When it comes to law enforcement, there are many different branches that serve a wide variety of duties. Some people get confused when they hear things like “The Secret Service fights counterfeiting.” This is true, but that doesn’t stop local police from collecting evidence or following up leads if counterfeit money occurs.
There are many ways that law enforcement duties overlap between agencies, and all law enforcement has a duty to serve the public and uphold the law, but as the following article shows, there are many different branches that come under such a general term.
The Local Police
The local police are just that: police officers or “cops” who take care of law enforcement duties on a local level. This could be for a county, a town, or a suburb depending upon the area and how precincts are divided. They are normally first on the scene of any reported crime, and do a lot of the legwork and help coordinate with other departments when necessary.
The State Patrol is often the next level of police. This unit is unique to each state and these officers aren’t centered out of just one town or place. They have the full authority and range to keep the peace and see to law enforcement duties in any part of the state.
This can range from things as small as speeding to much more serious crimes like assault, theft, or murder.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
This is a federal agency that focuses on enforcing drug laws. They have the authority to run operations in any U.S. state or territory, and when drug cases are involved they have jurisdiction over local authorities. However for maximum success, the DEA will often work on tips or information from local law enforcement to combat meth, heroin, cocaine, and other serious illegal drugs.
The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firarms (ATF)
The ATF is responsible for enforcement of laws regarding alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. This includes illegally smuggling cigarettes, bootlegging, and any firearm offenses. This is a broad field and you will often see the ATF working in conjunction with other agencies on any given case.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The FBI is seen as the big organization when it comes to “the feds,” and there’s good reason for that. From forensic testing on murder cases to profiling serial killers and even investigating potential domestic terrorist threats, the FBI sits on the top when it comes to serious law enforcement agencies.
FBI offices are found in every single state and most major cities. Duties can vary based on the area, cases being worked on, and specialties of the individual agents.
The Border Patrol (Immigration)
The border patrol is responsible for enforcing immigration laws and fighting both smuggling and illegal immigration. They often work with the DEA as a lot of smuggling is done with drugs, so they need to be armed and prepared to deal with possible drug smuggling.
The Coast Guard
The Coast Guard fits that line between military and law enforcement. They protect the nation’s waters, perform rescue missions in even the worst of weather conditions, and in extreme cases can even be called on to fight piracy, smuggling, or for defensive purposes.
Specialty Law Enforcement Agencies
There are multiple law enforcement agencies that would fall under the category of “specialty” agencies. This includes groups like the Secret Service who are mainly responsible for the protection of the President of the United States and other high ranking officials as well as fighting counterfeiting rings.
Then there are MPs, or Military Police. These officers perform all the duties of a police department but specifically deal with crimes on military bases or crimes that involved soldiers.
Law enforcement takes many different shapes and forms and is just one part of the larger legal system that includes attorneys, judges, and a wide variety of workers at every level from the local to the federal. Understanding even a little bit of law enforcement and how it is divided will help you to gain an overall appreciation for them and their mission to uphold the law and do their best to protect the general public.
When it comes to law enforcement there might be a lot to do, but there are plenty of agencies up to the task!