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Police station on an island in Malaysia

The police (from ancient Greek πολιτεία politeía , state administration, like politics ) is an executive body of a state . The police authorities, the police officers, the police force and in a figurative sense also a police building are referred to as "police".

Scope of policing

Their powers are regulated , among other things, in police law (law of the police). She has in most states tasks that public safety and order to ensure or restore the road to control or to monitor and as a law enforcement agency to investigate offenses and disorderly actions. In the former role, you often have the role of emergency help with your own emergency number . Another task in all countries of the world is to avert threats in the area of internal security , i.e. the prevention or suppression of acts that are either punishable or fined or are subject to a legal prohibition.

In contrast to almost all other persons or organs - with a few exceptions , depending on the state , such as the customs authorities or the army - the police, as the executive body of the state monopoly on the use of force, is obliged to use force through direct coercion , taking into account proportionality and within the legal framework Limits allowed. In almost all countries the police operate through their law enforcement officers . The police uniform they wear is characteristic of them .

The police are one of the first institutions to be alerted in the chain of emergency response organizations . In countries of the European Union , Switzerland and some other countries, the police, as well as the fire brigade and rescue service , can be reached by telephone via the European emergency number 112 .

Delimitation from other services

The police structures vary greatly from state to state. The demarcation between the military and the police as armed state executive organs results from the departmental responsibilities: The police are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior of the federal state or the national state (in the USA the commune or an empowered authority such as a university ) and usually represent the state internally while the military is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and secures the state militarily to the outside world and at its borders. This does not exclude the possibility that the police organization of a state can be organized in a military-like manner or militarily. Examples of this are the Italian Carabinieri or, until 1976, the German Federal Border Guard , now the Federal Police . Some of these police units belong to the Ministry of Defense, are part of the regular army or have military training, even if they only perform police tasks on behalf of the Ministry of Interior and Justice in peacetime. In the event of war, they can be used as combatants if they meet the international legal requirements of combatant status. A current example of this is the use of the Carabinieri in Iraq after the Iraq war .

One of the main areas of activity is the investigation , prosecution and punishment of administrative offenses.

The police as an institution must also be differentiated from private security services ( guard / security service / security), which are usually not granted special rights by the state and are therefore not executive organs of the state's monopoly of force and therefore often only act as executive organs for private domestic law . They exercise their rights on behalf of the owners and also have the rights to which every citizen is entitled ( self-defense , emergency aid , state of emergency , right to provisional arrest and property defense ). For further steps you have to use the services of the police.

Most states are members of the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-Interpol) , founded to improve international cooperation and coordination, especially (but not only) in the area of ​​cross-border crime .

The organization of the police is very different.


Etymologically , the term police comes from the ancient Greek πόλις polis , "city-state". The derivation πολιτεία politeía , "state administration", was first adopted in late Latin as politia , later the spelling changed to policia . Outside of Greece , this term initially referred to the entire public administration as a buzzword of the Romans (still recognizable today in the terms “building police” and “fire police”). Since the Middle Ages was good Policey used as an expression of good administration. The term police state was originally used with this meaning . This meant a caring ( welfare state ) as well as a repressive activity of an all-responsible state extending to all areas of life .

Only with the rise of liberalism was the state's responsibility for the well-being of the individual disputed and the repressive element brought to the fore. The state only had to protect against encroachments on freedom and property, but otherwise leave the citizen to independently develop his personality ( night watchman state ). Since then, the term “police state” has been understood to mean an overly repressive state.

The originally derogatory, but now generally colloquial term "bull" has its origin in the Rotwelsch (crook) language: there a policeman is referred to as "puhler".

Individual states


The Australian police force is divided into two stages: the state police forces and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which has existed since 1979 .




