A Law Enforcement Agency is generally a government organization responsible for ensuring that the laws are followed by people. They are also responsible for maintaining order and protecting property and life.

Such organizations are also called police or security forces in various countries.

Types of Law Enforcement Agencies

There are various types of Law Enforcement Agencies. Depending upon mission, jurisdiction and size, Law Enforcement Agencies can range from small town police departments to large city federal agencies.

#1 Categorization by Operation Jurisdiction (International)

Multinational Law Enforcement Agencies – They generally operate within the area of a particular country, but have personnel that are from various countries, e.g. European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

International Law Enforcement Agencies – They generally have a geographic jurisdiction across international borders, e.g. Interpol. International Law Enforcement Agencies are also Multinational by nature.

#2 Categorization by Operation Jurisdiction (Local)

Law Enforcement Agencies within a country can be at multiple levels:

A) at a sub-division level, it can be at district, county, municipality, or village level.

Larger cities like New York have their own Police Departments, having many tens of thousands of officers.

In smaller towns or unincorporated areas, we find the County police or Sheriff’s departments. Out of these County police can be more often found in larger metropolitan areas, and Sheriff’s departments in smaller towns or rural counties.

B) at the division level, it can be at state, province or territory level.

Each state usually has its own Law Enforcement Agency of some type, and they generally handle large cases that require state-wide investigation. The state agencies are also usually responsible for enforcing traffic on state and interstate highways.

C) at the federal level, the law enforcement agencies lie under the purview of a ministry or ministerial department like the Ministry of Defense in the UK or the Department of Justice in the US.

Federal Agencies have a specific mission and work along with the local agencies on long-term or large cases. They may leverage resources that localized agencies may not be able to. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are some of the investigative agencies at the federal level that work under the purview of the US Department of Justice. Federal

#3 Categorization by Empowerment

Secular or Religious Law Enforcement – Majority of the Law Enforcement Agencies around the world are of secular nature, but there are countries where the Religious law like Sharia or Halakha is held high. E.g.. in Saudi Arabia, their religious law enforcement agency Mutaween is generally referred to as religious police, and it exists in countries where full separation of governance and religious doctrine is yet to take place.

Military Law Enforcement – They are present in countries where their military units are responsible for policing or enforcing the laws, e.g. provosts (a section of military used to police the armed forces), Gendarmerie (a section of military used to police the civilian population).

Private Law Enforcement – They are enforcement agencies owned privately and not by any government bodies, e.g. San Francisco Patrol Special Police

Covert Operations and Law Exemption

To identify and investigate subjects under scrutiny, it may be required by Law Enforcement Agencies to go undercover or assume fictitious identities, or to intercept communications of a suspect, popularly called ‘wire-tapping’.

These may not be lawful activities, but the Law Enforcement Agencies are protected from persecution if they are executing such Covert Operations. They may also be allowed to use sniffing dogs in areas where animals may not be allowed under ordinary circumstances.

Security Agencies may also be allowed to carry and display arms in areas where this freedom may not be available for the civilian population, or violate traffic rules while chasing a suspect. These exemptions are provided to Law Enforcement Agencies to help them in apprehending and persecuting suspects and criminals.