Law Enforcement is a broad term that refers to the act of preventing, correcting, finding, and punishing any violations of the Law of the Land in the concerned country or organization. Usually, the most evident and common agency that enforces the law in most of the countries of the world is the Police.
Every country has its own set of Laws, usually written in a constitution. There are people sworn under an oath to protect the laws and prevent any violations. Such people are the most concerned with Law Enforcement and burden the most responsibility.
The Law Enforcement agencies in the world can broadly be categorized as follows:
- International: The Interpol for instance, has jurisdiction in most countries of the world. It is called upon to help solve crimes that span more than a single country. International criminals are pursued by the International Law Enforcement agencies.
- National/Federal: These law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction over the span of an entire nation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States and Central Bureau of Investigation in India being examples from prominent democratic countries.
- State: As is the case with both the United States, India and several other nations, each state has its own set of Law Enforcement agencies. Most common among these is the state police. The state agencies have the duty of preventing violation of the law within their state. They often cooperate with other state’s agencies as well as National/Federal agencies like the FBI.
- Organizational: Several prominent organizations in the world have their own guiding laws and law enforcement agencies. Military police being the obvious example in many countries. The Indian Railways has its own Railway Protection Force, which is also a national Law enforcement agency.
Nature of Law Enforcement
The kind of Law Enforcement depends on the law that is being violated. Simply put, it depends on the nature of the offense as to which type of Law enforcement would deal with it.
When it is a violation of someone’s safety, the police or other armed agencies take control. Drug-related crimes may be handled by specific agencies like the DEA. Monetary breaches of the law are dealt with by dedicated fraud investigating agencies. Hence, depending on the method in which the law has been violated, the law enforcement agency changes as well.
This organization of Law enforcement agencies helps keep things in order and segregated. It keeps from creating an undue burden on any one of the agencies by distributing the workload of law enforcement across agencies.
The Three Arms of Criminal Justice
Law Enforcement in itself is incomplete without the two principal arms of the criminal justice system in the United States. The process begins with investigation and apprehension, but the later stages of delivering justice involve the other arms. The following three are the arms of Criminal Justice System:
- Law Enforcement: concerned with investigating and apprehending suspects and accused people.
- Courts: through the use of a fair trial, decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. If convicted, the third arm comes into play.
- Corrections: The prison system, or a fine. These places are meant to punish and rehabilitate the people found guilty of violating the law.
The Main Types of Law Enforcement agencies in the US
The task of Law Enforcement is daunting and as such, responsibility has been distributed in the United States in the following order:
- Federal: Specific cases of importance, or when committed in more than one state.
- State: Cases of law violation that are overseen by state police.
- County: Distributed into Police and the Sheriff’s office. They cooperate in Law Enforcement activities to maintain Law and order to a respectable level.
- Municipal: The Law Enforcement at the municipal level. Usually found in larger cities like New York City.
How Law Enforcement has evolved
There were days in the centuries that had gone by when the United States had a Police system that was not as heavily militarized as today. Now there are SWAT teams ready to respond to any hazards to life and property as well as Police equipped with heavy duty assault rifles.
This change has occurred mainly due to the presence of organized crime, drug mafias, etc. It is hard to argue against this militarization of Police in the face of several gangsters spilling the blood of innocent people on the streets and otherwise.
Law enforcement is what keeps people safe, though recent events do little to dispel the doubts of some sections of the society. It is indeed necessary and important.