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Police personnel are people empowered to enforce the law, protect property and reduce 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. The word comes via medieval French police, from Latin politia ("civil administration"), from ancient Greek πόλις ("city").
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 century and early 19th century, these developed within the context of maintaining the class system and the protection of private property.
Personnel and organization
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 which 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 uniform 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 counter insurgency 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:
- a section of the military solely responsible for policing the armed forces (referred to as provosts)
- a section of the military responsible for policing in both the armed forces and in the civilian population (most gendarmeries, such as the French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri 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 preventative police of a Brazilian state (Policia Militar)
- Main article: Religious police
Some Islamic societies have religious police, who enforce the application of Islamic Sharia law. Their authority may include the power to arrest unrelated males and females 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 policing there is typically a state police force, but crimes are usually handled by local police forces which 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 example 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 which 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.
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.
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 later 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, transgress 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 prior to 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” (p. 70). 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).
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