Police patrol car in Bremen
Snowmobile police Baden-Wuerttemberg, the Feldberg used

In some areas of Germany the police term is used in a more comprehensive sense (e.g. § 59 PolG Baden-Württemberg) and includes all state bodies active in the area of hazard prevention (e.g. fire police or construction police). The uniformed police and the criminal police make up the law enforcement service , the other authorities are referred to as police authorities . This unit system is to be distinguished from the separation system. In the separation system, administrative authorities take on the task of averting danger. The police in the institutional sense only acts on a subsidiary basis if the administrative authority cannot intervene or cannot intervene in time. The administrative authorities are usually located in the cities and municipalities and are called regulatory authorities , police authorities or security authorities . The structure is handled very differently in the municipalities, it ranges from pure desk work to enforcement services equipped like the city police, such as in Darmstadt ( Darmstadt municipal police ), Düsseldorf or Frankfurt am Main ( Frankfurt city police ).

Since police and regulatory law are a matter for the federal states, the structure varies in the individual federal states. In North Rhine-Westphalia there is a strict separation, in Baden-Württemberg the only difference is that the police enforcement service is responsible for immediate measures and the executive body of the police authority, while the police authorities are responsible for longer-term and administrative measures . The former German Federal Border Police (now the Federal Police) had combatant status until 1994 , but not the police authorities of the German states, although this was the subject of political disputes. Police officers are also deployed in the context of EU , UN and OSCE missions abroad (for example in Kosovo ).

The Federal Police (BPOL), until June 30, 2005 under the name of the Federal Border Police, is a federal police force. It belongs to the division of the Federal Ministry of the Interior . Your tasks and powers are based on the Federal Police Act (BPolG). Other federal police authorities are the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the police at the German Bundestag .

The Military Police of the Armed Forces shall perform military police duties; however, it must be clearly distinguished from the police forces of the federal states and the federal states. In peacetime military police officers have no authority to issue instructions to non-Bundeswehr members unless it is absolutely necessary for the performance of their primary tasks (e.g. setting up a military security area , for example after the crash of a Bundeswehr helicopter) or the people are in a military (security) ) Area. Since the Bundeswehr took part in international missions abroad, the military police / military police have performed police duties. The appearance has changed so that as an alternative to the armband with the inscription Feldjäger, they wear a black armband with a white "MP" ( Military Police ) . Furthermore, in view of the threat of terrorism, it has long been discussed whether the Bundeswehr may also be deployed domestically in severe dangerous situations.

The regulatory authorities (in Bavaria : security authorities ), on the other hand, can be counted among the police , depending on the underlying police definition . Like the police, they have the task of warding off dangers to public safety and order. In doing so, they fulfill the substantive definition of the police and take on the function of an administrative police. They have powers that are just as extensive as the police.

The nationwide prevention of criminal offenses is controlled by the police crime prevention of the federal states and the federal government with the headquarters of the central office in Stuttgart.

The police enforcement service is also alternative military service in Germany . Until the 1970s there was the Federal instead of compulsory military service , the border defense service . The conscription was fulfilled after completing the border guard duty and vice versa.

The German police also represent the interests of other offices within the scope of their express jurisdiction .


In Estonia , the tasks of the police are combined with those of border guards in the Police and Border Guard Office.


French gendarmerie

In France , police tasks are divided between three authorities: there are two civil police authorities, the National Police ( Police nationale) at national level, which report to the Ministry of the Interior, and the municipal police ( Police municipale ), which report to the Mayor . Furthermore, in rural communities there is often a guard champêtre (field guard) who is responsible for field protection and environmental protection. There is also the nationally organized military gendarmerie , which was subordinate to the Ministry of Defense until 2009 and has also been subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior since January 1, 2009. The municipal police have only limited rights and are usually only allowed to monitor local law and compliance with traffic regulations.


In Israel , the police are not under the Ministry of the Interior, but the Ministry of Internal Security.


