Policing and Law Enforcement

James J. Willis

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Policing and Law Enforcement

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Because modern law enforcement agencies do many different things, it is impossible to define policing in terms of its ends. While it is true that one of the purposes of the police is to enforce the law, frequently they do not. Moreover, the police are expected to perform a wide variety of tasks, such as preventing crime, providing services, and maintaining order, which are not accurately described as law enforcement. Unlike in many other industrialized countries, the organization of American law enforcement is fragmented among different agencies at the local, state, and federal levels of government. This has several general implications: (1) there is no such thing as a “typical” police department; (2) interagency coordination is possible but not a structural feature of law enforcement organization; and (3) it is possible only to estimate the number of law enforcement agencies and personnel in the United States. According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2004 there were over seventeen thousand public law enforcement agencies in the United States. The majority (12,766) were local police departments operating at the municipal level, employing 731,903 full-time sworn law enforcement officers. Because these general-purpose law enforcement agencies are the most visible to the public and the source of the majority of police-citizen contacts, they are the focus of this online entry. Other public law enforcement agencies include sheriff’s departments organized at the local county level, state police, federal law enforcement agencies, and special law enforcement organizations with specialized jurisdictions (most importantly tribal police). This does not include the private security industry, which is another essential component of American law enforcement.

Article.  6278 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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