a warrant obtained upon a showing of probable cause. The four exceptions to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant are:
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 “ [is] confined to what [is] minimally necessary to determine whether [a suspect] is armed, and the intrusion, which [is] made for the sole purpose of protecting himself and others nearby, [is] confined to ascertaining the presence of weapons“ (U.S. Supreme Court). Before Terry, every police encounter constituted an arrest, giving the police officer the full range of search authority. Search authority during a Terry stop (investigatory stop) is limited to weapons only.
Using deception for confessions is permitted, but not coercion. There are exceptions or exigent circumstances such as an articulated need to disarm a suspect or searching a suspect who has already been arrested (Search Incident to an Arrest). The Posse Comitatus Act 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.
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Police services commonly include units for investigating crimes committed by the police themselves. These units are typically called Inspectorate-General, or in the USA, "internal affairs". In some countries separate organizations outside the police exist for such purposes, such as the British Independent Police Complaints Commission.
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 force 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.
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 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 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 law suits 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.
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The Supreme Court of the United States has since 1856 consistently ruled that law enforcement officers have no duty to protect any individual, despite the motto "protect and serve". Their duty is to enforce the law in general. The first such case was in 1855 (South et al. v. State of Maryland, U.S (Supreme Court of the United States 1855). ) and the most recent in 2005 (Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales).
In contrast, the police are entitled to protect private rights in some jurisdictions. To ensure that the police would not interfere in the regular competencies of the courts of law, some police acts require that the police may only interfere in such cases where protection from courts cannot be obtained in time, and where, without interference of the police, the realization of the private right would be impeded. This would, for example, allow police to establish a restaurant guest's identity and forward it to the innkeeper in a case where the guest cannot pay the bill at nighttime because his wallet had just been stolen from the restaurant table.
In addition, there are Federal Law Enforcement agencies in the United States whose mission includes providing protection for executives such as the President and accompanying family members, visiting foreign dignitaries, and other high-ranking individuals. Such agencies include The United States Secret Service and the United States Park Police.
In many countries, particularly those with a federal system of government, there may be several police or policelike organizations, each serving different levels of government and enforcing different subsets of the applicable law. The United States has a highly decentralized and fragmented system of law enforcement, with over 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.
Some countries, such as Chile, Israel, the Philippines, France, Austria, New Zealand and South Africa, use a centralized system of policing. Other countries have multiple police forces, but for the most part their jurisdictions do not overlap. In the United States however, several different law enforcement agencies may have authority in a particular jurisdiction at the same time, each with their own command.
Other countries where jurisdiction of multiple police agencies overlap, include Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional in Spain, the Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri in Italy and the Police Nationale and National Gendarmerie in France.
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 crimes are excluded from its competencies.
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