Police Protection

SIC 9221

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry classification includes government establishments primarily engaged in law enforcement, traffic safety, police, and other activities related to the enforcement of the law and preservation of order. The National Guard and military police are classified in SIC 9711: National Security. Private establishments primarily engaged in law enforcement, traffic safety, police, and other activities related to law enforcement are classified in SIC 7381: Detective, Guard, and Armored Car Services. Government establishments primarily engaged in prosecution are classified in SIC 9222: Legal Counsel and Prosecution. Government establishments primarily engaged in the collection of law enforcement statistics are classified in SIC 9229: Public Order and Safety, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Organization and Structure

Police protection encompasses a wide range of protective services, involving many municipal, state, and federal government agencies. These agencies often have overlapping authority, creating a vast network of law enforcement functions. The broadest authority possible is given to certain federal agencies.

Local police officers have many responsibilities and work in major metropolitan areas, small towns, and rural areas. They may investigate crimes, arbitrate domestic disputes, administer first aid, direct traffic, or investigate fires. Some areas use police on foot, bicycle, or motor patrol, whereas many other officers have desk assignments wherein the voluminous paperwork required for law enforcement is completed. Others may be assigned to special units such as mounted police who patrol on horseback, rescue teams, canine corps, helicopter patrol, or youth gang detail. Some officers become experts of another sort, working in a laboratory doing chemical or microscopic analysis, firearms identification, or handwriting or fingerprint identification. Nearly all police officers must write reports and maintain police records.

Most police organizations have a chain of command similar to that commonly utilized by American military organizations. In large cities, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains direct the work of squads or companies of officers. Ranking officers report to a chief of police or a police commissioner. In small towns, however, the chief of police naturally commands a small force; in some instances, he or she may be the only officer in town.

Generally, local police departments are covered by civil service regulations that require applicants to pass a test for the job. Because of the physical and character demands of the job, applicants must pass a rigorous physical and psychological examination, as well as a background investigation. Each promotion to a higher rank may also require passage of an additional civil service examination.

County sheriffs generally cover rural areas or the outskirts of an incorporated city. In many cases, they are the only local police force, and in others, they supplement the city police force. They often work as bailiffs, keeping order in courtrooms, and may work as guards in county jails. Many sheriffs' departments have fewer than 10 uniformed officers.

State police officers patrol highways to enforce traffic laws. They also provide aid to stranded motorists, call for emergency roadside services, and provide traffic control when road repairs are being made and during special events. State police have authority to enforce criminal laws and give traffic citations in local communities away from the highways, in most cases. They may also assist local police in crime investigations or provide crowd control during civil disturbances.

Federal law enforcement efforts include a vast network of special agents that work for various federal agencies and investigate particular types of criminal activity. Federal agents wield much authority because of their nationwide jurisdiction--they can cross state lines and negotiate with law representatives of foreign countries. Border patrol agents are a good example of federal law enforcement efforts.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employs special agents who investigate serious crimes such as bank robberies, kidnapping, terrorism, organized crime, theft of government property, and espionage, among other transgressions. The FBI is one of the most technologically advanced law enforcement agencies in the country, and it concentrates its efforts on the most serious offenses. It also is called in to investigate crimes committed across state lines, where local police are unable to extend their authority. Agents for the FBI are graduates of accredited law schools or have accounting degrees or foreign-language skills.

Like the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); the U.S. Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DEA agents conduct investigations of illegal drug activity, often working undercover. They also may be involved in preparing documents to justify the seizure of financial and other assets gained by illegal activity. U.S. Marshals serve criminal warrants issued by federal judges and are often responsible for the safety and transport of jurors and prisoners. ATF agents investigate a range of illegal activity, from suspected illegal sales of guns, to underpayment of taxes by liquor importers, to illegal transport of cigarettes. Formerly part of the Department of the Treasury, the law enforcement function of ATF was moved to the U.S. Department of Justice on January 24, 2003.

Along with the U.S. Customs Service and the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). INS agents enforce laws regulating the entry of aliens into the country. U.S. Customs agents enforce laws concerning smuggling of goods into the country, searching for banned items in tourists' belongings and among the cargo of ships and planes. The TSA, formed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, employs 50,000 agents who work to secure the nation's transportation systems, including airways, subways, ports, rails, and buses. The U.S. Secret Service not only protects the president, the vice president, their families, and visiting foreign dignitaries, but also investigates counterfeiting and the forgery of government checks or bonds. In addition to law enforcement agencies within the DOJ and DHS, the Department of the Treasury is home to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS agents investigate evasion of payment of federal taxes by U.S. taxpayers.

Background and Development

The U.S. police system has its roots in England. The City of New York was so impressed with the efficiency of the London Metropolitan Police that it sent a delegation to London to study the department in 1833. The result was the formation of the New York City Police Department in 1844, the first of its kind in the United States. It was followed by the establishment of the Boston Police Department in 1850. Americans did not adopt the English system entirely, however. The English and European systems favored strong central government control. In contrast, Americans favored local control--the early settlers were suspicious of any type of centralized government control. Local autonomy was fiercely defended, which is probably why the United States still maintains local police forces.

