Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Stacy K. McGoldrick
Police forces are agencies empowered by some level of government—local, county, state, or federal—to maintain social order through legal means, coercion, or use of force. Police serve as the enforcement arm of the criminal justice system, which consists of police, the judiciary, and corrections. Unlike many other countries, the United States has decentralized police forces. With localism distinguishing U.S. police forces since their conception, municipal government and police chiefs have been fundamental to shaping police activities, resulting in police forces in different places that are often quite different from each other. This legacy of decentralized police organization and lack of coordination among district, county, and state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service was cited as problematic in The 9/11 Commission Report and led to the development of the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with local police departments, although it still has an Although ...