Italy does not have a federally structured police system, but maintains several national police bodies, some of which have overlapping responsibilities, also to prevent concentrations of power in one hand or in a ministry. The civilian state police ( Polizia di Stato ), which operate mainly in larger cities, are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior . The Carabinieri subject to as a fourth part Force the Ministry of Defense and provided to transfer the MOI police service. You have a dense network of guard stations, especially in the countryside. A third national police force is the Guardia di Finanza , a militarily organized financial and customs police that is subordinate to the Ministry of Economy and Finance and is responsible for combating economic crime. She is also primarily active in the field of tax and customs investigations .

At the local level, there are often municipal police forces ( Polizia Municipale ), which are mainly responsible for regulating local road traffic.


A vehicle of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the capital Ottawa

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (abbreviation RCMP , German about "royal Canadian mounted police", colloquial abbreviation Mounties , French Gendarmerie royale du Canada , GRC ) is the national police of Canada , which on behalf of the provinces (except Ontario and Québec ) and territories as well in many municipalities also performs local tasks. The two largest provinces have their own provincial police with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Sûreté du Québec, where the RCMP's mandate is limited to the protection of federal institutions.

There are also police authorities at the provincial level (e.g. British Columbia Sheriff Service (English) , Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (English) ) and at regional or local level (e.g. Toronto Police Service , York Regional Police). There are also police authorities at the federal level with special tasks (e.g. Parks Canada Warden). Similar to the United States, there are separate police departments for the areas of Indian tribes and other indigenous people. The two large private railway companies ( CP and CN ) each have their own police force to secure their facilities. Some local transport operators and some universities have set up their own auxiliary police (so-called special constables ).


The Kosovo Police Force has been in existence in Kosovo since 1999 and employs around 9,000 people . Around 85 percent of Kosovar police officers are Albanians , 15 percent are Serbs or belong to another ethnic minority .


The national police are the only police in Liechtenstein . She is also responsible for running the only prison .



In the Netherlands, the police have been organized centrally since the beginning of 2013 ( National Politie ). Before it was divided into 25 police regions ( politieregios ), each with a regional corps ( regiokorps ). The management of the regional police was incumbent on a corps chief, who was supported by a regional executive committee, which also included representatives of the local city administrations and the judiciary . There was also a state police corps ( Korps Landelijke Politiediensten - KLPD), which was responsible for traffic issues on regional roads, the fight against organized crime and other general tasks.

The Dutch gendarmerie , known as the Koninklijke Marechaussee , belongs to the Ministry of Defense as a separate armed service, but is also subordinate to other ministries when carrying out their police duties.


Audi A6 patrol car of the Austrian Federal Police

In Austria , since July 1, 2005, the executive has been divided into the federal police guard , the judiciary , local security guards and the military patrol . The term Federal Police itself describes the federal police guard. He reports to the Federal Minister of the Interior and the other security authorities, the Justice Guard to the Federal Minister of Justice . A guard may be set up by a municipality or another regional authority for the area of ​​a municipality in which the state police department is not also the security authority of the 1st instance.

Since 1 July 2005, the tasks of are federal safety guard corps and the police officer corps and the federal police from the wax body federal police noticed. The new uniform name is Bundespolizei , but only police is written on the uniforms and vehicles . There is also the Federal Criminal Police Office (.BK) .

East Timor

East Timorese police station with armored vehicles

The National Police of East Timor was established in 1999 with the help of the United Nations. During the 2006 East Timorese crisis they became involved as a party in the conflict. The UN police took over the task of ensuring peace and order in the country. Little by little, the individual districts were returned to the National Police. Since 2011 she has been fully responsible again. The last international security forces left East Timor in 2013.


The Euatel , Kabekl M'tal and Bul are the fishing protection boats of Palau.

The Palau Police with the Palau Bureau of Public Division of Marine Law Enforcement (DMLE) is responsible for maritime surveillance, fisheries protection and search and rescue missions in Palau's territorial sea and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ, 200 nm around the islands).



