Chief of police

Last updated

A chief of police is the title given to an appointed official or an elected one in the chain of command of a police department, particularly in North America. A chief of police may also be known as a police chief or sometimes just a chief, while some countries favour other titles such as commissioner or chief constable. A police chief is appointed by and answerable to a national or local government.



The precise role of a chief of police varies by country and sometimes within a country. The larger a police force or department, the more likely that some duties will be delegated to mid-ranked officers. The following list is a general sense of the actions and responsibilities held by any chief of police.

Police chiefs are usually sworn police officers, and therefore wear police uniforms and have the power of arrest, though there are exceptions. In practice, their work is administrative in all but the smallest police departments. The rare occasions when police chiefs make arrests have drawn media coverage. In 2014, Bernard Hogan-Howe chased a group of fare evaders and made an arrest. A taxi driver had approached Hogan-Howe for help, unaware that he was London's police commissioner. [3] [4] In 2017, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck arrested a police officer on suspicion of a sexual offence. [5]


"Chief of police" (French: directeur) is the most common title for the highest-ranked officer in a Canadian police service. The exceptions are: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (commissioner), Ontario Provincial Police (commissioner), South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (chief officer), Vancouver Police Department (chief constable), West Vancouver Police Department (chief constable), Nelson Police Department (chief constable), Quebec City (director) and the Sûreté du Québec (director general).

In the province of Ontario, a chief of police must be a sworn police officer and therefore have completed training at the Ontario Police College or have served a probationary period with another recognized police force (such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's academy known as "Depot"). This requirement is legislated in the Police Services Act of Ontario. The legislation states in section two that a chief of police is a police officer. Section 44.2 of the PSA defines the training requirements. There was a case in the police department of Guelph, Ontario, where a human resource manager was promoted to the position of deputy chief but was required to complete training at the OPC. The candidate is selected by a police services board.

Deputy chief

Ranks below the chief are stylized as deputy chief, deputy chief constable (BC) and deputy commissioner or associate director (Quebec).


1945-59 Indonesian National Police Chief, General Soekanto Tjokrodiatmodjo Police chief RS Soekanto Tjokrodiatmodjo, Sekilas Lintas Kepolisian Republik Indonesia, p17.jpg
1945-59 Indonesian National Police Chief, General Soekanto Tjokrodiatmodjo

In Indonesia, the chief of the National Police of Indonesia is often colloquially dubbed: "Kapolri", an acronym of "Kepala Kepolisian Negara Republik Indonesia" meaning "Head of the National Police of the Republic of Indonesia". He is also a four-star ranking officer in the national police. The National Police Chief is elected by the president based on the approval of the House of Representatives and is directly responsible to the president. Since Indonesia adopts the system of a unified "national police", the chief of the Indonesian National Police holds strong responsibility in policing authorities nationally across Indonesia. The police chief usually conducts strong relations and work together with the Commander of the National Armed Forces. In line with the general features of unified structure of local governments, all chiefs of the Indonesian police, at district level ("kapolsek", kepala kepolisian sektor"), municipal level ("kapolres", kepala kepolisian resor"), and provincial level ("kapolda", kepala kepolisian daerah) in Indonesia, are subordinates of Kapolri, the national police chief.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the chief police officer for 43 of the 45 territorial police forces and the three special police forces holds the rank of chief constable. The exceptions are the Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police, where the chief police officer instead holds the rank of commissioner. The umbrella term for the chief constables and commissioners is "chief police officer". The term "chief officer", by contrast, includes the chief police officers and their deputies and assistants. The National Police Chiefs Council is the association for chief officers.

The rank of commissioner should not be confused with the police and crime commissioners. They are elected officials who oversee a police force and how its funds are spent, rather than being police officers.

United States

Chief of police is the most common title for the head of a local police department. Alternate titles for a chief of police include police commissioner, colonel, police superintendent, police president or police director. In large urban areas, some departments are led by an overseer who is not a sworn officer, usually referred to as a commissioner. The New York City Police Department is one such case, where the police chief (full title: Chief of department) is the most senior sworn officer. A sheriff is the chief of a county law enforcement agency.

