Law enforcement is for the most part a function of state and local officers as well as agencies. Most policing in the Unites States are a state, county and municipal function. The jurisdiction of these agencies essentially is the reverse of that of federal agencies. For instance, while federal agencies have very large territorial jurisdiction, state and local agencies have very narrow territorial jurisdiction. This is so because their authority is limited to the boundaries of their region. Therefore, the paper will evaluate the roles of Municipal, County, and State law enforcement agencies, their differences and how they are funded.
Since country sheriffs were proved ineffective with dealing with the wide-ranging criminal activities and local police agencies were unable to protect effectively against highly mobile lawbreakers, the state police agencies were developed to be responsible for the state. The role of state agencies is under the state police and state highway patrol. Both state police and state highway patrol have the power to keep the peace within the state. However, state police are mainly responsible for policing state property and providing protection for the governor (Ortmeier, 1998). This is so because they were established to deal with the growing crime in cities due an increase in population mobility. For instance, the Texas Rangers are credited with being the first state police agency.
The main role of state highway patrol agencies is traffic law enforcement. This was established because of an increased arrival of personalized mass transportation in the form of the automobile. Currently, state police agencies have same general police powers as municipal police and are territorial limited in their exercise of law enforcement regulations. State police agencies provide investigative service to smaller communities when the need arises. Some state agencies, direct most of their attention to the enforcement of traffic laws. Others are restricted by legislation from being involved in the enforcement of certain areas of the law. For instance, in some jurisdictions, state agencies are prohibited from being involved in strikes or other labor disputes unless violence erupts (Siegel and Worrall, 2014). State agencies provide special services and technical expertise in such areas as homicide investigations. Some state agencies such as California’s are involved in highly sophisticated traffic and highway safety programs.
The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county. The sheriff and his or deputies provide law enforcement services throughout the county and may in many jurisdictions, staff county jails. The county sheriff’s role has changed significantly from past decades when his or her duty was to assist the royal judges in their jurisdiction. During this period, the sheriff had been often the sole legal authority over vast territories. Currently, the roles of a country sheriff vary based on the size and magnitude of the development of the country (Siegel and Worrall, 2014). In some jurisdictions, they provide basic law enforcement services such as performing routine patrols. They also respond to citizen calls for service and investigating crimes. The county sheriff serves civil process, providing court security and operating the county jail.
In some cases, the county sheriff may serve as tax collectors, overseers of highways and bridge and providers of fire and emergency medical services among others. Therefore, the law enforcement roles of the country agencies are restricted to unincorporated areas, unless a state police agency requests its help. Meanwhile, some county agencies are exclusively law enforcement oriented where some carry out court-related duties only while some are involved solely in corrections and judicial matters. However, the majority are full-serve programs that carry out judicial, correctional and law enforcement activities. As a rule, agencies serving heavily populated areas are devoted to maintaining county correctional facilities, while those in areas with a smaller population focus on law enforcement.
The municipal or local agency provides police services to villages, towns and cities. These agencies, mainly confine themselves to the city limits and are headed by a chief who politically appointed by the mayor, city council or police commission (Samaha, 2006). In some cities that have a department of public safety, the police chief may be provided with civil service protection. Municipal police agencies are given opportunity to provide valuable community service. This is so because municipal police officer’s responsibilities are immense and are mainly forced to make split-second decisions on life and death matters.
Similarly, they are expected to consider the needs of citizens regardless of their racial and ethnic backgrounds (Siegel and Worrall, 2014). Local police perform multiple roles such as investigating crimes, identifying suspects and making arrests. Smaller agencies can provide significant specialized services that might have to be relinquished if they were incorporated into larger departments. This makes several small police agencies in each state often offer duplicate services.
In a recap, a variety of agencies is meant to provide law enforcement within their locality. Therefore, County sheriffs serve as the main law enforcement body at the country level. The state police agencies serve as the primary law enforcement body at the state level while the chief police serve as the main law enforcement body at the local level. In order to perform their function effectively, law enforcement agencies receive their funding from grants, investigations they carry and federal government.
Samaha, J. (2006). Criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Siegel, L.,Worrall, J. (2014). Essentials of Criminal Justice. New York: CengageBrain Inc.
Ortmeier, P. J. (1998). Public safety and security administration. Boston: Butterworth- Heinemann.