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American Police History

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American Police History
U.S. Police Officer mid 1920s


History of Law Enforcement in this Country

Jerry 72
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The Early Watch
Nearly 400 years ago, America’s first Police Department was established in Boston.  As colonists settled in the early to mid-1600's, local laws allowed for Police, (known at the times as “constables”) to be appointed. Soon after, in April of 1631, the town formed a “watch” made up of 6 watchmen, one constable, and several volunteers who patrolled a nights as a nightwatch, police back then walked their posts, to make their rounds.

Initially the watch and nightwatch were ran by both volunteers and a group of hired help, this being a time before fire departments, the watch of the 17th century not only maintained order in the streets, but also reported fires as they raised the “hue and cry” (uproar, or public outcry) as they chased a suspected criminal, they gave a loud cry to raise alarm). They often captured and arrested lawbreakers. Constables had many responsibilities, some of which included maintaining health and sanitation, bringing suspects and witnesses to court – In those days it could have been for anything from working on a Sunday, to using profanity in public places or in front of women or children; other things that could have led to an arrest would have been failing to properly pen animals or pets. Sounds harsh, but people were a lot more responsible in those days

In the rural and lightly populated areas of the American Colonies of the times, the sheriff was the main law enforcement figure. He would have been appointed by the State’s Governor, Sheriffs’ duties included serving legal documents like writs, appearing in court, and collecting taxes. In many cases, the sheriff was paid a fixed amount for each task he performed, some, for example, receiving payment based on the amount of taxes they collected. Occasionally, these tasks proved dangerous. In fact, the first known American peace officer to be killed in the line of duty was Columbia County (NY) Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom, who was shot on October 22, 1791, as he attempted to serve a writ of ejectment.

This early policing system was modeled after the English structure, which incorporated the watch, constables, and sheriffs (derived from the British term, “shire-reeves”) in a community-based police organization. (Interestingly, the British system developed from “kin policing” dating back to about 900 A.D., in which law enforcement power was in the people’s hands, and they were responsible for their families or “kin.”) Early law enforcement was reactionary, rather than pre-emptive—the watch usually responded to criminal behavior only when requested by victims or witnesses. And, with monetary incentive in certain areas, apprehending criminals was not always a priority.

New York Metropolitan Police Uniforms 1871

Change, Change and more Change
As word spread about Boston’s watch, other colonies began establishing their own. New York (then the Dutch colony New Amsterdam) established a rattle watch in 1652. Before whistles, law enforcement used wooden rattles and their distinct noise to signal for help, even into the 19th century. Into the 1700s, more people settled in towns and more shops and businesses were built, which meant more work for the watch. Seaports bustling with sailors and overseas trading ships boosted the merchant class economy but also caused unprecedented social problems that affected law enforcement. Taverns were built to entertain sailors in port cities, and public drunkenness, brawls, and prostitution became more common. As police work became increasingly time-consuming and difficult, fewer men volunteered for the watch and many evaded their mandatory duties. Issuing fines to those who didn’t show up only punished the poor—those who were most unable to pay. To curb this, some towns and cities instituted a paid watch.
In 1749, Philadelphia passed a law that restructured the watch in an attempt to solve these problems. Now, officials called wardens had authority to hire watchmen as needed. Their powers were increased, and a tax paid the watch. All male citizens were no longer obligated to work when summoned, and only men interested in the paid job applied. Philadelphia’s reform was not the ultimate solution, but it fueled progress and inspired others to make similar improvements.
Even with positive developments like these, the Colonial law enforcement system still required drastic change. During the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, the number of factories, buildings, and people surged substantially. New York, for example, jumped from a population of 33,000 in 1790 to 150,000 in 1830. The overall boom in industrial growth and overcrowding brought more crime, riots, public health issues, race and socio-economic divisions, and general disorder.
RISP All Uniforms
The “New” Policing System
The solution? A new and improved law enforcement system implemented first by England in 1829: a stronger, more centralized, preventive police force, designed to deter crime from happening, rather than to react once it had occurred.

In 1833, Philadelphia organized an independent, 24-hour police force. In 1838, the Boston Police force was established, with a day police and night watch working independently. New York City followed suit in 1844, becoming the New York City Police Department in 1845. Police departments were now headed by police chiefs who were appointed by political leaders. While it still had its flaws, this “new” method of policing more closely resembles a modern day police force.
The story of American law enforcement, from its early roots to the present day, will come alive inside the Museum. Stories like this one will help visitors understand how law enforcement has changed to coincide with changes in American society. Today, new technological advancements, scientific discoveries and comprehensive research aim to improve law enforcement’s efficiency by introducing innovative techniques, equipment, training, and more. Who knows what the future of policing will hold?
Interested in learning more about law enforcement history? Read this book, part of the Museum’s Research Library:



A police force is 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 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. The police force is usually a public sector service, meaning they usually get paid by the taxpayer.

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 interacting with individuals, slang terms are numerous. Many slang terms for police officers are decades or centuries old with lost etymology.


    1 Etymology
    2 History
        2.1 Ancient policing
        2.2 Medieval policing
        2.3 Early Modern policing
        2.4 Policing in London
            2.4.1 Metropolitan police force
        2.5 Other countries
            2.5.1 Australia
            2.5.2 Brazil
            2.5.3 Canada
            2.5.4 Lebanon
            2.5.5 United States
        2.6 Development of theory
    3 Personnel and organization
        3.1 Uniformed police
        3.2 Detectives
        3.3 Auxiliary
        3.4 Specialized units
        3.5 Military police
        3.6 Religious police
    4 Varying jurisdictions
    5 International policing
    6 Equipment
        6.1 Weapons
        6.2 Communications
        6.3 Vehicles
            6.3.1 Other safety equipment
    7 Strategies
    8 Power restrictions
    9 Conduct, accountability and public confidence
        9.1 Use of force
        9.2 Protection of individuals
    10 International forces
    11 See also
    12 References
    13 Further reading
    14 External links


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".

Ancient policing

Law enforcement in Ancient China was carried out by "prefects" for thousands of years since it 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. They were appointed by local magistrates, who reported to higher authorities such as governors, who in turn were appointed by the emperor, and they oversaw the civil administration of their "prefecture", or jurisdiction. Under each prefect were "subprefects" who helped collectively with law enforcement of the area. Some prefects were responsible for handling investigations, much like modern police detectives. Prefects could also be women. The concept of the "prefecture system" would spread to other cultures such as Korea and Japan.

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 the Roman 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 even the Praetorian Guard if necessary.
Medieval policing The hermandades of Medieval Spain were formed to protect pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

In Medieval Spain, hermandades, or "brotherhoods", peacekeeping associations of armed individuals, were a characteristic of municipal life, especially in Castile. As medieval Spanish kings often could not offer adequate protection, protective municipal leagues began to emerge in the 12th century against bandits and other rural criminals, and against the lawless nobility or to support one or another claimant to a crown.

These organizations were intended to be temporary, but became a long-standing fixture of Spain. The first recorded case of the formation of an hermandad occurred when the towns and the peasantry of the north united to police the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela 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 end of the War of the Castilian Succession in 1479, 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.

In France during the Middle Ages, there were two Great Officers of the Crown 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.

The English 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.

From about 1500, private watchmen were funded by private individuals and organisations to carry out police functions. They were later nicknamed 'Charlies', probably after the reigning monarch King Charles II. Thief-takers were also rewarded for catching thieves and returning the stolen property.

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.
Early Modern policing

The first centrally organised police force was created by the government of King Louis XIV in 1667 to police the city of Paris, then the largest city in Europe. The royal edict, registered by the Parlement of Paris on March 15, 1667 created the office of lieutenant général de police ("lieutenant general of police"), who was to be the head of the new Paris police force, and defined the task of the police as "ensuring the peace and quiet of the public and of private individuals, purging the city of what may cause disturbances, procuring abundance, and having each and everyone live according to their station and their duties". Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, founder of the first uniformed police force in the world.

This office was first held by Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, who had 44 commissaires de police (police commissioners) under his authority. In 1709, these commissioners were assisted by inspecteurs de police (police inspectors). The city of Paris was divided into 16 districts policed by the commissaires, each assigned to a particular district and assisted by a growing bureaucracy. The scheme of the Paris police force was extended to the rest of France by a royal edict of October 1699, resulting in the creation of lieutenants general of police in all large French cities and towns.

After the French Revolution, Napoléon I reorganized the police in Paris and other cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants on February 17, 1800 as the Prefecture of Police. On March 12, 1829, a government decree created the first uniformed police in France, known as sergents de ville ("city sergeants"), which the Paris Prefecture of Police's website claims were the first uniformed policemen in the world.

In 1737, George II began paying some London and Middlesex watchmen with tax monies, beginning the shift to government control. In 1749 Henry Fielding began organizing a force of quasi-professional constables known as the Bow Street Runners. The Macdaniel affair added further impetus for a publicly salaried police force that did not depend on rewards. Nonetheless, In 1828, there were privately financed police units in no fewer than 45 parishes within a 10-mile radius of London.

The word "police" was borrowed from French into the English language in the 18th century, but for a long time it applied only to French and continental European police forces. The word, and the concept of police itself, were "disliked as a symbol of foreign oppression" (according to Britannica 1911). Before the 19th century, the first use of the word "police" recorded in government documents in the United Kingdom was the appointment of Commissioners of Police for Scotland in 1714 and the creation of the Marine Police in 1798.
Policing in London Patrick Colquhoun, founder of the Thames River Police.

In 1797, Patrick Colquhoun was able to persuade the West Indies merchants who operated at the Pool of London on the River Thames, to establish a police force at the docks to prevent rampant theft that was causing annual estimated losses of £500,000 worth of cargo. The idea of a police, as it then existed in France, was considered as a potentially undesirable foreign import. In building the case for the police in the face of England's firm anti-police sentiment, Colquhoun framed the political rationale on economic indicators to show that a police dedicated to crime prevention was "perfectly congenial to the principle of the British constitution." Moreover, he went so far as to praise the French system, which had reached "the greatest degree of perfection" in his estimation.