The New England states became centers of commerce and industry, with a municipal-type government and a locally elected constable to enforce the laws. In the southern part of the country, which was more agricultural and rural, the county form of government was more suitable, and the county sheriff became the preferred law enforcement officer. The first state police agency was the Texas Rangers, created in 1835, and the first federal law enforcement agency was the Secret Service, formed in 1865.

As the twentieth century came to a close, the nature of police work was very different--and arguably more dangerous--than it had been many years before. For example, on July 24, 1998, Americans were shocked to learn that two policemen were gunned down in the line of duty while guarding the nation's Capitol in Washington, D.C. Thus, concern for protecting the protectors was justifiably heightened. In 1999, 10-year-old Stephanie Taylor of Oceanside, California, made national news when she raised $3,000 to help purchase bulletproof vests for the city's local police dogs. In addition, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) remained very active in legislative lobbying on all matters involving gun control, a politically charged issue for all Americans following a deadly rash of school shootings from 1996 to 1999 that killed dozens of students in various cities around the country.

Notwithstanding, stories of alleged police brutality continued to make headline news as the century came to a close. One of the most controversial stories involved New York police officer Justin Volpe, who in 1999 confessed to beating and sodomizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. Another politically charged matter was the string of appeals filed on behalf of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, indicted for murdering a policeman in the 1980s.

On a national level, with the booming stock market of 1998 and 1999, there was an epidemic rise in securities and investment fraud. In 1998 the FBI reported 865 securities fraud indictments and informations, with seizures of nearly $40 million and total restitution of more than $1.2 billion. By 1999, Internet-related stock fraud was costing investors $10 billion per year.

Another big crime market in the latter 1990s was a major increase in "product counterfeiting," the unauthorized duplication and mass production of "bootlegged" videotapes, sound recordings, and computer software. In such matters, local police agencies often coordinate with the FBI in scam operations directed at containing the spread of this black market. The 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya; the October 1999 crash of Egyptair Flight 990; and a rash of bombings at abortion clinics also resulted in the cohesive networking of local, state, and federal police authorities to combine resources for investigation and information processing.

By the early 2000s, police agencies were forced to contend with unprecedented concerns about significant terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history took place when hijacked commercial airliners were used to destroy the World Trade Center towers in New York. Other attacks that day involved a hijacked jet that damaged the Pentagon, as well as the crash of another hijacked jet in Pennsylvania. Subsequently, mail tainted with deadly anthrax bacteria was circulated in the U.S. postal system, causing several deaths and forcing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to implement a number of security measures. In addition to the anthrax scares, in 2002 a 21-year-old college student from Wisconsin planted 18 pipe bombs in rural mailboxes. Although no deaths resulted from the pipe bombs, a number of postal workers and residents were injured. During a time span of five days, the USPS dedicated some 150 postal inspectors to the case--which covered five states, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas--before it was finally resolved.

Conditions such as these led Congress to create the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Along with the Homeland Security Council, this new government agency created the Homeland Security Advisory System, which uses five warning levels to communicate perceived terrorism "threat conditions" to the American people. These levels are: low (green), guarded (blue), elevated (yellow), high (orange), and severe (red). As the potential for an attack increased, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as National Guard units, were increasingly involved in security efforts coordinated by various federal agencies.

Following the September 11 attacks, the FBI began sharing unprecedented levels of sensitive intelligence with local police executives, including police chiefs and sheriffs at approximately 18,000 U.S. police agencies. In some large cities, departments devoted entire units exclusively to counter-terrorism. For example, in the New York Police Department, some 1,000 officers were assigned to this task. In addition, 300 officers took part in a counter-terrorism bureau that was led by a retired general from the U.S. Marine Corps. Task forces established by the FBI to combat terrorism even involved police officers from leading U.S. universities, where large numbers of foreign individuals come to study.

The potential for such attacks called for high levels of scrutiny to avoid possible disasters. This heightened need for vigilance also required continued cooperative efforts between citizens and police agencies. Many local agencies continued to adopt a "community policing" approach in which officers build close, ongoing relationships with residents and neighborhood organizations. The intention is to establish trust, solve problems before they lead to crime, and draw on citizens as a resource for crime prevention. Also, many police agencies and departments have secured Internet Web sites that provide information to the general public about police work. According to the Community Policing Consortium, by 2003 some 86 percent of Americans were protected by law enforcement agencies that relied on community policing. This was a significant increase from 1993, when only 15 percent of the population benefited from this added protection.

In 2002, Harris Interactive conducted a national opinion poll to gauge consumer opinion about police. According to the Westchester County Business Journal, the overall results were positive. The publication reported that, in the category of friendliness and helpfulness, 73 percent of respondents rated police as "excellent" or "pretty good." In terms of being responsive to calls for assistance, 68 percent of respondents gave police a positive score. An almost identical percentage (67%) gave police a positive rating for refraining from the use of excessive force.

For the nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies staffed with 700,000 police officers, deputy sheriffs, and criminal investigators, terrorism threats made domestic preparedness, including the capacity to assess and manage risk, crucial. A survey conducted by the Rutgers Center for the Study of Public Security found that 80 percent of nearly 1,400 law enforcement agencies in the United States expected to experience a terrorist attack over the next five years, while the majority reported a terrorist cell embedded within their jurisdiction.

