Law enforcement officer

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A Law enforcement officer (LEO), formerly called a Peace Officer, is a commissioned and sworn officer who has powers of arrest by warrant and without warrant. LEO’s may be employed by a government organization or non-government organization (NGO) including private corporations though the latter must have their authority granted by a government body.

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LEO’s include peace officers, special agents, marshals, sheriffs, police officers and constables. The term “deputy” also applies when referring to LEO’s appointed by a marshal, sheriff or constable. “Deputy marshal” and “deputy sheriff” are two types of LEO’s.

International LEO’s

There is one primary international police agency in the world, INTERPOL, an organization governed similarly to the United Nations, i.e. by General Assembly of its member states. Additionally there are non-governmental organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which sometimes employs LEO’s from various member nations as its agents.


The International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is the primary international law enforcement agency having 187 member nations. Founded in 1923 it facilitates cross-border police co-operation in criminal matters. INTERPOL’s law enforcement officers are commissioned by member nations to serve within their borders and cannot operate beyond their borders except as advisors. INTERPOL also works with NGO’s to fight crime such as piracy. INTERPOL is headquartered in Lyons, France.


The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with a dedicated anti-crime arm, the ICC Commercial Crime Services (CCS). Based in London, Great Britain, the CCS is a membership organisation assigned to combat all forms of commercial crime through its specialist divisions.

As a specialized division within CCS, the Financial Investigation Bureau (FIB) conducts investigations into crimes associated with money laundering, fraud and forged documents. Members of FIB include the following:

  • International Banks
  • Financial Institutions
  • National Financial Intelligence Units (FIU)
  • National Regulatory & Oversight Authorities
  • Law Enforcement Agencies

Through ICC-CCS, the FIB has bona fides status with the UK Home Office and with INTERPOL.

Another specialized division within CCS, the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau (CIB) protects industry from counterfeiting by gathering intelligence, making undercover investigations, organizing the seizure of counterfeits, and providing expert advice and training to members. Members of CIB include the following:

  • Large multinational companies
  • Trade associations
  • Law firms
  • Technology producers
  • Investigative firms

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is a specialised division based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to combat piracy. The IMB is a not for profit organisation, established in a region known for piracy to monitor and combat it. For over 25 years, the IMB has used shipping industry expertice and access to well-placed contacts around the world to protect the integrity of international trade by seeking out fraud and malpractice.

National LEO’s

National law enforcement officers may have broad or narrow authority depending on the constitution of their nation. For example in the former Soviet Union the KGB had broad police powers over its citizens. While in Canada the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have a much narrower jurisdiction. In the United States federal law enforcement officers are bound by law to specific jurisdictions following the rule that federal authority is limited authority. Consequently the Unites States has more federal agencies with limited police powers than any other nation in the world.

The US Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the premier law enforcement agency in the United States. It employs both uniformed police officers and plain clothed special agents who have both arrest and investigatory authority throughout the United States where federal crimes are occurring or have occurred. Many federal police agencies have very limited investigatory authority, such as the U.S. Secret Service which may only investigate threats against the U.S. President (POTUS), counterfeiting and other federal fraud crimes. Another example is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General’s Office which investigates fraud relating to food and food stamps. The remaining federal police agencies do not have investigatory authority and defer to the FBI for that service. An example of the latter is the US Capitol Police who protect the US Congress Capitol building and premises.

Some federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) do not have LEO’s but rely on those from its parent body, the Department of Homeland Security, to provide LEO’s for it.

State & Provincial LEO’s

Law enforcement officers employed by states and provinces typically are the premier law enforcement agencies for their region. Their jurisdiction covers all territory outside of a municipal charter or in cases of possible corruption within a municipal law enforcement agency. Some regional agencies, such as the Washington State Patrol, are primarily traffic police on the state’s highways. Others, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are primarily responsible for the apprehension of criminals statewide. Additional duties of state and provincial LEO’s include protecting their governors, dealing with regional disasters and civil unrest. In the United States most National Guardsmen, when employed as State Militia under their respective governors, have limited state police authority and are considered LEO’s for the purpose of suppressing insurrection and civil unrest (i.e. rioting and looting).

Local LEO’s

Law enforcement officers employed by local jurisdictions fall into three categories: country (shire or parish), municipal and transit. The former are led by a sheriff, typically an elected official but sometimes an appointed one. The latter are led by a chief of police, an official appointed by the municipal government. A few states and provinces use the term constables for law enforcement officers. In the United States this term specifically applies to an officer of the lowest state court, whether elected in a precinct or appointed by a municipality to serve the court. Outside of the United States the term constable in synonymous with police officer.

Private LEO's

As noted in the International LEO's section NGO's may have limited law enforcement authority granted to them by member nations. Some private corporations, primarily those controlled and/or joinly owned by a government body, have police divisions employing law enforcement officers. These law enforcement officers typically only have arrest authority while on duty protecting their corporate property and operations though their jurisdiction may cross multiple boundaries. Examples of private LEO's include AMTRAK Police, the Smithsonian Police and the Federal Reserve Bank Police. In each of these examples the LEO's are federally commissioned but are not federal employees under the Civil Service Act. Other examples of private corporation police are the Portland Patrol and the San Francisco Police Patrol. In these two cases local law enforcement agencies extend special police (i.e. limited) powers to primarily deal with petty violations and misdemeanors to free up regular police for more serious crimes.

Relationship with Survivalists


LEO's tend to view Survivalists with suspicion due to a general lumping of them in with perceived anti-government movements such as Constitutionalists (e.g. Posse Comitatus), White Supremacists (e.g. Elohim City) and Neo-Nazi's (e.g. The Order). A number of violent confrontations between these latter groups and police have ended badly with lives lost for both sides. Consequently unless a survivalist or "prepper" demonstrates he or she belongs to a sanctioned emergency preparedness organization such as FEMA's CERT (GO program) or the American Red Cross (NGO program), revealing one is prepared for any contingency may result in a negative escalation of the contact with law enforcement. At the very least the LEO will request back-up, at the most may result in an investigation to see if the survivalist belongs to an alleged domestic terrorist group.


Although they are a minority there is a growing community of LEO's that are empathetic and supportive of prepper's. Some have even joined organizations such as Oath Keepers.

See Also


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