Although sheriffs are not usually counted as police chiefs, their agencies usually have the powers and role of a police department. Some sheriffs' agencies are limited to non-policing matters such as courtroom security. The usual difference between a sheriff and a police chief is that sheriffs are elected (except in New York City, Rhode Island and Hawaii) and responsible for a county [6] whereas a police chief manages law enforcement in a city or town and is appointed by its local government. The fraternal organization International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is an organization that many chiefs of police are associated with.

Many state constitutions require every county to have a sheriff; some make no provision for this position to be eliminated even in the case of the formation of a consolidated city–county or "metropolitan government". In this case, a decision must be made about how to divide the powers between the county sheriff and the city's chief of police. The usual compromise allows the chief of police to exercise law enforcement jurisdiction and to give the sheriff and his deputies authority over jails and the serving of civil papers. An alternative and lesser-used solution is to make the office of sheriff a purely ceremonial one. One other solution, an example of which is seen in the case of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, is to provide for the sheriff to simultaneously serve as the chief of police, thus remaining as the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of the county.

The police chief of a small town may be the only paid employee of the police department and have a staff consisting only of volunteers when available. Conversely the police chief of a major city may have thousands or in the case of very large cities such as New York, 35,000 sworn officers. In addition, such a department may have thousands of employees other than police officers, including operators, secretaries, and unsworn peace officers. The qualifications and skills required to be a police chief vary widely. Another important consideration is how overtly a police department is influenced by politics which varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. Increasingly, all U.S. law enforcement officers including small-town police chiefs and their charges are being required to meet at least minimum levels of professional training.

The rank insignia for the chief of a large or medium-sized department most often consists of three or four gold stars, similar to the insignia of a lieutenant general or general in the army. Smaller departments and state agencies most often consists of silver or gold eagles similar to colonel in the army.


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New York City Police Department</span> Municipal police force in the United States

The New York City Police Department (NYPD), officially the City of New York Police Department, established on May 23, 1845, is the primary municipal law enforcement agency within the City of New York, and the largest and one of the oldest in the United States.

Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society. As marshals became trusted members of the courts of Medieval Europe, the title grew in reputation. During the last few centuries, it has been used for elevated offices, such as in military rank and civilian law enforcement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fire marshal</span> Person who inspects buildings for fire safety

A fire marshal, in the United States and Canada, is often a member of a state, provincial or territorial government, but may be part of a building department or a separate department altogether. Fire marshals' duties vary but usually include fire code enforcement or investigating fires for origin and cause. Fire marshals may be sworn law-enforcement officers and are often experienced firefighters. In larger cities with substantially developed fire departments the local fire departments are sometimes delegated some of the duties of the fire marshal.

Special police usually describes a police force or unit within a police force whose duties and responsibilities are significantly different from other forces in the same country or from other police in the same force, although there is no consistent international definition. A special constable, in most cases, is not a member of a special police force (SPF); in countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and often elsewhere, a special constable is a voluntary or part-time member of a national or local police force or a person involved in law enforcement who is not a police officer but has some of the powers of a police officer.

Inspector, also police inspector or inspector of police, is a police rank. The rank or position varies in seniority depending on the organization that uses it.

Police commissioner is a senior rank in many police forces of the world. In other jurisdictions, it is the title of a member of an oversight board.

A law enforcement officer (LEO), or peace officer in North American English, is a public-sector employee whose duties primarily involve the enforcement of laws. The phrase can include campaign disclosure specialists, police officers, prosecutors, municipal law enforcement officers, health inspectors, special police officers, customs officers, lawyers, state troopers, federal agents, secret agents, special investigators, coast guards, border patrol officers, judges, district attorney, bounty hunters, gendarmerie officers, immigration officers, private investigators, court officers, probation officers, parole officers, arson investigators, auxiliary officers, animal control officers, game wardens, park rangers, county sheriffs, constables, marshals, deputies, detention officers, correction officers, sworn campus police officers and public safety officers. Security guards are civilians and therefore not law enforcement officers, unless they have been granted powers to enforce particular laws, such as those accredited under a community safety accreditation scheme such as a security police officer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Bratton</span> American police officer

William Joseph Bratton CBE is an American law enforcement officer and businessman who served two terms as the New York City Police Commissioner. He previously served as the Commissioner of the Boston Police Department (BPD) (1993–1994) and Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) (2002–2009). He is the only person to have led the police departments of the United States' two largest cities – New York and Los Angeles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jacksonville Sheriff's Office</span> Joint city-county law enforcement agency

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) is a joint city-county law enforcement agency, which has primary responsibility for law enforcement, investigation, and corrections within the consolidated City of Jacksonville and Duval County, Florida, United States. Duval County includes the incorporated cities of Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Baldwin, Jacksonville Beach, and Neptune Beach; the beach cities have their own police departments as well.