The continued significance of homeland security translated into a corresponding funding increase in President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget. Funding that year totaled $41.6 billion, up eight percent from 2006. Various grant programs under the budget included "$838 million for Urban Area Security Grants; $633 million for State Homeland Security Grants (down $305 million from one year ago); $170 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants; and $35 million for Citizen Corps." In addition, the 2007 budget allotted $600 million for the Targeted Infrastructure Protection grant program.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) annual Uniform Crime Report found a significant increase in violent crime throughout the United States during 2005. Homicide rose 3.4 percent, robbery increased almost 4.0 percent, and assaults were up 1.8 percent. On May 18, 2006, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security passed (H.R. 5005), legislation also known as the "Firearms Corrections and Improvements Act." This act "allows gun trace information to be accessible to law enforcement, but only those involved in a bona fide criminal investigation," consequently, hindering police investigations.

Current Conditions

According to a 2009 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 22.88 million Americans were victims of violent crimes (excluding murder), personal theft (e.g., purse snatching), or property crimes in 2007. That number in 2008 was statistically unchanged (21.31 million). However, the violent crime rate in 2008 of 19.3 per 1,000 residents over the age of 12 was at a 30-year low. Over three-fourths (76 percent) of crime in the United States in the late 2000s was related to property theft. Violent crime (primarily assault) accounted for 23 percent of crimes committed, and personal theft accounted for less than 1 percent. Of note, from 2007 to 2008, motor vehicle theft dropped from 8.8 per 1,000 households to 6.6 per 1,000 households (a decline of nearly 20 percent). Overall, between 1998 and 2008, the violent crime rate fell by 41 percent and the property crime rate declined by 32 percent.

The TSA received press coverage in December 2009 when it was reported that the agency inadvertently posted its airport screening processes manual online, resulting in a massive breach of security. According to an online ABC report by Brian Ross and Matt Hosford, " The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate" and also explains the limitations of x-ray machines. The Washington Post reported that TSA Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the document wasnot up to date, had never been implemented, and had been revised numerous times since the breach.

Airport security continued to be a major concern within the United States and abroad as the TSA, nations, and international bodies struggled to develop new technology and to balance its implementation with personal privacy rights. In December 2009, a Nigerian man traveling on a flight from Lagos through Amsterdam to Detroit tried to ignite an improvised bomb using very small amounts of smuggled-on liquid and solids. Possible directions to address upgraded security include using full-body scanners and personal profilers who use various tools to single out particular passengers for further questioning and searches.

Local police departments around the country were suffering budgetary constraints or cutbacks due to the downturn in the economy during the late 2000s. Because police departments are primarily funded by real-estate and property taxes, when the residential housing market collapsed in 2008, property values fell off drastically in some areas of the country (e.g., California), and funds available to police departments dropped. As a result, many departments instituted hiring freezes and services cuts. For example, numerous departments around the country, including Colorado Springs; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Oakland, California, grounded their helicopter units. Some even sold off their helicopters to raise additional operating funds.


In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 3.1 million people were employed in protective service occupations. This total included nearly 634,000 police and sheriff's patrol officers and 104,480 detectives and criminal investigators. Most were employed by local government agencies, as there are about 18,000 state and local police agencies in the country.

Job stress is common for police officers, whose work brings them in contact with some of society's worst members and conditions, sometimes in life-threatening circumstances. In 1995, 162 officers died in the line of duty, the highest number since 1989. By 1998, that number had decreased to 137 police officers and detectives, but 38 of the 137 were homicide victims. In 2001, the number of officers killed in the line of duty had increased again, reaching 159. Of these, 39 were homicides. In 2009, 120 officers died in the line of duty. Of these, the causes of death were as follows: 47 gunfire (plus 2 accidental gunfire), 33 automobile accidents, 9 vehicular assaults, 7 heart attacks, 6 struck by vehicle, 4 aircraft accidents, 3 vehicle pursuits, 2 assaults, 2 duty-related illnesses, and 1 accidental death.

America and the World

Created in 1923, INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, facilitates international police cooperation. It is the second largest international agency, behind the United Nations. It operates on a budget of approximately $59 million contributed by its 188-member countries. Its staff of about 500 represent over 75 of its member countries. INTERPOL, a politically neutral agency, involves itself in cases involving fugitives, drugs and crime organizations, financial and high-tech crimes, public safety and terrorism, human trafficking, and corruption. In 2009, INTERPOL's policing activities led to the arrest of some 3,500 individuals.

Research and Technology

Taxpayer dollars continue to help bring police agencies up to state-of-the-art technology in crime prevention and detection. New ways of identifying persons based on biological characteristics, such as DNA and "biologic fingerprinting," have evolved, as have GPS devices for pinpointing an officer's location. In the advancing digital age, police departments, including New York City and Boston, have added texting options to their 911 services to allow people to text in tips on crimes, including video and photos of crimes in progress recorded on video/camera phones.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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