With any organization devoted to law enforcement, it is necessary to delegate authority in order to maintain order and a chain of command. Local and state law enforcement agencies maintain similar, military based chains of command. Those on the federal level rely on a director who is ultimately appointed by the President, while those at the local or state level are either appointed by the legislation of the area, or even elected in some cases. Regardless of the means by which the leadership is chosen, most law enforcement organizations operate under the same military model of delegation of authority and chain of command.
At the local level, city police are organized under a police commissioner who is in command of the entire police organization. Depending on the size of the police force, there will be commanders of various police entities who report directly to the commissioner and individual officers who report directly to those commanders. State police and state patrol will have similar structures. These structures will vary in size based on the mission of the state police and the size of the state and often require more levels of delegation, and lower levels of command implemented to implement command and control over more officers in a greater area (Cordner and Scarborough 107-115).
Federal law enforcement agencies are set up a bit differently. Instead of a sheriff or a commissioner, federal law enforcement agency directors are appointed by the President. Unlike local law enforcement organizations, federal agencies are not meant to deal with general crime. Instead, the agency is meant to enforce regulations and carry out a federal mission using law enforcement methods at times. Because these agencies are federal, their leaders answer to the President as part of a directed, national mission.
Modern police forces have three main responsibilities at the local and state levels. They must enforce the law, maintain order, and serve the public interest. Law enforcement has to do with apprehending people suspected of crimes and preventing crime. Maintaining order is an extension of law enforcement, by which officers with the authority to enforce the law are called upon to ensure peace and prevent disturbances in the community. Services fall under the category of performing duties as a first responder and providing aid to the public in general (Cole and Smith 142).
At the federal level, there is the additional political concern of the director and the President. Enforcement of federal codes is subject to change as the aims of the organization shift to conform to the demands of regulation and legislation. The enforcement wing of a federal agency will see its mission and focus shift over time, as its job is to enforce legislation.
The main organizational principle that is present in all law enforcement entities is the principle of delegation of authority. The head of an organization is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the organization’s mission, but he or she can not possibly personally oversee all of the operations in a larger organization. For that reason, delegation and rank structure that is at least loosely based on a military model is used in order to properly delegate responsibility and allow for a chain of command in which junior officers report to senior officers in positions of leadership.
This organizational theory allows for easier completion of tasks by officers and leaders and the ability to conduct operations on a larger scale. In reality, it is the only way in which a large organization like a police force could operate as a single, unified organization.