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British police officers in London.

Police are a group of people whose job it is to enforce laws, help with emergencies, solve crimes and protect property. People who work for the police are called police officers or policemen. They work out of a police station. Police are trained in first aid and rescue, because police officers are often one of the first people to get to a place where people are sick or injured, such as a car accident, or a fire.

Powers[change | change source]

The police have different powers to help them do their job. These powers are different in different countries. Most police officers have the power to arrest people, search people, and search houses/properties. They sometimes carry equipment such as guns, batons, tasers, or pepper spray. The area where police officers can use these powers is called their jurisdiction. If officers are outside of their jurisdiction, another police force with jurisdiction can then use their powers.

Duties[change | change source]

The police deal with;

  • Stopping crime and protecting the public. They do this by patrolling on foot in uniform and in police cars. This can stop some forms of criminal behavior.
  • Investigating crime. This means that the police find out who did the crime. Some crimes, such as robbery or murder are investigated by detectives.
  • To help in emergencies or problems that are not crimes. This may be car accidents, fires, or people who are sick or hurt. The police work with firefighters, ambulances, and rescuers. They might direct traffic, help lost children, or give traffic tickets.

Parts of police departments[change | change source]

Most police departments have officers in two main groups: a "patrol" group with officers who wear uniforms, and a "detective" group with officers who wear normal clothing.

  • Patrol officers travel through their area. They may travel by foot, on bicycle or motorcycle, or in marked cars. The cars have warning lights and sirens that can be used. The sirens make a loud sound. Patrol officers enforce motor vehicle and criminal laws. In some locations patrol officers manage the local jail.
  • Detectives work on investigations that are more complex. They try to find fraud, illegal drugs, and sex crimes like prostitution, human trafficking, and rape. Prostitution is not a crime in all countries.

Not all countries use the same words to describe these groups. In the United Kingdom, for example, patrol officers form the "uniform branch", while detectives work within the CID ("Criminal Investigation Department").

Police uniforms, equipment and methods vary depending on the country. In some places, groups of police train for special jobs such as dealing with riots or dealing with highly dangerous criminals.

A Polish police officer with some of his equipment

Police in different countries[change | change source]

Different countries have different names for their police. In Ireland, they are called the Garda. In Russia, they were called the Militsiyer until 2012; now, they are called the Politsiyer. Other names for police services are sheriff's office, marshal's office or department of public safety. In the same country there can be different types of police officers who have powers in different areas and situations, such as state police, military police and local police.

Worldwide, police are a small percentage of the number of people they serve. On average there are 303.3 police officers per 100,000 people.[1]

A Spanish police car

Equipment[change | change source]

In many countries, police officers carry guns during their normal duties. In other countries, like the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Republic of Ireland, most police officers do not carry guns.

Officers communicate using radio devices. The radios can be on both the uniform and in the patrol vehicle.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. International Statistics on Crime and Justice, eds. S. Harrendorf; M. Heiskanen; S. Malby (Helsinki, European Institute for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2010), p. 115