On May 1, 2011, a law came into force in Russia, which concludes a comprehensive reform of the militia and according to which the militia was renamed the police ( Russian Полиция ).

The militia consists of two groups, the public security militia and the crime militia. Both groups differ in their function, management and funding. While the staffing and funding of the first group is determined by the local authorities, the Russian government is responsible for the criminal militia.

Militia ( Russian Милиция ) was in Russia and is the name for the police in some other successor states of the former Soviet Union .


Swedish police vehicle

The Swedish police system is centralized and subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. The police ( Swedish polisen ) consists of two organizational areas:

  • Rikspolisstyrelsen (RPS) or Rikspolisen (Reichspolizei) for short is the central administrative and supervisory authority. It can be roughly equated with the German Federal Criminal Police Office. The authority, based in Stockholm , was founded in 1964 and is headed by a Reichspolizeichef ( Rikspolischef ), who is appointed directly by the government .
  • Polismyndighet (police department), the actual police force, is divided between the 21 provinces . Each province corresponds to a police district. This is led by a Länspolismästare . The largest police department is in Stockholm County with 6,700 employees, 5,000 of them police officers. The smallest authority is that of Gotland County with 140 employees, 99 of whom are police officers.

In addition, the Säkerhetspolis (security police ) is an intelligence service that reports directly to the Rikspolisstyrelse .


Police car from Geneva

In Switzerland , the police are divided into the Federal Office of Police , the cantonal police and the city ​​/ communal police . A department of the canton police is the maritime police . The Border Guard , which is subordinate to the General Customs Directorate and thus to the Finance Department , has meanwhile been given partially parallel police powers. The Federal Police does not have its own uniformed bodies. Only the cantons and municipalities have their own police force. Furthermore, there is the SBB police corps , the railway police , which is, however, an organization under private law (stock corporation).


In Slovakia, the Police Corps of the Slovak Republic (Policajný zbor Slovenskej republiky) , which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, carries out police tasks. There are also city and community police forces and the military police.


Vehicle of the municipal police of
Alcúdia in Mallorca (Spain)

The police system in Spain is complex due to the political structure of Spain. It essentially comprises four types of police bodies:

  1. the Guardia Civil , which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior and is organized militarily ,
  2. the State National Police ( Cuerpo Nacional de Policía - CNP) of the Ministry of the Interior,
  3. the police forces of the Autonomous Communities ( Policía Autonómica ) that have been set up in the Basque Country , Catalonia and Navarre ,
  4. as well as the municipal and city ​​police (called Guardia Urbana , Policía Local or Policía Municipal ).

Czech Republic

The State Police of the Czech Republic report to the Minister of the Interior. The Police Headquarters of the Czech Republic is subordinate to him. The police are subdivided into departments with an effect on the entire national territory and departments with a regionally limited scope of action. Specifically, there are departments of the regulatory police, the criminal police , the traffic police , departments for the administration, the protection service , for the detection of corruption and serious economic crimes, for the aliens and border police , units for rapid deployment and the air service.

Police tasks include ensuring public order, combating terrorism, uncovering criminal offenses, securing perpetrators, investigating criminal offenses, protecting state borders, protecting the constitutional factors of the Czech Republic, protecting representative offices, protecting the objects of the parliamentary seat and the president of the Republic, the Constitutional Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and other particularly important objects, supervision of the safety and continuity of road traffic with detection of violations, promulgation of investigations throughout the territory of the Czech Republic and performance of state administration tasks.

In addition, there are local police authorities whose activities are more comparable to those of security agencies in Germany.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the police force is not uniformly organized. Historically, as in France, it has grown partly civilly and partly militarily. The majority of the police force are territorial police forces , which are responsible for individual regions of the United Kingdom and often emerged from historical predecessor organizations. The legal bases are the Police Act 1964 (in England and Wales) , the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 . In addition, there are national police forces with special tasks such as the British Transport Police and also private constabularies that exercise police or security service tasks based on historical rights or on the basis of common law .

