Law enforcement is the activity of some members of government who act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating, or punishing people who violate the rules and norms governing that society. The term encompasses police, courts, and corrections. These three components may operate independently of each other or collectively, through the use of record sharing and mutual cooperation.
Modern state legal codes use the term peace officer, or law enforcement officer, to include every person vested by the legislating state with police power or authority, traditionally, anyone "sworn or badged, who can arrest any person for a violation of criminal law, is included under the umbrella term of law enforcement.
Although law enforcement may be most concerned with the prevention and punishment of crimes, organizations exist to discourage a wide variety of non-criminal violations of rules and norms, effected through the imposition of less severe consequences such as probation.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of law enforcement agencies.
Most law enforcement is conducted by some type of law enforcement agency, with the most typical agency fulfilling this role being a police force. Social investment in enforcement through such organizations can be massive, both in terms of the resources invested in the activity, and in the number of people professionally engaged to perform those functions.
Law enforcement agencies tend to be limited to operating within a specified jurisdiction. In some cases, jurisdiction may overlap in between organizations; for example, in the United States, each state has its own statewide law enforcement arms, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is able to act against certain types of crimes occurring in any state. Various segments of society may have their own specialist law enforcement organizations. For example, military organizations may have military police. Some segments of society, such as private companies that are responsible for significant and critical infrastructure, may have their own law enforcement agencies. For example, in the United States, the protection of the Union Pacific Railroad network is carried out by the Union Pacific Police Department.
Depending on a variety of factors, such as whether an agency is autonomous or dependent on other organizations for its operations, the governing body that funds and oversees the agency may decide to dissolve or consolidate operations. Dissolution of an agency may occur when the governing body or the department itself decides to end operations. This can occur due to multiple reasons, including police reform, a lack of population in the jurisdiction, or because of mass resignations.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, agency consolidation can occur to improve efficiency, consolidate resources, and when forming a new type of government.
Until today, law enforcement department professions are dominantly served by Caucasian males in America, even with a growing number of organizations emphasizing on recruitment of females and minorities.