With the initial investment of £4,200, the new trial force of the Thames River Police began with about 50 men charged with policing 33,000 workers in the river trades, of whom Colquhoun claimed 11,000 were known criminals and "on the game." The force was a success after its first year, and his men had "established their worth by saving £122,000 worth of cargo and by the rescuing of several lives." Word of this success spread quickly, and the government passed the Marine Police Bill on 28 July 1800, transforming it from a private to public police agency; now the oldest police force in the world. Colquhoun published a book on the experiment, The Commerce and Policing of the River Thames. It found receptive audiences far outside London, and inspired similar forces in other cities, notably, New York City, Dublin, and Sydney.

Colquhoun's utilitarian approach to the problem – using a cost-benefit argument to obtain support from businesses standing to benefit – allowed him to achieve what Henry and John Fielding failed for their Bow Street detectives. Unlike the stipendiary system at Bow Street, the river police were full-time, salaried officers prohibited from taking private fees. His other contribution was the concept of preventive policing; his police were to act as a highly visible deterrent to crime by their permanent presence on the Thames. Colquhoun's innovations were a critical development leading up to Robert Peel's "new" police three decades later.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Glasgow, Scotland successfully petitioned the government to pass the Glasgow Police Act establishing the City of Glasgow Police in 1800. Other Scottish towns soon followed suit and set up their own police forces through acts of parliament. In Ireland, the Irish Constabulary Act of 1822 marked the beginning of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Act established a force in each barony with chief constables and inspectors general under the control of the civil administration at Dublin Castle. By 1841 this force numbered over 8,600 men.
Metropolitan police force A Peeler of the Metropolitan Police Service in the 1850s.

London was fast reaching a size unprecedented in world history, due to the onset of the Industrial Revolution. It became clear that the locally maintained system of volunteer constables and "watchmen" was ineffective, both in detecting and preventing crime. A parliamentary committee was appointed to investigate the system of policing in London. Upon Sir Robert Peel being appointed as Home Secretary in 1822, he established a second and more effective committee, and acted upon its findings.

Royal Assent to the Metropolitan Police Act was given, and the Metropolitan Police Service was established on September 29, 1829 in London as the first modern and professional police force in the world.

Peel, widely regarded as the father of modern policing, was heavily influenced by the social and legal philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, who called for a strong and centralized, but politically neutral, police force for the maintenance of social order, for the protection of people from crime and to act as a visible deterrent to urban crime and disorder. Peel decided to standardise the police force as an official paid profession, to organise it in a civilian fashion, and to make it answerable to the public.
Albertine at the Police Doctor's Waiting Room, (1885-87), painting by Christian Krohg.

Due to public fears concerning the deployment of the military in domestic matters, Peel organised the force along civilian lines, rather than paramilitary. To appear neutral, the uniform was deliberately manufactured in blue, rather than red which was then a military colour, along with the officers being armed only with a wooden truncheon and a rattle to signal the need for assistance. Along with this, police ranks did not include military titles, with the exception of Sergeant.

To distance the new police force from the initial public view of it as a new tool of government repression, Peel publicised the so-called 'Peelian Principles', which set down basic guidelines for ethical policing:

    Every police officer should be issued an identification number, to assure accountability for his actions.
    Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
    Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount. Hence, Peel's most often quoted principle that "The police are the public and the public are the police."

Group portrait of policemen, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, c. 1900.

The 1829 Metropolitan Police Act created a modern police force by limiting the purview of the force and it's powers, and envisioning it as merely an organ of the judicial system. Their job was apolitical; to maintain the peace and apprehend criminals for the courts to process according to the law. This was very different to the 'Continental model' of the police force that had been developed in France, where the police force worked within the parameters of the absolutist state as an extension of the authority of the monarch and functioned as part of the governing state.

In 1863, the Metropolitan Police were issued with the distinctive Custodian helmet, and in 1884 they switched to the use of whistles that could be heard from much further away. The Metropolitan Police became a model for the police forces in most countries, such as the United States, and most of the British Empire. Bobbies can still be found in many parts of the Law enforcement in Australia
Police motorcycles are commonly used for patrols and escorts, as seen here in Australia

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.

Brazil's National Public Security Force (Força Nacional de Segurança Pública)

In 1566, the first police investigator of Rio de Janeiro was recruited. By the 17th century, most captaincies already had local units with law enforcement functions. On July 9, 1775 a Cavalry Regiment was created in the state of Minas Gerais for maintaining law and order. In 1808, the Portuguese royal family relocated to Brazil, because of the French invasion of Portugal. King João VI established the "Intendência Geral de Polícia" (General Police Intendancy) for investigations. He also created a Royal Police Guard for Rio de Janeiro in 1809. In 1831, after independence, each province started organizing its local "military police", with order maintenance tasks. The Federal Railroad Police was created in 1852.

 Law enforcement in Canada

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 Lebanon, modern police were established in 1861, with creation of the Gendarmerie. Law enforcement in the United States

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 U.S. Marshals Service was established, followed by other federal services such as the U.S. Parks Police (1791) and U.S. Mint Police (1792). The first city police services were established in Philadelphia in 1751, Richmond, Virginia in 1807, Boston in 1838, and New York in 1845. The U.S. Secret Service was founded in 1865 and was for some time the main investigative body for the federal government.
A Deputy U.S. Marshal covers his fellow officers with an M4 carbine during a "knock-and-announce" procedure

After the American Civil War, policing became more paramilitary 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 United States Army.

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.
Development of theory

Michel Foucault claims that the contemporary concept of police as a paid and funded functionary of the state was developed by German and French legal scholars and practitioners in Public administration and Statistics in the 17th and early 18th centuries, most notably with Nicolas Delamare's Traité de la Police ("Treatise on the Police"), first published in 1705. The German Polizeiwissenschaft (Science of Police) first theorized by Philipp von Hörnigk a 17th-century Austrian Political economist and civil servant and much more famously by Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi who produced an important theoretical work known as Cameral science on the formulation of police. Foucault cites Magdalene Humpert author of Bibliographie der Kameralwissenschaften (1937) in which the author makes note of a substantial bibliography was produced of over 4000 pieces of the practice of Polizeiwissenschaft from the 16th century dates ranging from 1520-1850.

As conceptualized by the Polizeiwissenschaft, the police had an administrative,economic and social duty ("procuring abundance"). It was in charge of demographic concerns and needed to be incorporated within the western political philosophy system of raison d'état and therefore giving the superficial appearance of empowering the population (and unwittingly supervising the population), which, according to mercantilist theory, was to be the main strength of the state. Thus, its functions largely overreached simple law enforcement activities and included public health concerns, urban planning (which was important because of the miasma theory of disease; thus, cemeteries were moved out of town, etc.), and surveillance of prices.
Jeremy Bentham, philosopher who advocated for the establishment of preventive police forces and influenced the reforms of Sir Robert Peel.

The concept of preventive policing, or policing to deter crime from taking place, gained influence in the late 18th century. Police Magistrate John Fielding, head of the Bow Street Runners, argued that " is much better to prevent even one man from being a rogue than apprehending and bringing forty to justice."

The Utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, promoted the views of Italian Marquis Cesare Beccaria, and disseminated a translated version of "Essay on Crime in Punishment". Bentham espoused the guiding principle of "the greatest good for the greatest number:

It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them. This is the chief aim of every good system of legislation, which is the art of leading men to the greatest possible happiness or to the least possible misery, according to calculation of all the goods and evils of life.

Patrick Colquhoun's influential work, A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (1797) was heavily influenced by Benthamite thought. Colquhoun's Thames River Police was founded on these principles, and in contrast to the Bow Street Runners, acted as a deterrent by their continual presence on the riverfront, in addition to being able to intervene if they spotted a crime in progress.

Edwin Chadwick's 1829 article, "Preventive police" in the London Review, argued that prevention ought to be the primary concern of a police body, which was not the case in practice. The reason, argued Chadwick, was that "A preventive police would act more immediately by placing difficulties in obtaining the objects of temptation." In contrast to a deterrent of punishment, a preventive police force would deter criminality by making crime cost-ineffective - "crime doesn't pay". In the second draft of his 1829 Police Act, the "object" of the new Metropolitan Police, was changed by Robert Peel to the "principal object," which was the "prevention of crime." Later historians would attribute the perception of England's "appearance of orderliness and love of public order" to the preventive principle entrenched in Peel's police system.

Development of modern police forces around the world was contemporary to the formation of the state, later defined by sociologist Max Weber as achieving a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force" and which was primarily exercised by the police and the military. 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.

Personnel and organization

Police forces include both 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.
Uniformed police

Brazilian Federal Highway Police at work.

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.

New South Wales Police Force officers search the vehicle of a suspected drug smuggler at a border crossing. Wentworth, New South Wales, Australia

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.[citation needed] 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 units
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Mumbai Police created specialized, quick response teams to deal with terror threats.

Specialized preventive and detective groups, or Specialist Investigation Departments 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

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, the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Portuguese Republican National Guard also known as GNR)
    a section of the military solely responsible for policing the civilian population (such as the Romanian Gendarmerie)
    the civilian preventive police of a Brazilian state (Policia Militar)
    a Special Military law enforcement Service, like the Russian Military Police

Religious police
Two Taliban from department of Amr bil Ma-roof (Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Taliban religious police) beating a woman in public because she has dared to remove her burqa in public.

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, the Mutaween actively prevent the practice or proselytizing of non-Islamic religions within Saudi Arabia, where they are banned.

Varying jurisdictions

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.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland barracks in Northern Ireland. The high walls are to protect against mortar bomb attacks.
International policing

The terms international policing, transnational policing, and/or global policing began to be used from the early 1990s onwards to describe forms of policing that transcended the boundaries of the sovereign nation-state (Nadelmann, 1993), (Sheptycki, 1995). These terms refer in variable ways to practices and forms for policing that, in some sense, transcend national borders. This includes a variety of practices, but international police cooperation, criminal intelligence exchange between police agencies working in different nation-states, and police development-aid to weak, failed or failing states are the three types that have received the most scholarly attention.