The uniforms and colors of the emergency vehicles only differ in their intended use (traffic police , personal protection for the diplomatic corps of foreign nations in Great Britain, protective police, etc.), but not in their administrative affiliation.

The best-known international police force in Great Britain is the MET, the Metropolitan Police Service in London , which has had its headquarters in New Scotland Yard since it moved in 1967 and almost 32,000 police officers in civilian services (such as the criminal police) and uniformed services (such as the police force) ) employed. There are also smaller police forces in Great Britain with only around a dozen employees, but formally equivalent to any other police force within the UK.

United States

In the United States , police power is distributed across many different levels of the federal system. At the federal level, the FBI is responsible for investigating crimes committed against federal law. These mainly concern areas of interstate trade and organized crime, but also those of such crimes as kidnapping. On a state level, there is the State Police ( State Police ), often state for monitoring the highways and the guard is responsible. At the county or district level , the sheriffs are responsible for everything that happens outside of cities and incorporated communities.

However, there are also cities and towns with sheriffs in districts and counties for which their own sheriff or police are responsible. The same is true the other way round. The sheriff is elected directly by the population, the electoral period varies from region to region (12 months to 4 years). Any US citizen can stand for election. The sheriff is entitled to delegate part of his duties to assistants (deputies) .

In addition to the fact that every municipality, every city (sometimes even every borough), every county and every state in the USA has its own police force, almost every department and agency also has its own department with the powers and capabilities of a police force , from the (quite armed) fire investigation teams of the professional fire department in Chicago, to the likewise armed investigators of the Post, the investigative authorities of customs, tax authorities, navy , army , air force , marine infantry , port authorities, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce and so on. A total of around 16,000 police forces coexist in the United States.

Contrary to the cliché conveyed by Hollywood , the cooperation between these police forces generally works very well and was only improved with the establishment of the Ministry of Internal Security in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 .

The term "police" ( Police ), however, most likely used for the salaried by the local police forces. Occasionally, universities or other agencies have been given authority by a state parliament or Congress to operate their own police force. Both the local police of the cities and the sheriffs and the special police of a certain facility have only one strictly bound local jurisdiction (for example a university police can only intervene on the campus of the respective university, the city police only within the city limits and so on) . These ties can be loosened by special agreement (for example, if a city and a university grants the other contractual partner the right to work in the other area in justified cases).

Federal level

Police violence have their own military police of the United States Armed Forces . However, there are also military authorities whose employees have the status of federal agents , these are police officers of the US Army (Criminal Investigation Division) and the US Navy or the US Marine Corps ( Naval Criminal Investigative Service ) as well as for the US Air Force the AFOSI . There are also criminal police of the Federal Treasury, the post office (US Postal Police), customs, the immigration authorities, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transport and the tax investigation department of the Department of Finance. In addition to customs, there is also the Drug Enforcement Administration for combating drugs . The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is responsible for smuggling, illegal possession and illegal production of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, firearms and explosives with nationwide relevance . Border surveillance is carried out by the renamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Border Patrol (formerly INS).

The main criminal investigation department at the federal level is the FBI . The Secret Service is responsible for certain criminal offenses against members of the government as well as for counterfeiting of money and credit cards .

The Coast Guard also has police authority in its area. The US Marshals are responsible for guarding federal courts and for special tasks .

US states

The only nationwide standardization by the police is the police emergency number, which is 911 and can be called toll-free from almost every telephone booth and from almost every mobile phone.

The individual states also have their own police investigation authorities called SBI ( State bureau of investigation ), which work in a similar way to the Federal Investigation Authority FBI (comparison: LKA to BKA ).


See also

Portal: Police  - Overview of Wikipedia content on police


Web links

Commons : Police  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Police  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. polisen.se: 21 självständiga polismyndigheter