The Los Angeles Police Department was formed in 1869, and has since become the third-largest law enforcement agency in the United States. They have been involved in various events in history, such as the Black Dahlia murder case, and the Rampart scandal.

In the U.S. state of Texas, a constable is an elected law enforcement officer for a precinct of a county. Counties may have between one and eight precincts each depending on their population.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sheriffs in the United States</span> Deputized by a sheriff to perform the same duties as the sheriff

In the United States, a sheriff is an official in a county or independent city responsible for keeping the peace and enforcing the law. Unlike most officials in law enforcement in the United States, sheriffs are usually elected, although some states have laws requiring certain law enforcement qualifications of candidates. Elected sheriffs are accountable directly to the citizens of their county, the constitution of their state, and ultimately the United States Constitution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indonesian National Police</span> National police force of Indonesia

The Indonesian National Police is the national law enforcement and police force of the Republic of Indonesia. Founded on 1 July 1946, it was formerly a part of the country's military since 1962. The police were formally separated from the armed forces on 1 April 1999 in a process which was formally completed on 1 July 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organization of the New York City Police Department</span> Law enforcement command structure

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is structured into numerous bureaus and units. As a whole, the NYPD is headed by the Police Commissioner, a civilian administrator appointed by the Mayor, with the senior sworn uniformed officer of the service titled "Chief of Department". The Police Commissioner appoints the First Deputy Commissioner as the department's second-in-command and the Chief of Department as the department's highest ranking uniformed officer. The commissioner also appoints a number of deputy and assistant commissioners who do not have operational command and are solely for support and administrative function. The department is divided into twenty bureaus, six of which are enforcement bureaus. Each enforcement bureau is further subdivided into sections, divisions, and units, and into patrol boroughs, precincts, and detective squads. Each bureau is commanded by a bureau chief. There are also a number of specialized units that are not part of any of the bureaus and report to the Chief of the Department.

The United States police-rank model is generally quasi-military in structure. A uniform system of insignia based on that of the US Army and Marine Corps is used to help identify an officer's seniority.

In the United States, there is no consistent use of the office of constable throughout the states; use may vary within a state. A constable may be an official responsible for service of process: such as summonses and subpoenas for people to appear in court in criminal and/or civil matters. They can also be fully empowered law enforcement officers. Constables may have additional specialized duties unique to the office. In some states the constable is an elected or appointed position at the state or local level of local government. Their jurisdiction can vary from statewide to county/parish and local township boundaries based on the state's laws.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Budi Gunawan</span> Chief of Indonesian intelligence since 2016

Budi Gunawan is an Indonesian police officer. He has served as Chief of the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) since 9 September 2016. He is also chairman of the executive board of E-Sport Indonesia, tasked to develop e-sports in Indonesia. Previously, he was Deputy Chief of Indonesian National Police to General Badrodin Haiti since 22 April 2015 and Police General Tito Karnavian since 13 July 2016, until he was appointed chief of BIN. On 2 September 2016, President Jokowi named Budi Gunawan to Chief of BIN, replacing Sutiyoso, sending a letter to the DPR. He passed a test conducted by the DPR Commission I and was then approved by a DPR plenary session. Budi Gunawan became the second policeman after General Sutanto (2009–2011) to lead BIN. He was also an aide to politician Megawati Sukarnoputri in 1999-2004.


  1. "Section 200.010: Chief of Police - Duties - Salary" . Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  2. "Municipal Code". Archived from the original on 2011-05-05. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
  3. "Met Police Commissioner stops interview to make arrest". BBC News . 11 August 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  4. "London police chief interrupts interview to nab suspected thief". CTV News Channel. Bell Media. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  5. "LAPD Chief Beck personally arrests officer on suspicion of having sex with a 15-year-old". The Los Angeles Times. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  6. "About NSA". Archived from the original on 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2019-12-29.