Historical studies reveal that policing agents have undertaken a variety of cross-border police missions for many years (Deflem, 2002). For example, in the 19th century a number of European policing agencies undertook cross-border surveillance because of concerns about anarchist agitators and other political radicals. A notable example of this was the occasional surveillance by 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 inter/transnational information and intelligence sharing has been undertaken. A notable exception is James Sheptycki's study of police cooperation in the English Channel region (2002), which provides a systematic content analysis of information exchange files and a description of how these transnational information and intelligence exchanges are transformed into police case-work. The study showed that transnational police information sharing was routinized in the cross-Channel region from 1968 on the basis of agreements directly between the police agencies and without any formal agreement between the countries concerned. By 1992, with the signing of the Schengen Treaty, which formalized aspects of police information exchange across the territory of the European Union, there were worries that much, if not all, of this intelligence sharing was opaque, raising questions about the efficacy of the accountability mechanisms governing police information sharing in Europe (Joubert and Bevers, 1996).

Studies of this kind outside of Europe are even rarer, so it is difficult to make generalizations, but one small-scale study that compared transnational police information and intelligence sharing practices at specific cross-border locations in North America and Europe confirmed that low visibility of police information and intelligence sharing was a common feature (Alain, 2001). Intelligence-led policing is now common practice in most advanced countries (Ratcliffe, 2007) 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.

Armored vehicle of CORE, SWAT unit within the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro State

In many jurisdictions, police officers carry firearms, primarily handguns, in the normal course of their duties. In the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), Iceland, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, and Malta, with the exception of specialist units, officers do not carry firearms as a matter of course.

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, tear gas, riot control agents, rubber bullets, riot shield, water cannons 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.

Main article: Police transportation
A Ford Crown Victoria, one of the most recognizable models of American police car. This unit belongs to Houston METRO Police
German (green) and Dutch (blue/red) police vehicles

Police vehicles are used for detaining, patrolling and transporting. The average police patrol vehicle is an specially modified 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.
Other safety equipment

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.
Anti-riot armoured vehicle of the police of the Canton of Vaud in Lausanne, Switzerland

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.

Power restrictions
Main article: Police misconduct
ACT Police truck in Canberra Australia
Traffic/highway patrol vehicle of the ACT Police.

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 the court created safeguards against self-incriminating statements made after an arrest. The court held that "The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination"

Police in the United States are also prohibited from holding criminal suspects for more than a reasonable amount of time (usually 24–48 hours) before arraignment, using torture, abuse or physical threats to extract confessions, using excessive force to effect an arrest, and searching suspects' bodies or their homes without a warrant obtained upon a showing of probable cause. The four exceptions to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant are:

Search incident to arrest
Motor vehicle searches
Exigent circumstances

In Terry v. Ohio (1968) the court divided seizure into two parts, the investigatory stop and arrest. The court further held that during an investigatory stop a police officer's search " [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.

Conduct, accountability and public confidence
Main article: Police misconduct

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2009)
April 21, 2001: Police fire CS gas at protesters during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas.
The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP later concluded the use of tear gas against demonstrators at the summit constituted "excessive and unjustified force".

Police services commonly include units for investigating crimes committed by the police themselves. These units are typically called Inspectorate-General, or in the US, "internal affairs". In some countries separate organizations outside the police exist for such purposes, such as the British Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Likewise, some state and local jurisdictions, for example, Springfield, Illinois[86] have similar outside review organizations. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is investigated by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, an external agency set up as a result of the Patten report into policing the province. In the Republic of Ireland the Garda Síochána is investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, an independent commission that replaced the Garda Complaints Board in May 2007.

The Special Investigations Unit of Ontario, Canada, is one of only a few civilian agencies around the world responsible for investigating circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault. The agency has made allegations of insufficient cooperation from various police services hindering their investigations.

In Hong Kong, any allegations of corruption within the police will be investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Independent Police Complaints Council, two agencies which are independent of the police force.

Due to a long-term decline in public confidence for law enforcement in the United States, body cameras worn by police officers are under consideration.
Use of force
A General Directotate of Security riot control officer uses force on a protester in Gezi Park protests.

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.[citation needed] 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 lawsuits have been brought by the United States Department of Justice against local law enforcement agencies, authorized under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This has compelled local departments to make organizational changes, enter into consent decree settlements to adopt such measures, and submit to oversight by the Justice Department.

Protection of individuals
Globe icon.

The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (July 2012)

Since 1855, the Supreme Court of the United States has consistently ruled that law enforcement officers have no duty to protect any individual, despite the motto "protect and serve". Their duty is to enforce the law in general. The first such case was in 1855 (South v. State of Maryland (Supreme Court of the United States 1855). Text) 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.
International forces
Main article: Law enforcement by country

In many countries, particularly those with a federal system of government, there may be several police or police like 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

Law Enforcement in the United States SeattlePolicePrecinct5 1920s

Law enforcement in the United States is one of three major components of the criminal justice system of the United States, along with courts and corrections. Although each component operates semi-independently, the three collectively form a chain leading from investigation of suspected criminal activity to administration of criminal punishment. Also, courts are vested with the power to make legal determinations regarding the conduct of the other two components.

Law enforcement operates primarily through governmental police agencies. The law-enforcement purposes of these agencies are the investigation of suspected criminal activity, referral of the results of investigations to the courts, and the temporary detention of suspected criminals pending judicial action. Law enforcement agencies, to varying degrees at different levels of government and in different agencies, are also commonly charged with the responsibilities of deterring criminal activity and preventing the successful commission of crimes in progress. Other duties may include the service and enforcement of warrants, writs, and other orders of the courts.

Law enforcement agencies are also involved in providing first response to emergencies and other threats to public safety; the protection of certain public facilities and infrastructure; the maintenance of public order; the protection of public officials; and the operation of some correctional facilities (usually at the local level).

Salt Lake City police
Types of police

Policing in the United States is conducted by numerous types of agencies at many different levels. Every state has their own nomenclature for agencies, and their powers, responsibilities and funding varies from state to state.


Main article: Federal law enforcement in the United States

Federal police possess full federal authority as given to them under United States Code (U.S.C.). Federal law enforcement officers are authorized to enforce various laws at the federal level.

U.S. Park Police officers standing by during the 2005 Inauguration Day

Both types operate at the highest level and are endowed with police roles, both may maintain a small component of the other (for example, the FBI Police). The agencies have nationwide jurisdiction for enforcement of federal law. All federal agencies are limited by the U.S. Code to investigating only matters that are explicitly within the power of the federal government. However, federal investigative powers have become very broad in practice, especially since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for most law enforcement duties at the federal level. It includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the United States Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and others.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is another branch with numerous federal law enforcement agencies reporting to it. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), United States Secret Service (USSS), United States Coast Guard (USCG), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are some of the agencies that report to DHS. It should be noted that the United States Coast Guard is assigned to the United States Department of Defense in the event of war, and operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime.

At a crime or disaster scene affecting large numbers of people, multiple jurisdictions, or broad geographic areas, many police agencies may be involved by mutual aid agreements, for example the United States Federal Protective Service responded to the Hurricane Katrina natural disaster. Command in such situations remains a complex and flexible issue.

In accordance with the federal, as opposed to unitary or confederal, structure of the United States government, the national (federal) government is not authorized to execute general police powers by the Constitution of the United States of America. Each of the United States' 50 federated states (referred to simply as 'states' in the United States despite their lack of full sovereignty) retain their own police, military and domestic law-making powers. The US Constitution gives the federal government the power to deal with foreign affairs and interstate affairs (affairs between the states). For policing, this means that if a non-federal crime is committed in a US state and the fugitive does not flee the state, the federal government has no jurisdiction. However, once the fugitive crosses a state line he or she violates the federal law of interstate flight and is subject to federal jurisdiction, at which time federal law enforcement agencies may become involved.


Main article: State police

Most states operate statewide government agencies that provide law enforcement duties, including investigations and state patrols. They may be called State Police, State Patrol or Highway Patrol, and are normally part of the state Department of Public Safety. In addition, the Attorney General's office of each state has its own state bureaus of investigation. In Texas the Texas Ranger Division fulfill this role though they have their history in the period before Texas became a state.

Various departments of state governments may have their own enforcement divisions, such as capitol police, campus police, state hospitals, Departments of Correction, water police, environmental (fish and game/wildlife) game wardens or conservation officers (who have full police powers and statewide jurisdiction). In Colorado, for instance, the Department of Revenue has its own investigative branch, as do many of the state-funded universities.


Also known as parishes and boroughs, county law enforcement is provided by sheriffs' departments or offices and county police.

County police

Main article: County police

County police tend to exist only in metropolitan counties and have countywide jurisdiction. In some areas, there is a sheriff's department which only handles minor issues such as service of papers such as a constable in other areas, along with security for the local courthouse. In other areas, there are no county police and the local sheriff is the exclusive law enforcement agency and acts as both sheriff and county police, which is much more common than there being a separate county police force. County police tend to fall into three broad categories:

  • Full-service - provide the full spectrum of police services to the entire county, irrespective of local communities, and may provide contractual security police services to special districts within the county.
  • Limited service - provide services to unincorporated areas of the county (and may provide services to some incorporated areas by contract), and usually provide contractual security police services to special districts within the county.
  • Restricted service - provide security police to county owned and operated facilities and parks. Some may also perform some road patrol duties on county built and maintained roads, and provide support to municipal police departments in the county. Some northeastern states maintain county detectives in their county attorneys' offices.

