Law Enforcement Overview for Police Officer Exam
By now, you probably know more about policing than you did when you first decided to select it as your career. You also probably have gathered that it is a complicated field that defies easy description. In fact, in addition to the many roles filled by police, there are many different types of agencies where you can put your skills to use. In the United States, there are more police agencies than anywhere else in the world, and there are many different types of agencies that we call "police." The major categories of police agencies include local police; county police; county sheriffs' offices; state police; special jurisdiction police (which might include airports, parks, transit systems, and campus and school districts), or even more specialized agencies enforcing professional licensing regulations. These last agencies are distinct from federal law enforcement, which is a different category altogether with different requirements and application procedures. There are also parts of the country where civilian agencies employ a small number of police or where city or county prosecutors employ their own law enforcement personnel.
Law enforcement is generally divided into federal (which is not included in this book) and state and local, which includes municipal police, county police, sheriffs' offices, special jurisdiction agencies, and constable/marshal agencies. Even the term "law enforcement" can be confusing, because for many people the term expands to include private security officers and others who provide enforcement services but are not police officers. However, when individuals refer to "police" or "police officers" they usually mean members of law enforcement agencies with full powers of arrest and the right to carry a firearm.
The term "police department" is usually reserved for state and local agencies. Although it may it may seem hard to believe, there are almost 18,000 such state and local agencies around the country. They range in size from the New York City Police Department (NYPD)—with a sworn officer staff complement that has recently been reduced to "only" 35,000 compared to about 40,000 in 2001—to departments of only one officer. According to figures published in 2007 by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 (the latest year for which complete figures were available), state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than one million people on a full-time basis, about 750,000 of whom were sworn officers. These figures translate into about one sworn law enforcement officer for every 400 to 500 people in the nation. However, different jurisdictions have very different ratios of police to population. Although it might seem logical that cities with more crime try to have a lower ratio (meaning more police per citizen) the ratio is more likely influenced by a jurisdiction's ability to fund a particular size police department in relationship to other requirements. The result is often that cities with less crime and a higher tax base will have more officers per capita than a poorer, more crime-prone jurisdiction.
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