Last Updated 27 Mar 2021

Policing Function in The U.S.

Category Crime, Police
Words 1640 (6 pages)

Law enforcement in the United States is a very unique component of the criminal justice system. Police Officers are thought to be the guardians of the gate; however, there are different levels of law enforcement that police cities, counties, and states. Law enforcement is broken down into different agencies. According to Grant and Terry (2008, p. 3-15) four levels of law enforcement exist in the United States; Most cities and counties have their own municipal and county law enforcement agencies which include city police and sheriff departments such as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Each state has its level of law enforcement as well; example of state law enforcement agencies include the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Warden.

On the federal level agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are accountable for all federal jurisdiction. Briefly, this report will outline the various perspectives of policing as they apply to the various agencies of law enforcement in the United States. Since the inception of the United States common laws, rules, and regulations have been enacted to preserve society; this report will identify and outline possible changes in current laws.

In addition, the impact of possible changes as they apply to policing will be underlined. Levels of Policing Municipal and County As mentioned earlier, law enforcement in the United States is broken up to different levels and categories. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2013), United States local law enforcement makes up two-thirds of 18,000 law enforcement agencies. The first level of policing consist of the municipal and county law enforcement agencies. The aforementioned level of law enforcement is the majority of policing in the United States.

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Local and county law enforcement officials are by far the most depended on agency in society throughout the United States. Municipal law enforcement agencies are often seen patrolling neighborhoods, responding to calls for service or enforcing traffic laws. According to Grant and Terry (2008, p. 13), “Large local law enforcement agencies often are responsible for investigating serious violent and property crimes in their jurisdictions, compared to half of state agencies (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2000). In addition to the many duties that are bestowed on to the police, local law enforcement is called upon for non-emergency and non-essential law enforcement needs. An example of the aforementioned is a call for service because a cat is stuck in a tree; again the call is non-emergency, however it is a call for service that officers respond to daily. County level policing usually consists of the Sheriff’s Department; however, Grant and Terry (2008, p. 13) suggest some counties do have a larger police force that would account for the jurisdiction of a county.

Grant and Terry (2008, p. 13) state, “in some jurisdictions this office is dissolved into a county police force that functions much the same as municipal police. ” Typically the Sheriff’s Office assumes jurisdiction in larger unincorporated areas; the scope of their duties revolve around enforcing court orders, court summons, or working the county jails. In some counties, the Sheriff’s Department’s functioning purpose is to provide police services much like a regular police agency, Grant and Terry (2008, p. 13-14).

Grant and Terry (2008, p. 14) states, “In some jurisdictions, the sheriff’s office is entirely law enforcement focused, with no other responsibilities. ” State In addition to the local and county police, each state has its own category of law enforcement. In the state of California the following agencies serve as a component in law enforcement: the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Department of Fish and Game (Warden), California Lottery Security and Law Enforcement. State Law enforcement agencies are capable of arresting and xecuting search warrants, Grant and Terry (2008, p. 14). Other functions of state level policing include state investigations, collaboration with local and county law enforcement agencies, highway traffic enforcement and investigations, and enforcing state laws. Essentially, law enforcement on the state level may conduct basic law enforcement duties; however, most state police agencies are specific such as the CHP or the California Lottery Security and Law Enforcement. Federal Federal law enforcement includes agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and the ATF.

In general federal law enforcement agencies can only enforce federal laws, where as local and state law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction over local and states matters, per Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Grant and Terry (2008, p. 15). In 2002, the Homeland Security Act was enacted; said act recognized multiple federal law enforcement agencies as part of the new Department of Homeland Security. Prior to the aforementioned act two major federal agencies were prevalent in law enforcement: the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury, Grant and Terry (2008, p. 15).

Some federal policing duties include the following: investigations, inspections, federal court, security, and protection. Changes Among the many changing laws in the United States, there are a few that could prove to be an immense impact on society, more so on policing. The recent proposal for tougher gun laws and the use of advanced technology to police society seem to be on the horizon for today’s society. On December 14th, 2012, Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting murdered twenty children and six adults; Lanza used an “assault rifle” and some other weapons to carry out the aforementioned crime.

Since the Sandy Hook incident the push for tougher gun laws has been proposed, thus causing a split in society. Currently the proposal is for a ban on “assault rifles” and ammunition sales. Some of the issues revolve around identifying certain weapons as assault weapons and limiting the amount of bullets allowed in a magazine. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” Cornell University Law School (n. d. ).

Historically, it has been proven that criminals don’t abide by the rules set forth in society. Should a tougher gun law or an assault weapons ban be imposed, the Second Amendment will be infringed on. Currently, society is split on wanting tougher gun laws; however, the other half are supportive of their right to bear arms and weapons ownership. One may wonder how this may pose as a challenge in the future of policing. The fact of the matter is law enforcement is meeting that challenge in today’s society; they are being asked to comply with a movement of recovering weapons from the streets and from responsible owners.

The positive outcome from the aforementioned action revolves around recovering unwanted and potentially dangerous weapons; however, contrary to making society a safer place, the aforementioned action also promotes an opportunity for criminals to capitalize on. One should consider the negative result of not being able to have more than eight bullets, much less not owning a gun for protection. Criminals do not abide by the rules and regulations that have been enacted, thus there lack of concern for others.

Considering the aforementioned point, the rise is crime, specifically violent crimes such as robbery, assault with deadly weapons, murder, and home invasions are all very possible. It is possible for the police to be understaffed while trying to combat the forecasted spike in crime. In addition, lots of innocent people could potentially be harmed or killed. Technology The recent proposal for using unmanned drones to assist police officers in the field is being met with mixed emotions as well. Many citizens feel as if their Constitutional rights are being violated; particularly the Fourth Amendment in the United States Constitution.

Unmanned Drones also known as Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) would assist the police departments in field operations as they fly around and provide vital real time information giving law enforcement the edge on crime fighting. The issue that arises centers around the government violating the Fourth Amendment; having the UAV fly around in a large city such as Los Angeles makes many citizens wonder if the police are using this for actual police work as opposed to randomly checking on them for non-policing monitoring. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution suggests United States citizens should be secure in heir own person and home; in addition that Amendment also include their personal papers and effects shall be free of unreasonable search or seizure from the government, and no warrant issued without probable cause. With a UAV flying around the city it is safe to assume many citizens will feel violated. In the future this will most definitely be an asset to law enforcement; however, it will come at the cost of freedom, privacy, and trust in law enforcement. Conclusion In this report the author briefly outlined the different levels of law enforcement in the United States.

Each level of policing has certain function within society, from the local and county level to the federal level. Though every level has different functions throughout law enforcement, they still seem to provide basic services in regards to policing; in addition, all levels collaborate amongst themselves to help combat crime and provide solutions to preserve peace and a sense of security in society. Furthermore, two examples of current laws have been expanded on, giving a forecast of how they will change and impact law enforcement in the future.


  1. Cornell University Law Shcool: Second Amendment. (n. d. ). Retrieved fromhttp://www. law. cornell. edu/constitution/second_amendment
  2. Cornell University Law Shcool: Fourth Amendment. (n. d. ). Retrieved fromhttp://www. law. cornell. edu/constitution/fourth_amendment
  3. Grant, H. B. , & Terry, K. J. (2008). Law Enforcement in the 21st Century (2nd ed. ). Retrievedfrom The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.
  4. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Local Police. (2013). Retrieved fromhttp://bjs. ojp. usdoj. gov/index. cfm? ty=tp&tid=71
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