Oregon sheriff deputy 1939
Sheriffs' offices

Main article: Sheriffs in the United States

  • Full service - The most common type, provide all traditional law-enforcement functions, including countywide patrol and investigations irrespective of municipal boundaries.
  • Limited service - along with the above, perform some type of traditional law-enforcement function such as investigations and patrol. This may be limited to security police duties on county properties (and others by contract) to the performance of these duties in unincorporated areas of the county, and some incorporated areas by contract.
  • Restricted service - provide basic court related services such as keeping the county jail, transporting prisoners, providing courthouse security and other duties with regard to service of process and summonses that are issued by county and state courts. The sheriff also often conducts auction sales of real property in foreclosure in many jurisdictions, and is often also empowered to conduct seizures of chattel property to satisfy a judgment. In other jurisdictions, these civil process duties are performed by other officers, such as a marshal or constable.
  • In Texas, the sheriff's office is normally the agency responsible for handling mental health calls. If the situation is dangerous, a sheriff's deputy has the power to take a person to a hospital on a mental health commitment immediately. However, if the situation is not actively dangerous, a warrant must be sought. With the rise in mental health units across the state, the Texas CIT Association was formed.


A Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor of the New York City Police Department

See Municipal police departments of the United States for a list

Municipal police range from one-officer agencies (sometimes still called the town marshal) to the 40,000 men and women of the New York City Police Department. Most municipal agencies take the form (Municipality Name) Police Department. Many individual cities and towns will have their own police department, with larger communities typically having larger departments with greater budgets, resources, and responsibilities.

Metropolitan departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, have jurisdiction covering multiple communities and municipalities, often over a wide area typically coterminous with one or more cities or counties. Metropolitan departments have usually been formed by a merger between local agencies, typically several local police departments and often the local sheriff's department or office, in efforts to provide greater efficiency by centralizing command and resources and to resolve jurisdictional problems, often in communities experiencing rapid population growth and urban sprawl, or in neighboring communities too small to afford individual police departments. Some county sheriff's departments, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, are contracted to provide full police services to local cities within their counties.


Puerto Rico Police Department

It traces back to 1837, when Spanish governor Francisco Javier de Moreda y Prieto created La Guardia Civil de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Civil Guard) to protect the lives and property of Puerto Ricans who at the time were Spanish subjects, and provide police services to the entire island, even though many municipalities maintain their own police force. The United States invaded and took possession of Puerto Rico in July 1898 as a result of the Spanish–American War and has controlled the island as a US territory since then. The Insular Police of Puerto Rico was created on February 21, 1899, under the command of Col. Frank Thacher (US Marine officer during the Spanish–American War), with an authorized strength of 313 sworn officers. As of 2009, the PRPD had over 17,292 officers.

See Specialist police departments of the United States for a list

There are other types of specialist police departments with varying jurisdictions. Most of these serve special-purpose districts and are Special district police. In some states, they serve as little more than security police, but in states such as California, special district forces are composed of fully sworn peace officers with statewide authority.

These agencies can be transit police, school district police, campus police, airport police, park police or police departments responsible for protecting government property, such as the Los Angeles General Services Police. Some agencies, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, have multi-state powers. There are also some private (non-governmental) agencies, such as the Co-op City Department of Public Safety.

Police functions

A Florida Highway Patrol state trooper at the scene of a motor vehicle accident

FBI Evidence Response Team

Textbooks and scholars have identified three primary police agency functions. The following is cited from The American System of Criminal Justice, by George F. Cole and Christopher E. Smith, 2004, 10th edition, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning:

  • Order maintenance. This is the broad mandate to keep the peace or otherwise prevent behaviors which might disturb others. This can deal with things ranging from a barking dog to a fist-fight. By way of description, Cole and Smith note that police are usually called-on to "handle" these situations with discretion, rather than deal with them as strict violations of law, though of course their authority to deal with these situations are based in violations of law.
  • Law enforcement. Those powers are typically used only in cases where the law has been violated and a suspect must be identified and apprehended. Most obvious instances include robbery, murder, or burglary. This is the popular notion of the main police function, but the frequency of such activity is dependent on geography and season.
  • Service. Services may include rendering first aid, providing tourist information, guiding the disoriented, or acting as educators (on topics such as preventing drug use). Cole and Smith cited one study which showed 80% of all calls for police assistance did not involve crimes, but this may not be the case in all parts of the country. Because police agencies are traditionally available year-round, 24 hours a day, citizens call upon police departments not only in times of trouble, but also when just inconvenienced. As a result, police services may include roadside auto assistance, providing referrals to other agencies, finding lost pets or property, or checking locks on vacationers' homes.

Styles of policing

Given the broad mandates of police work, and yet having limited resources, police administrators must develop policies to prioritize and focus their activities. Some of the more controversial policies restrict, or even forbid, high-speed vehicular pursuits.

Three styles of policing develop from a jurisdiction's socioeconomic characteristics, government organization, and choice of police administrators. According to a study by James Q. Wilson ("Varieties of Police Behavior", 1968, 1978, Harvard University Press), there were three distinct types of policing developed in his study of eight communities. Each style emphasized different police functions, and were linked to specific characteristics of the community the department served. (Wilson's field of study was in the United States, and it is not clear if similar studies have been done for other countries with different governmental organization and laws.)

  • Watchman. Emphasizes maintaining order, usually found in communities with a declining industrial base, and a blue-collar, mixed ethnic/racial population. This form of policing is implicitly less pro-active than other styles, and certain offenses may be "overlooked" on a variety of social, legal, and cultural grounds, as long as the public order is maintained. Smith and Cole comment the broad discretion exercised in this style of policing can result in charges of discrimination, when it appears police treatment of different groups results in the perception that some groups get better treatment than others;
  • Legalistic. Emphasizes law enforcement and professionalism. This is usually found in reform-minded cities, with mixed socioeconomic composition. Officers are expected to generate a large number of arrests and citations, and act as if there were a single community standard for conduct, rather than different standards for different groups. However, the fact that certain groups are more likely to have law enforcement contact means this strict enforcement of laws may seem overly harsh on certain groups;
  • Service. Emphasizes the service functions of police work, usually found in suburban, middle-class communities where residents demand individual treatment. Police in homogeneous communities can view their work as protecting their citizens against "outsiders", with frequent but often-informal interventions against community members. The uniform make-up of the community means crimes are usually more obvious, and therefore less frequent, leaving police free to deal with service functions, and traffic control.

Wilson's study applies to police behavior for the entire department, over time. At any given time, police officers may be acting in a watchman, service, or legalistic function by nature of what they're doing at the time, or temperament, or mood. Individual officers may also be inclined to one style or another, regardless of supervisor or citizen demands.

Powers of officers

When there exists probable cause to believe that a person has committed a serious crime, a law enforcement officer can handcuff and arrest a person, who will be held in a police station or jail pending a judicial bail determination or an arraignment.

The procedural use of strip searches and cavity searches by law enforcement has raised civil liberties concerns. The practice of taking an arrested person on a perp walk, often handcuffed, through a public place at some point after the arrest, creating an opportunity for the media to take photographs and video of the event has raised similar concerns.

In 2010, the FBI estimated that law enforcement agencies made 13,120,947 arrests (excluding traffic violations). Of those persons arrested, 74.5% were male and 69.4 percent of all persons arrested were white, 28.0 percent were black, and the remaining 2.6 percent were of other races.

A law enforcement officer may briefly detain a person upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a crime but short of probable cause to arrest; this is commonly known as frisking. The New York City Police Department came under scrutiny in 2012 for its use of a stop-and-frisk program.

Use of deadly force is often granted to law enforcement officers when the person or persons in question are believed to be an immediate danger to people around them, or when a person poses a significant threat to a law enforcement officer, usually when the officer is at risk of serious bodily injury or death. Most law enforcement agencies establish a use of force continuum and list deadly force as a force of last resort. With this model, agencies try to control excessive use of force. Nonetheless there are a high number of killings by law enforcement officers, including killings of people who are unarmed, raising questions about widespread and ongoing excessive use of force. Other non-fatal incidents and arrests have raised similar concerns.

The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement may enter a house without knocking if they have “a reasonable suspicion” that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet). In addition, rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow law enforcement officers to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. The property-owner need not be convicted of that crime; if officers find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house. Commentators have said these rules provide an incentive for law enforcement to focus on drug-related crimes rather than rape and murder investigations. They also provide an incentive to arrest suspected drug-dealers inside their houses, which can be seized, and to raid stash houses after most of their drugs have been sold, when officers can seize the cash. The use of military equipment and tactics in these situations and for public order policing has become more widespread.

Several serious cases of police misconduct have raised questions surrounding abuse of powers by individual or groups of officers. Historical examples include the Chicago Police Department's torture of felony suspects between 1972-1991 by and under Jon Burge, Los Angeles Police Department's 1991 beating of Rodney King and late-1990s LAPD Rampart Scandal, New York City Police Department's 1970s fatal shootings of Clifford Glover (1973) and Randolph Evans (1976), the 1980s chokehold of Michael Stewart (1983), shootings of Eleanor Bumpers (1984) and Edmund Perry (1985), the stun gun torture of Mark Davidson (1985), the 1990s torture of Abner Louima and shooting of Amadou Diallo, the 2000s shootings and record-publicizing of Patrick Dorismond, and Sean Bell, Philadelphia Police Department's torture of suspects in the 1970s to improve then-mayor Frank Rizzo's reputation and Torrington, Connecticut's Tracey Thurman.

Entry qualifications

Nearly all U.S. states and the federal government have by law adopted minimum-standard standardized training requirements for all officers with powers of arrest within the state. Many standards apply to in-service training as well as entry-level training, particularly in the use of firearms, with periodic re-certification required. These standards often comply with standards promoted by the US Department of Justice. These standards typically require a thorough background check that potential police recruits:

  • Be a United States citizen (waived in certain agencies if the applicant is a lawful resident).
  • Must have a high school diploma or a GED and if necessary a college degree or served in the United States military without a dishonorable discharge;
  • Be in good medical, physical, and psychological condition;
  • Maintain a clean criminal record without either serious or repeated misdemeanor or any felony convictions;
  • Must have a valid driver's license with a clean driving record and that is not currently or has a history of being suspended or revoked;
  • Be of high moral character;
  • Not have a history of prior narcotic or repeated marijuana use or alcoholism;
  • Not have a history of ethical, professional, prior employment, motor vehicle, educational, or financial improprieties;
  • Not have a history of domestic violence or mental illness;
  • Not to pose a safety and security risk;
  • Be legally eligible to own and carry a firearm.

