Fork Union, Virginia
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Popular Police Department Terms
The primary objective a nearly any police department is to ensure their community is safe and protected from crime and criminal activity. Law enforcement officers achieve this by patrolling designated areas or districts, public relations, and at times, take over in emergency situations. In order to have a better, more comprehensive understanding of the terminology associated with police and police departments, it's helpful to understand the terms frequently used by our law enforcers.
Chief of Police - The chief of police is typically considered the highest ranking law enforcer for any given police agency. This position can be an appointed or elected position depending upon the jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction - The extent or range of judicial law enforcement. Depending upon the agency, the police department typically has a predetermined legal boundary in which to patrol or enforce laws. Boundaries can be local such as cities or towns, or large such as state or federal. State Police have statewide jurisdiction including cities and counties and federal agents have jurisdiction nationwide to include all states, cities and counties.
SWAT - SWAT stands for, Special Weapons And Tactics. The SWAT team is a special section of some law enforcement agencies specially trained and equipped to deal with potentially violent and dangerous situations such as when hostages are being held.
Deputy Sheriff - A deputy sheriff is a law enforcement officer appointed by the Sheriff to act in his or her capacity. Often, deputies are tasked with patrolling and enforcing laws outside of a city's limits. They do, however, typically have jurisdiction within the city limits as their boundaries often include the entire county and all jurisdictions within it.
Arrest - To seize or take into custody a person by legal authority or warrant. Typically, the person is then transported to the police station.
Law enforcement officials vary by city, county, and state, with one of the typical rules being that the police department serves a specific city. Outside of that city, the officers do not have the same authority to write traffic tickets or perform other duties. The sheriff's department is a county law enforced agency that oversees unincorporated areas of the county, the highways, and other local areas. Although both the sheriff and police departments enforce laws relating to public safety, community violence, drug offenses, and traffic accidents, they do not have the same jurisdictions.
One of the major differences between the two departments is the way that they are managed. Sheriffs are elected officials. They must be elected into office by the public. This gives the people an opportunity to say how they want the cops to handle crime in their community. The police department, however, is a law enforcement agency without an elected leader. The chief of police is usually hired by the town's mayor or manager.
These corrections officers often provide more services than just patrolling the streets and arresting criminals. A deputy might have access to reports and records that individuals need to defend themselves in court. Many agencies also have close ties to their cities, so they try to prevent crime from occurring by staying active within schools and community centers.
Police officers and sheriff deputies should also offer emergency services to keep community members safe. This might include protecting them from dangerous individuals, but it can also include attending to people with medical emergencies caused by illness or accident.