Law enforcement is a broad term which encompasses any setup that is put in place to promote adherence to law – in an organized manner, by identifying and punishing people who violate the rules and norms of the society. Simply put, a law enforcement officer is a person who enforces the law of the land. Even though the term also entails the court system and correctional facilities for the role they play in the criminal justice system, it is more often used to refer to those government agencies which directly engage in patrolling and/or surveillance to detect and dissuade various criminal acts or investigate criminal cases and apprehend those who violate the law.
Each nation has its own law enforcement agencies, and every state or province of that nation may have a law enforcement agency of its own. Similarly, there can be more than one law enforcement agency within the nation or state which may be dealing with a specific type of crime such as economic offenses, drug related crimes, etc. The term ‘police’ refers to those individuals who work to enforce the law, protect life and property of the people and reduce civil disorder in the society. It is important to note that law enforcement is just a part of the broad concept of policing, and not the concept as a whole.
Law Enforcement in the United States of America
As in most nations of the world, even in the United States the term ‘law enforcement’ specifically refers to those agencies which detect, dissuade and investigate criminal acts, and apprehend the offenders. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principal government investigation agency in the United States of America. It looks into matters concerning violation of Federal Law within the national territory. At the same time, it is also entitled the task of conducting national security investigations.
Other Federal agencies which can be included in the category of law enforcement agencies in the United States of America include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – which looks into the matters involving illegal drugs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – which investigates the violations of Federal firearms and explosives laws as well as alcohol and tobacco tax regulations. Other law enforcement agencies which come under the purview of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, etc. These agencies along with courts and prisons form the criminal justice system of the United States.