Repeated interviews, written tests, medical examinations, physical fitness tests, comprehensive background investigations, fingerprinting, drug testing, a police oral board interview, a polygraph examination and consultation with a psychologist are common practices used to review the suitability of candidates. Recruiting in most departments is competitive, with more suitable and desirable candidates accepted over lesser ones, and failure to meet some minimum standards disqualifying a candidate entirely. Police oral boards are the most subjective part of the process and often disqualifies the biggest portion of qualified candidates. Departments maintain records of past applicants under review, and refer to them in the case of either reapplication or requests between other agencies.

Despite these safeguards, some departments have at times relaxed hiring and staffing policies, sometimes in violation of the law, most often in the cases of local departments and federally funded drug task forces facing staffing shortages, attrition, and needs to quickly fill positions. This has included at times the fielding (and sometimes the arming) of uncertified officers (who may be working temporarily in what is supposed to be a provisional limited-duty status prior to certification) and the hiring of itinerant "gypsy cops", who may have histories of poor performance or misconduct in other departments.

Police weapons

Police in the United States usually carry a handgun on duty. Many are required to be armed on-duty and often required to have a concealable off-duty handgun. Among the most common sidearms are models produced by Glock, Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, Beretta, and Heckler & Koch, usually in 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG (US Secret Service & other Federal Law Enforcement agencies) or .45 ACP.

Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, most US police officers carried revolvers, typically in .38 Special or .357 Magnum calibers, as their primary duty weapons. At the time, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Ruger and some Taurus models were popular with police officers, most popular being the Smith & Wesson or Colt revolvers. Since then, most agencies have switched to semiautomatic pistols. Two key events influencing many US police forces to upgrade their primary duty weapons to weapons with greater stopping power and round capacity were the 1980 Norco shootout and the 1986 FBI Miami shootout.

Some police departments allow qualified officers to carry shotguns and/or semiautomatic rifles in their vehicles for additional firepower, typically to be used if a suspect is involved in an active shooter situation, or a Hostage/barricade incident.

Less lethal weapons

ASP 21" tactical baton in expandable and collapsed states.

Police also often carry an impact weapon - a baton, also known as a nightstick. The common nightstick and the side handle baton have been replaced in many locations by expandable batons such as the Monadnock Auto-Lock Expandable Baton or ASP baton. One advantage of the collapsible baton is that the wearer can comfortably sit in a patrol vehicle while still wearing the baton on their duty belt. The side handle night stick usually has to be removed before entering the vehicle. Many departments also use less-lethal weapons like mace, pepper spray, electroshock guns, and beanbag shotgun rounds.

Another less lethal weapon that police officers often carry is an electroshock gun, also known as a Taser. The handheld electroshock weapon was designed to incapacitate a single person from a distance by using electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles. Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions. Tasers do not rely only on pain compliance, except when used in Drive Stun mode, and are thus preferred by some law enforcement over non-Taser stun guns and other electronic control weapons.

Specialized weapons

Most large police departments have elite SWAT units which are called in to handle situations, such as barricaded suspects, hostage situations and high-risk warrant service that require greater force, specialized equipment, and special tactics. These units usually have submachine guns, automatic carbines or rifles, semiautomatic combat shotguns, sniper rifles, gas, smoke and flash bang grenades, and other specialized weapons and equipment at their disposal. Some departments are equipped with armored vehicles.

Body armor

Uniformed police officers are often issued body armor, typically in the form of a lightweight Level IIA, II or IIIA vest that can be worn under service shirts. SWAT teams typically wear heavier Level III or IV tactical armored vests, often with steel or ceramic trauma plates, comparable to those worn by U.S. military personnel engaged in ground operations. Officers trained in bomb disposal wear specialized heavy protective armor designed to protect them from the effects of an explosion when working around live ordnance.

Police communications

Most American police departments are dispatched from a centralized communications center, using VHF, UHF or, more recently, digitally trunked radio transceivers mounted in their vehicles, with individual officers carrying portable handsets or ear-worn headsets for communication when away from their vehicles. American police cars are also increasingly equipped with mobile computer terminals (MCT's) or portable computers linked by radio to a network allowing them access to state department of motor vehicles information, criminal records, and other important information.

Most police communications are now conducted within a regional pool of area telecommunicators or dispatchers using 9-1-1 and 9-1-1 telephone taxation. A large number of police agencies have pooled their 9-1-1 tax resources for Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) to streamline dispatching and reporting. CAD systems are usually linked to MCT's (see above)

National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System

National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System is a secure information sharing system for state and local law enforcement agencies. It provides instant messaging to allow information exchange between state, local, and federal agencies and support services to justice-related computer programs. The network is operated by Nlets, a non-profit corporation owned and operated by the states and funded solely by fees for service.

The network operates primarily through a secure private network through which each state has an interface to the network, and all agencies within the state operate through this portal. The federal and international components operate very similarly. Users include all U.S. states and territories, Federal agencies with a justice mission, and certain international agencies. The primary operational site for the network is housed in Arizona, with a secure backup site located in the East Central U.S. for full continuity of operations in less than thirty minutes.

Information exchange is voluntary and includes everything from motor vehicle registrations, driver's data, Interpol warrants, Canadian 'Hot File' records, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) databases, to state criminal history records. Nearly 90 million messages are sent each month.

Number of police

In 2008, federal police employed approx. 120,000 full-time law enforcement officers, authorized to make arrests and carry firearms in the United States.

The 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics' Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA), found there were 17,985 state and local law enforcement agencies employing at least one full-time officer or the equivalent in part-time officers.

In 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than 1.1 million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Agencies also employed approximately 100,000 part-time employees, including 44,000 sworn officers.

From 2004 to 2008, overall full-time employment by state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide increased by about 57,000 (or 5.3%). Sworn personnel increased by about 33,000 (4.6%), and non-sworn employees by about 24,000 (6.9%). From 2004 to 2008, the number of full-time sworn personnel per 100,000 U.S. residents increased from 250 to 251. From 1992 to 2008, the growth rate for civilian personnel was more than double that of sworn personnel.

Local police departments were the largest employer of sworn personnel, accounting for 60% of the total. Sheriffs' offices were next, accounting for 24%. About half (49%) of all agencies employed fewer than 10 full-time officers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of sworn personnel worked for agencies that employed 100 or more officers.

Changes in personnel numbers

Fifteen of the 50 largest local police departments employed fewer full-time sworn personnel in 2008 than in 2004. The largest declines were in Detroit (36%), Memphis (23%), New Orleans (13%), and San Francisco (10%).

Ten of the 50 largest local police departments reported double-digit increases in sworn personnel from 2004 to 2008. The largest increases were in Phoenix (19%), Prince George's County (Maryland) (17%), Dallas (15%), and Fort Worth (14%).


Salary varies widely for police officers, with most being among the top third of wage-earners, age 25 or older, nationwide. In May 2012, the overall median was $56,980. The top 10% earned more than $93,450 and bottom 10% less than $33,060.

The median wages for police and detective occupations in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $74,300 for detectives and criminal investigators
  • $55,270 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers
  • $55,210 for transit and railroad police
  • $48,070 for fish and game wardens

Police uniforms of the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Police uniforms in the United States vary widely due to the nation's tradition of highly decentralized law enforcement. Over time, however, a number of general conventions and styles have become representative of American police fashion. Police wear uniforms to deter crime by establishing a visible presence while on patrol, to make themselves easily identifiable to members of the public who require assistance, and to quickly identify each other at crime scenes for ease of coordination.


Uniforms of the New York Metropolitan Police in 1871

Centralized, municipally-managed police departments were unknown in the United States prior to the 1830s. Early law enforcement functions were largely performed by volunteer watchmen as well as elected or appointed constables and sheriffs, who were paid by the fee system for warrants they served. The advent of professional police forces in the United States foreshadowed the introduction of standardized police uniforms. While uniforms for police had been introduced in the United Kingdom as early as 1828, adoption of standardized dress in the United States took longer, with many of the new police objecting to uniforms out of concern they would be subject to public ridicule. Nonetheless, in 1854 the New York Police department became the United States' first municipal police force to issue uniforms to its officers. New York was followed, in 1858, by Boston, Chicago, and soon thereafter, other cities.

A New York police officer, wearing a custodian helmet, answers a visitor's questions at the corner of Fulton and Broadway in 1899.

The navy blue uniforms adopted by many police departments in this early period were simply surplus United States Army uniforms from the Civil War. Cover typically took the form of stovepipe hats, a starched woolen head cover similar in appearance to a top hat but with a squatter dimension, or British-style custodian helmets. In rural areas, where preventative policing was limited or non-existent, sheriff's deputies continued to wear civilian attire, using only their badge as a mark of identification. In many states this practice continued well into the following century. The Orange County, California sheriff's office, for instance, did not adopt a uniform until 1938.

By the early 20th century, the style and form of American police uniforms had essentially settled into its modern pattern of button-up shirts, neckties, slacks and military-style blouses with unbanded collars, all worn with peaked hats. Many early uniforms had loose-fitting jackets that would conceal a police officer's equipment, such as truncheon and sidearm. Beginning in the 1930s, officers more frequently began wearing their personal gear on a Sam Browne belt worn outside the coat, for ease of access.

