Law enforcement broadly refers to any system by which some members of society act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating or punishing persons who violate the rules and norms governing that society. Although the term may encompass entities such as courts and prisons, it is most frequently applied to those who directly engage in patrols or surveillance to dissuade and discover criminal activity, and those who investigate crimes and apprehend offenders. Furthermore, 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.
A police officer (also known as a policeman/woman, police agent, patrolman, cop, and constable in some forces, particularly in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations) is a warranted employee of a police force. In the United States, "officer" is the formal name of the lowest police rank. In many other countries, "officer" is a generic term not specifying a particular rank, and the lowest rank is often "constable". In many other countries there is no such title as "police officer", as the use of the rank "officer" is legally reserved for military personnel only and thus not applicable. Police officers are generally charged with the apprehension of criminals and the prevention and detection of crime, and the maintenance of public order. Police officers may be sworn to an oath, and have the power to arrest people and detain them for a limited time, along with other duties and powers.
Some police officers may also be trained in special duties, such as counter-terrorism, surveillance, child protection, VIP protection, and investigation techniques into major crime, including fraud, rape, murder and drug trafficking.
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The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., at Judiciary Square, honors the more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout history. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was established by former U.S. Representative Mario Biaggi (D-NY), a 23-year New York City police veteran who was wounded in the line of duty over 10 times before retiring in 1965.
The term crime does not, in modern times, have any simple and universally accepted definition, but one definition is that a crime, also called an offence or a criminal offence, is an act harmful not only to some individual, but also to the community or the state (a public wrong). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.
A peace officer or law enforcement officer (LEO) in North America is any public-sector employee or agent whose duties primarily involve the enforcement of laws. The phrase can include police officers, corrections officers, customs officers, state troopers, special agents, immigration officers, court bailiffs, probation officers, parole officers, arson investigators, auxiliary officers, and sheriffs, marshals, and their deputies. Security guards are not normally law enforcement officers, unless they have been granted powers to enforce particular laws, such as those accredited under a Community Safety Accreditation Scheme.
Modern legal codes use the term peace officer (or in some jurisdictions, law enforcement officer) to include every person vested by the legislating state with law-enforcement authority – traditionally, anyone "sworn, badged, and armable" who can arrest, or refer such arrest for a criminal prosecution. Hence, city police officers, county sheriffs' deputies, and state troopers are usually vested with the same authority within a given jurisdiction. Contract security officers may enforce certain laws and administrative regulations, which may include detainment or apprehension authority.