One of the biggest evolutionary experiments in police uniform design began in 1969, when the police department in Menlo Park, California moved away from typical police uniforms, opting instead for a dress style designed to better emulate civilian fashion trends and communicate a "softer" appearance. The new uniforms consisted of green blazers, black slacks, a white shirt and black necktie. Officers wore their weapons concealed under their coats. Many other police departments soon followed the Menlo Park lead. In psychological tests, it was discovered police - after using the new uniform - displayed less authoritarian personality characteristics. In addition, civilians injured during arrests by police dropped by 50-percent and assaults on officers by criminals also plummeted by nearly a third. Despite these initially promising signs, however, it was subsequently determined that other factors, including increased police recruitment of college graduates and adoption of more responsive management techniques, had probably accounted for the statistical shifts. By the eighth year of the uniform experiment, assaults on police had more than doubled from what they were prior to the dress change and the "civilian" style uniforms were subsequently dropped.

Current designs

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office badge is typical of the six-pointed star design used by many U.S. sheriffs. The panel at the bottom of the badge is where a deputy's badge number would be engraved.


Despite the wide variety of uniforms used by United States police departments, virtually all incorporate the use of metallic badges as a means of primary identification. Unlike in the United Kingdom, where officers both in and out of uniform carry - but do not publicly display - paper or plastic warrant cards, U.S. police badges are the official symbol of office and are prominently worn over the left chest of the uniform (or, in the case of plainclothes officers, displayed from a concealed badge carrier when necessary to establish authority). In Virginia, for instance, police only have the power to make arrests when "in uniform, or displaying a badge of office."

Badges are typically engraved with a unique identification number matched to the officer to whom it is issued. Some departments - most notably the New York police department (NYPD) - traditionally pass individual badges through several generations of police so that current officers can establish a symbolic connection with the retired and deceased officers to whom their badge had previously been issued. In the case of the NYPD, officers who misplace their badge are docked five days of vacation time and many officers wear replica badges to avoid losing their issued badge (though the practice is officially discouraged).

Federal law prohibits the sale or purchase of counterfeit police badges and many states have laws regulating the wearing of metallic badges by persons other than law enforcement. Florida, for instance, prohibits unauthorized persons from wearing or displaying badges if their wear or display would be likely to deceive someone. New York and New Jersey, meanwhile, allow private security guards to wear badges provided they are in the shape of a square and not the more traditional shield or star shape used by police.

Badges are usually constructed out of metal with an enamel finish in either a gold and/or silver. As a general rule, the badges issued by county sheriff's offices take the form of a five, six, or seven-pointed star, while municipal police have shield-like designs. Following the death of a police officer, other officers will typically cover their badges with a black mourning band. Mourning bands can also be seen worn on May 15, "National Peace Officers Memorial Day."


Most police uniforms feature shoulder sleeve insignia in the form of cloth patches embroidered with the agency's name, logo or a heraldic device. These patches are displayed either on both shoulders, or on just the left shoulder side of the uniform.

Horse mounted New York city police in 2005


Individual municipal and county law enforcement agencies in the United States are typically responsible for designing their own uniforms, often with minimal state regulation. As a result, there is no universal form or pattern for American police uniforms.

However, in general, most large police departments provide officers with two types of uniforms for wear, tactical (also called "Class B"), and traditional (or "Class A"). Tactical uniforms - similar in material and cut to the U.S. Army's former battle dress uniform - are generally worn while on patrol, or performing physically intense duties, while traditional-style uniforms are more often used for station assignments, high profile events, and ceremonial functions. In addition to these two basic uniform types, a variety of specialized clothing may be deployed as necessary, including jumpsuits (sometimes called "Class C") and - in the case of police pipe bands - highland dress. Some police departments restrict the use of tactical uniforms to elite units, such as SWAT teams, or for special assignments, such as riot control, in order to present a less militarized appearance in day-to-day operations.

Rhode Island State Police Uniforms (L-R) K-9 Utility, SWAT, Winter Patrol, Winter with Cold Weather Parka, Spring/Fall Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU aka. Truck Squad)Winter Utility, Ceremonial Dress, Summer Patrol, CEU Spring/Summer/Fall Utility, Motorcycle, Dress Uniform

Municipal police uniforms are typically colored in blue or black, while uniforms worn by sheriff's deputies are more often brown and khaki. Unlike British police, American law enforcement agencies do not usually include white-colored apparel, such as shirts, in their uniforms due to the fact white reflects in the dark and can make police officers more prominent targets for armed criminals during building searches or standoffs. There are, however, many exceptions to this general rule; the Miami Police department wears white uniform shirts, and senior officers in the NYPD have uniforms that also feature white shirts.


Unlike police in some Commonwealth nations, those American fores that had incorporated the custodian helmet into their uniforms subsequently abandoned the headgear by the early 20th century. Today, municipal police forces typically wear peaked hats or, in tactical uniforms, baseball caps. County sheriff's offices often issues their deputies with campaign hats or Stetsons for cover; the use of western-style headgear for law enforcement is a custom that may be unique to the United States and Canada.

Unique elements

Several United States police forces are known for unique uniform items not commonly used by other departments.

  • Police uniforms in Chicago and Pittsburgh feature peaked hats incorporating the Sillitoe Tartan checkerboard design.
  • The Washington State Patrol and New Mexico State Police wear bowties.
  • Troopers of the Texas Highway Patrol wear cowboy hats as part of their official uniform
  • Many police departments replace their standard collared shirts and neckties with an ascot when detachments are organized as part of a funeral detail or color guard. Fourragère and aiguillettes may also be worn.


Since 1977 the North American Association of Uniforms, Manufacturers and Distributors have sponsored an annual award for the "best dressed" police department in the United States. The awards are currently awarded in several classes, depending on a department's size. In 2013 the Florida Highway Patrol was recognized as the "best dressed" police force among departments with more than 2,000 personnel.


deviders our fallen

Deadliest Days in American Law Enforcement History


23 January, 1857

Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff James Barton and three of his officers-Constables Charles Baker and William Little and Deputy Charles Daly-were shot and killed while attempting to arrest members of the notorious Flores-Daniels Gang. The gang ambushed the officers, killing them. Eventually, 52 members of the gang were arrested and 18 were hung for the murders.

16 November, 1859

What became known as the Cortina War started when Juan Cortina, the heir to a large land grant in the lower Rio Grande valley that included the area around Brownsville, witnessed the city marshal pistol-whipping an intoxicated Mexican citizen who had previously been employed by the Cortina family. Cortina shot the marshal in the shoulder and fled on his horse with the prisoner. In September 1859, Cortina and 60-100 men rode into Brownsville intent on seeking revenge for numerous grievances. The Governor or Texas Governor Runnels authorized a company of 100 rangers from San Antonio to quell the lawlessness in Brownsville. On November 16, a detachment of 30 rangers spotted a band of Cortinistas about a mile from Palo Alto and pursued them into the chaparral. In a vicious gunfight that lasted only 30 minutes, Texas Ranger Privates John Fox, Thomas Grier, William McKay and Nicholas R. Milett were killed, and four others were badly wounded.

15 April, 1872

Eight Deputy U.S. Marshals were shot and killed in what came to be known as the Going Snake Massacre, which occurred in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The lawmen went to a murder trial armed with an arrest warrant to detain the defendant if he was acquitted. As the lawmen approached the building, they were fired upon by a group of men who were waiting inside. Six members of the posse were killed on the spot: Special Deputies Black Sut Beck, Sam Beck, William Hicks, Jim Ward and Riley Woods, along with Posseman George Selvidge. Posseman William Beck and Deputy Marshal Jacob Owens died the next day of their wounds.

14 March, 1873

Following the wounding in January 1873 of the Sheriff of Lampasas County, TX, a posse of seven state police officers was sent to a saloon to enforce a law prohibiting the wearing of side arms. The posse had arrested one man outside the saloon, and when they attempted to enter the saloon a gun battle ensued and three members of the Texas State Police were killed instantly: Captain Thomas Williams and Privates Wesley Cherry and J.M. Daniels. Private Andrew Melville died one month later from wounds he suffered in the gunfight.

1 May, 1885

Four members of the U.S. Marshals Service were shot and killed when their posse was ambushed while attempting to arrest several horse thieves near Calico Creek, Oklahoma. Deputy Marshal Jim Guy and Special Deputy Marshals Bill Kirksey, Andy Roff and James Roff were all shot and killed. Two of the suspects were also fatally shot, and two others were charged with murder, although they were acquitted.

4 May, 1886

Eight Chicago Police officers eventually died following a violent labor dispute known as the Haymarket Riot. The officers were at the scene of a civil disturbance when the rioters opened fire and threw a bomb into the crowd. Killed in May 1890 were Patrolmen John Barrett, Mathias Degan, Nels Hansen, George Miller, Thomas Redden, and Michael Sheehan. Patrolman Timothy O'Sullivan succumbed to his injuries two years later, in June 1888. Seventy other people were injured by the gunfire and explosion.

15 December, 1890

Six officers with the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs eventually died after attempting to arrest Sitting Bull, the leader of the Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota: Lieutenant Henry Bullhead, Sergeants James Little Eagle and Charles Shavehead, Private Paul Akicitah, and Officers John Armstrong and David Hawkman. After arresting the Chief, the officers were traveling back to their headquarters when they were attacked by a group led by the chief's son. Four officers were killed immediately and two were seriously wounded in the attack. The Sioux Chief was also killed, along with his son. The two injured officers later died of their wounds.

19 July, 1898

An employee of an explosives company murdered a fellow worker in a dispute over lottery tickets, then barricaded himself in the building and threatened to blow it up if an attempt was made to arrest him. The standoff continued into the next day, when the suspect told a sheriff's deputy that he was ready to come out. As the deputies approached the building, an explosion shook the site, killing Deputies Daniel Cameron, Gustave Koch, John Lerri, Charles White and George Woodsum of the Alameda County (CA) Sheriff's Office. A female bystander and the suspect were also killed in the blast.

27/28 July, 1900

The day after a suspect shot and wounded a New Orleans Police officer, a team of officers tracked the suspect to his home. When they entered, the suspect opened fire with a .38 caliber Winchester rifle, mortally wounding Captain John Day and Patrolman Peter Lamb. Other officers immediately surrounded the home, but the suspect was able to escape. Investigators soon received a tip with a location where the suspect was hiding. When officers arrived at the scene, the suspect shot and killed Sergeant Gabriel Porteous and Corporal John Lally and wounded three other officers before being killed himself.

8 September, 1900

On the evening of September 8, 1900, a massive hurricane (Category 4 by today's standards) struck the Gulf Coast at Galveston, TX. An estimated 8,000 people were killed, and the Galveston Police Department lost more than half of its officers in the storm. Four of those officers — Adolph Howe, F.L. Richards, Samuel Tovrea and Charles Wolfe — were killed as they attempted to rescue several families trapped in the downtown area.

6 April, 1902

Sheriff Charles Gassaway and five Colbert County (AL) Deputy Sheriffs were shot and killed while attempting to arrest a suspect for a fraud offense. The suspect informed the sheriff that he would be ready to go in a moment but returned with a Winchester rifle, immediately shooting Sheriff Gassaway and brother, Deputy William Gassaway. The suspect then barricaded himself in the house as other deputies arrived at the scene. Firing from inside the house, he shot and mortally wounded Deputies Jesse Davis, James Payne, Pat Prout and Bob Wallace. The suspect was eventually shot and killed after officers opened fire with more than 1,000 rounds.

24 November, 1917

In what remains the second deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history (after September 11, 2001), nine Milwaukee Police officers were killed in a bomb blast at a police station. It was a Saturday evening, and a suspicious package was discovered alongside the Italian Evangelical Church in downtown Milwaukee. A scrubwoman for the church had discovered the package, and a boy named Sam Mazzone was summoned to take it to the police station. The boy arrived with the package shortly after 7 pm, as a group of detectives was filing out of roll call in the first floor assembly room. According to a police department report, “As detectives examined the package with a fury of haste, it exploded, immediately killing [nine police officers.]” The officers killed were Patrolman Henry Deckert and Detectives Frank Caswin, Fred Kaiser, David O'Brien, Stephen H. Stecker, Charles Seehawer, Edward Spindler, Al Templin and Paul Weiler. The culprits were never caught, but police linked the bombing to a group of anarchists who were seeking revenge against the pastor of the church that had been targeted.

20 February, 1927

Petty Officer Clarence Alexander, along with seven other crew members, drowned in a boating accident while on patrol for rum runners along the Cape Cod coast on February 20, 1927. Their picket boat CG-238 was disabled in a 70 mile gale and in a heavy snowstorm that lasted over 12 hours. The crew radioed for help but the boat crashed before assistance arrived. Warrant Officer Jesse Rivenback, Petty Officers Joseph Maxim, Cornelius Shea, Leo Krzyzanowski, Charles Freeburn, Raymond Clark and Frank McCausland all died in this incident.

3 October, 1929

Eight members of the Colorado Department of Corrections — Raymond Brown, John Eeles, Elmer Erwin, Myron H. Goodwin, John McClelland, Walter Rinker, Charles Shepherd and Robert Wiggins — were all killed in a deadly riot at the Colorado State Penitentiary. This incident was preceded earlier that summer by a series of riots in two New York prisons and the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS. In the Colorado riot, large sections of the prison were destroyed by fire, and it is estimated that more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition were fired during the melee. Though he ultimately died seven days later from gunshot wounds to the chest, Officer Goodwin is credited with helping stop a general break by the 1,200 inmates. Stationed in tower No. 1, Officer Goodwin threw away his keys when the attack started and began firing. He is credited with fatally shooting the ring leader of the disturbance.

2 January, 1932

In what became known as the Young Brothers Massacre, six Missouri lawmen were killed as they attempted to apprehend two suspects wanted in the murder of Greene County Marshal Mark Noe. They were Greene County Sheriff Marcell Hendrix; Deputies Ollie Crosswhite and Wiley Mashburn; and Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver, Detective Sidney Meadows and Officer Charley Houser, all of the Springfield Police Department. Acting on a tip, an 11-man posse went to the family farm belonging to the Young clan and surrounded the residence in an attempt to arrest the suspects. The posse was fired upon, and Sheriff Hendrix and Deputy Mashburn were struck. After witnessing the shooting, Deputy Crosswhite ran to the back of the house and entered through the kitchen door, hoping to catch the shooters off guard. But as he went to the back of the house he was fatally shot. The other three lawmen were killed in the ensuing shootout. The suspects fled to Texas, but were eventually tracked down. They committed suicide once their residence was surrounded.

30 October, 1950

Eight members of the Puerto Rico Police Department were shot and killed during a political revolt led by the Nationalist Party, which was attempting to overthrow U.S. presence on the island. The insurrection called for the attack of every police department and military installation on Puerto Rico. The carnage almost was averted: the day before the planned attack, a large number of arrests were made by the Puerto Rico Police and FBI. However, the assault still went on and led to the deaths of dozens of individuals, including the eight law enforcement officials: Chief of Police Aurelio Miranda-Rivera, Lieutenant Ramon Villanueva-Moro, Corporal Ramon Robles-Castillo, and Policemen Virgilio Camacho-Reyes, Jesus Felciano-Ruiz, Luis Rivera-Cardona and Dionisio Rivera-Yolistruck.

6 April, 1970

Four California Highway Patrolmen — George Alleyn, Walt Frago, Roger Gore and James Pence — died in a fierce, four-minute gun battle with two heavily-armed suspects near Valencia. Patrolmen Frago and Gore were shot and killed in the driveway of a service station after following a suspicious vehicle. Patrolmen Alleyn and Pence were the backup and arrived shortly thereafter, only to be killed in the ensuing gun battle. The gunmen were able to make the escape after firing upon the third and fourth units to arrive on the scene. One of the offenders was later captured, and the other committed suicide after taking several hostages. The Newhall Incident, named for the California Highway Patrol station where the officers worked, reverberated throughout the law enforcement community and led to major reforms in training procedures, firearms use and arrest techniques.

11/13 September, 1971

Seven Correctional Officers were killed during inmate riots at the Attica State Prison in upstate New York. On September 9, a group of inmates began the riot and took control of a large portion of the prison; in the process, they severely beat Correctional Officer William Quinn, who died two days later. Later that day, State Police retook most of the prison, but nearly 1,300 convicts occupied an exercise field, where they held 39 prison guards and employees hostage for four days. After negotiations stalled, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the State Police to regain control of the prison by force. During the operation, six other correctional officers were killed: Edward Cunningham, John D'Archangelo Jr., Richard Lewis, Carl Valone, Ronald Werner and Harrison Whalen. Twenty-nine inmates and three civilian employees were also killed.

31 December, 1972 / 7 January, 1973

Over the course of this eight-day period, five law enforcement officers in New Orleans were shot and killed by a sniper who was a member of the radical group, Black Panthers. New Orleans Police Cadet Alfred Harrell was shot and killed just before 11 pm on New Year's Eve, just five minutes before he was scheduled to end his shift working the gate at Central Lockup. Minutes later, the suspect shot Sergeant Edwin Hosli, who was searching a nearby warehouse after an alarm went off. Sergeant Hosli succumbed to his wounds on March 5, 1973. On January 7, 1973, the same suspect shot and killed Deputy Superintendent Louis Sirgo and Patrolmen Philip Coleman and Paul Persigo, after setting fires and shooting at civilians in a hotel. The suspect was shot and killed by police, who used a Marine helicopter to fly over the hotel he was holed up in and fire at him.

16 December, 1982

FBI Special Agents Robert Conners, Charles Ellington Terry Herford and Michael Lynch all died in an aircraft accident while on approach to Cincinnati's Lunken Airport. The agents were escorting a bank fraud suspect and his lawyer to Cincinnati as part of an ongoing investigation.

5 July, 1984

Four members of the DeQueen (AR) Police Department were killed in a head-on automobile accident. The officers-Sergeant Roy Brewer, Patrolmen William Gilham and Herman Jones, Captain William Mills-were traveling to attend the funeral of Arkansas State Police Trooper Louis Bryant. Trooper Bryant had been shot and killed in the line of duty six days earlier.

24 October, 1988

Five California law enforcement officers were killed in a helicopter crash during a joint drug interdiction mission. The helicopter snagged on a power line and exploded into a hillside in western Imperial County. Killed in the incident were Deputy Sheriffs Roy Chester and James McSweeney of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Investigator Michael Davis of the Riverside County Sheriff's Office; Sergeant Richard Romero of the Imperial County Sheriff's Office, and Deputy Sheriff Mark Tonkin of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Three National Guardsmen also died in the crash.

24 August, 1990

Four law enforcement officers with the U.S. Coast Guard died in an airplane accident over the Caribbean. After the officers completed a counter-drug surveillance mission, the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft in which they were traveling experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed as the pilot was attempting to land at a base in Puerto Rico. Killed were Petty Officer Matthew Baker and Lieutenants Craig Lerner, Paul Perlt and Duane Stenback.

28 February, 1993

Four Special Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) were killed attempting to execute a search warrant for weapons at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX: Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert J. Williams and Steven Willis. The Branch Davidians were a religious cult that idolized their leader, David Koresh. A two-month standoff followed the initial raid and ended when the Branch Davidians conducted a mass murder-suicide, which resulted in the deaths of over 80 of its members.

27 August, 1994

Five Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agents died in a plane crash during a reconnaissance mission near Santa Lucia, Peru. This mission was being flown as part of Operation Snowcap, DEA's cocaine suppression program in Latin America. Killed were Special Agents Frank Fernandez Jr., Jay Seale, Meredith Thompson, Juan Vars and Frank Wallace.

19 April, 1995

Eight federal law enforcement officers were killed when domestic terrorists led by Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK. The terrorists detonated a massive truck bomb outside building, killing a total of 168 civilians and government workers, including numerous children in an on-site day care facility. Among the law enforcement who died were four members of the U.S. Secret Service: Assistant Special Agent in Charge Alan Whicher and Special Agents Cynthia Brown, Donald Leonard and Mickey Maroney. Also killed were Senior Special Agents Paul Ice and Claude Medearis of the U.S. Customs Service, Special Agents Paul Broxterman of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Special Agent Kenneth McCullough of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

27 February, 1997

Eleven correctional officers, all members of the Georgia Department of Corrections who worked at the Rutledge Correctional Institution, were traveling in a van returning from an emergency response team training class. As they were driving on I-75, a tractor trailer forced them off the road and directly in the path of two tractor trailers heading in the opposite direction. Both semis struck the van simultaneously. Seven of the correctional officers were seriously injured, and four were killed: Sergeant Tommie Lee Goggins, and Officers Carlton Cherry Sr., Eddie Davis and Wayne Griglen. The driver of the vehicle that caused the accident was charged with four counts of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

11 September, 2001

The deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history, 72 officers were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks on America. Seventy-one of the officers died while responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, including 37 members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. That represented the single largest loss of law enforcement personnel by a single agency in U.S. history. Also killed at the World Trade Center were 23 members of the New York City Police Department; five members of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; three members of the New York State Office of Court Administration; and one law enforcement member each of the New York City Fire Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service. In addition, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer died in the crash of United Flight 93 outside Shanksville, PA; it is believed he was among the passengers who attempted to retake the plane from the terrorists before it crashed.

29 November, 2009

Four members of the Lakewood (WA) Police Department were shot and killed in an ambush attack as they sat in a coffee shop catching up on paperwork and planning for their upcoming shift. A lone gunman walked in and opened fire on the officers, who were in full uniform and wearing protective safety vests. Sergeant Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards were all veteran law enforcement officers, with between 8 and 14 years of experience each. All four had been members of the Lakewood Police Department since it was founded in 2004 in the community outside Tacoma. The officers were the first members of the agency to be killed in the performance of duty. The suspect is a career criminal who had recently been released from jail and has an extensive criminal history in both Washington state and Arkansas.


History of the Baltimore County Police Department


One of the first police forces in history.

The Baltimore County Police Department was established by the Maryland State Legislature on April 11, 1874. The Maryland Legislature approved what became Chapter 374 of the Laws of Maryland. This authorized the Baltimore County Commissioners "to appoint such number of policemen as they deemed necessary, for the better protection of persons and property; the number not to exceed thirty at any given time, and to designate such number of said policemen as they may deem advisable, not exceeding five, as chief policemen."

A second provision stated that "the pay of each policeman shall be two dollars per day, except such police as may be mounted; and mounted policemen shall furnish their own horses, trappings, equipment and forage for horses, and the pay of the mounted policemen shall be three dollars per day." On June 17, 1874, the County Commissioners divided the two mile portion of the county   bordering the Baltimore City boundary into five districts and appointed the first police force. Officers were appointed to one year terms.


County Commissioners were authorized to build a station house at Waverly. The Canton Station was added a year later.


Historic Marshal of Police.

In 1883 a new position was created, Marshal of Police. Charles O. Kemp was appointed to this office. Marshal Kemp, a loyal Democrat, had been the Superintendent of the Baltimore County Almshouse. He had served as a trustee for one of the schools in the Fifth District. The new position consolidated the responsibility and control of the police force under one person instead of individual chiefs for each police district.


The first call boxes were installed in the area around Huntington Ave., North Ave., Jones Falls., and 28th Street.


A new station was built in Mount Winans.


- A 17 square mile portion of Baltimore County was annexed by Baltimore City.
- The number of officers in the Baltimore County Police Department was cut from 33 to 10 as officers
- Station houses were absorbed into the Baltimore City Police Department.


Stations were built at Govans and Arlington.


The Mount Washington Station opened.


"Police Officer Terrence Doyle" became the first county officer to be shot when he  attempted to arrest two men for breaking into a barn. Officer Doyle was shot six times, but none of the wounds proved serious and he recovered. The two suspects were apprehended.


The Maryland General Assembly passed an act aimed at improving the background of those appointed to the Baltimore County Police force. The act stated: "all appointments hereafter made to the police force of Baltimore County shall be made from the qualified voters thereof, and all applications for such appointments shall be made upon printed blanks to be furnished free of charge by the County Commissioners, wherein the applicant shall set forth in his own handwriting his full name and age, the place and State of his birth, his occupation for two years preceding his application, and such other information as the Commissioners may require touching the merit and fitness of the applicant for the position for which he applies; such application shall be signed by the applicant, with his affidavit that the facts therein set forth are true to the best of his knowledge and belief, and shall contain blanks to be filled in by four reputable citizens of said County, certifying that the applicant is known to them for not less than one year and in character and habits, to the best of their knowledge and belief is in all respects fit for service which he wishes to enter. All appointments shall be hereafter made from applications filed not less than one month or more than two years previous to such appointments; such appointee shall not be less than 21 years nor more than 45 years of age; all officers shall be retired from service at an age not exceeding 58 years."


- Telephones were placed in the Arlington, Mount Winans, and Canton stations.
- County Commissioners approved the purchase of a patrol wagon not to exceed the cost $265.


Officers were granted twelve days of leave per year. Prior to this, officers were on duty seven days a week.


- The first female was appointed to the police force as a matron.
- Two other women, Eva Aldridge and Ruth Jones were appointed to summer positions as "Special Officers" to protect young girls at the river resorts in the Eastern part of the county.


A Harley Davidson police motorcycle.

- The first automobile was purchased
- The first motorcycle was put into service.


 Another 40 square miles of Baltimore County was annexed by Baltimore City. Baltimore County lost 34 of its 43 officers to the Baltimore City Police Department. The Canton, Arlington, Mount Winans, and Gardenville stations also became part of the city.


New stations were built in Pikesville, Halethorpe, Dundalk, Essex, and Fullerton.


- A new Baltimore County Police Headquarters was built on Washington Ave. in Towson.
- The Bureau of Identification was established. Its main purpose was to classify fingerprints and photographs and to serve as an aid in solving crime.


Catonsville Station was built.


A Turnkey at the Pikesville Station was killed by an escaping prisoner. William Hunter, who was 74 at the time, was shot by one of the two prisoners who escaped. Both prisoners were later recaptured.


- Applicants were required to pass a written test before being hired as a Baltimore County Police Officer.
- A one week training program was established.


A plain clothes unit was established and trained to handle criminal investigations.


The police academy opened in Towson.


A two way radio system was installed.


The Edgemere Station was built.


Teletype machines were installed.


A fire at the Towson Station killed two prisoners being held in the lockup despite efforts by officers to pull the bars out of the windows using a tow truck.


- The pistol range was opened in Texas, Maryland next to the County Almshouse.
- Baltimore County motorcycles became the first in the state to be equipped with two way radios.


The Training Division was formed.


A policeman and what would now be a vintage police car.

- The Traffic Division was formed.
- Armond Elliott, Frances Jackson, and James Johnson became the first three black officers appointed to the Baltimore County Police Department.


- Virginia Weed and Leah Perry became the first two women to be appointed to the Juvenile Protection Bureau with the rank of Sergeant.
- Parkville Station was opened.


The new Woodlawn Station opened replacing the 20 year old sub-station.


The Accident Investigation Unit was created. The first department manual was distributed.


A mandatory police promotional test was instituted. The first polygraph machine was purchased.


Cadet program instituted


The new Headquarters building opens on Kenilworth Drive. The K9 Unit was formed.


A new station on Wilkens Avenue replaces the Halethorpe and Catonsville stations.


Garrison Station opens on Reisterstown Road.


The new pistol range opens on Dulaney Valley Road.


The new Cockeysville station opens on Wight Avenue.


The Tactical Division was formed.


A new Essex station was built. The Fraternal Order of Police was established.


The Marine Unit was established.


First female officer promoted to the rank of Major.


Hostage Negotiations Team was created.


Baltimore County Police Foundation was formed.


First black officer promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.


The Police Community Relations Council was established.


- Baltimore County officer designs the "McGruff Crime Prevention" stamp.
- Maryland's first Child Abuse Unit was established in Baltimore County.
- The Baltimore County Police Department became the first major department in the country to be awarded national accreditation.


North Point Station opened on Wise Avenue.


White Marsh Precinct opened replacing the Fullerton Station.


The first helicopter was placed into service.


The new Woodlawn Precinct opened replacing the one built in 1955.


The Citizen's Police Academy was developed.


- First black officer promoted to the rank of Colonel.
- First female officer promoted to the rank of Colonel.


The new Police Memorial was dedicated the the Court House Plaza in Towson.


The new Towson Precinct opened replacing the one built in 1927.


- Construction of new PAL centers means that, for the first time, there is a center in every precinct.
- The Department joins the CODIS database allowing it to share and access DNA information to identify suspects.
- The agency is reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
- The computer crime unit and its mission are expanded and it is renamed the Digital and Multimedia Evidence Unit.


Precinct 8 / Parkville is restored as an independent command.


Randallstown sub-station is opened.


A Police substation is opened as part of the Stembridge Community Center in Precinct 11 / Essex.


The Gang Enforcement Team is created to fight growth of gangs in the County.
A new station is opened for Precinct 4 / Pikesville.
Precinct 3's name is changed from Garrison to Franklin.


- The Violent Crime Unit is created to investigate non-fatal shootings and other serious assaults.
- Three new helicopters are acquired.
- A new station is opened for Precinct 8 / Parkville.

Revised January 27, 2013

Devider color with motto

Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department.

Anyone with information, photographs, memorabilia, or other "Baltimore City Police" items can contact Ret. Det. Kenny Driscoll at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. follow us on Twitter @BaltoPoliceHist or like us on Facebook or mail pics to 8138 Dundalk Ave. Baltimore Md. 21222

  Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll

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Copies of: Baltimore Police Department class photos, pictures of officers, vehicles, equipment, newspaper articles relating to our department. Also wanted Departmental Newsletters, Lookouts, Wanted Posters, Hot Sheets Reports, and or Brochures. Information on retired or deceased officers, fallen or injured officers and anything that may help us to preserve the history and proud traditions of this agency.
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