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  #1  
Old 10-03-2009, 02:03 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is online now
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Why does the U.S. need more than one federal law-enforcement agency?

Every town and city in America has (no more than) one police department, every county has one sheriff's office, every state has one state police force. But at the federal level we have the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, all with overlapping jurisdictions. Isn't that kind of redundant? Wouldn't a single federal law-enforcement agency make more sense?
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  #2  
Old 10-03-2009, 02:17 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
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Quote:
every state has one state police force
Are you sure about that?

Without looking up, I'm thinking that Texas has the Texas Rangers and the Texas Highway Patrol, don't they?
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  #3  
Old 10-03-2009, 02:37 PM
Red Skeezix Red Skeezix is online now
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
Every town and city in America has (no more than) one police department, every county has one sheriff's office, every state has one state police force. But at the federal level we have the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, all with overlapping jurisdictions. Isn't that kind of redundant? Wouldn't a single federal law-enforcement agency make more sense?
We do have a single federal law enforcement agency, the executive branch. All of these law enforcement agencies a just large subdivisions under one authority (President).

It doesn't really matter that they are all separate divisions, if they were one single agency they would be broken up into divisions probably along similar lines to how they are divided up now. The only benefit would be ability to share bodies and information more easily, but there would still be rivalries and politics between each division competing for funds.
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  #4  
Old 10-03-2009, 02:41 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Originally Posted by janeslogin View Post
Are you sure about that?

Without looking up, I'm thinking that Texas has the Texas Rangers and the Texas Highway Patrol, don't they?
Yes, but they're both divisions of the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS Highway Patrol is the uniformed division, and the Texas Rangers are the plainclothes investigative division.

However, there are other state law enforcement agencies other than the DPS: the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (which has state duties similar to the federal BATF), the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (similar to the federal Bureau of Prisons), state campus police for individual universities, and so on. Also, some municipal areas will have local law enforcement other than the city police department, like the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Police, Dallas City Marshal's Office, etc.
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  #5  
Old 10-03-2009, 07:11 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Red Skeezix View Post
It doesn't really matter that they are all separate divisions, if they were one single agency they would be broken up into divisions probably along similar lines to how they are divided up now.
They wouldn't all need separate service academies and the like, and I fail to see what purpose the ATF serves.
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  #6  
Old 10-03-2009, 08:01 PM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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I suspect it has to do with the idea that there is not or ought not be a "national police force". At the state and local level law enforcement agencies are often considered to be general purpose police forces, enforcing the law and keeping the peace in that jurisdiction. For reasons of federalism and probably also a more general traditional Anglo-Saxon distrust of centralized police authority*, the federal government doesn't really have such a police force--I suppose the closest would be the FBI--because the federal government doesn't really possess what I recall seeing Bricker refer to as "plenary police power". Instead, the federal government is supposed to only make laws in certain areas where it has been delegated authority under the Constitution, such as the suppression of couterfeiting (the Secret Service); piracy, smuggling, and other crimes on the high seas (the Coast Guard); various crimes that cross state lines (the FBI); crimes that take place on federally-owned land (Park Rangers); and drug laws (the DEA) (although the federal government's jurisdiction over that last one seems to have just been sort of made up by Congress, but whatever).


*Even now I don't think the UK has a "national police force" or forces in the way that France or Russia do.
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  #7  
Old 10-03-2009, 11:53 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
They wouldn't all need separate service academies and the like, and I fail to see what purpose the ATF serves.
Federal civilian law enforcement training is provided by FLETC, the Federal Law enforement Training Center.

Quote:
The FLETC serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for more than 80 Federal agencies. The Center also provides services to state, local, and international law enforcement agencies. The Center is headquartered at Glynco, GA, near the port city of Brunswick, halfway between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL.

Quote:
We are ATF - A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.
http://www.atf.gov/about/mission.htm
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  #8  
Old 10-04-2009, 12:30 AM
suranyi suranyi is online now
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
Every town and city in America has (no more than) one police department, every county has one sheriff's office, every state has one state police force. But at the federal level we have the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, all with overlapping jurisdictions. Isn't that kind of redundant? Wouldn't a single federal law-enforcement agency make more sense?
The premise is wrong. In California, for example, we have the California Highway Patrol and the California State Police.
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  #9  
Old 10-04-2009, 12:37 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Duckster View Post
Federal civilian law enforcement training is provided by FLETC, the Federal Law enforement Training Center.
Then what is the FBI Academy for?

The FLETC is a bunch of separate schools on one campus, AFAIK, not one school.
Quote:
We are ATF - A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.
Why can't the FBI do those things? It already handles most of them anyway.
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  #10  
Old 10-04-2009, 01:51 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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Alexandria, VA has a police department and a sheriff's department, with slightly different duties. Washington, DC has 13 different police departments including Metropolitan, Transit (which has jurisdiction of the Metrorail, even into Maryland and Virginia), Park police, Capitol Hill police (answerable directly to congress), Secret Service and a bunch of others. Almost every cabinet department has its own investigative arm and some kind of police force in DC.

Historically, there's lots of precedent. Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu each had his own army and they kept each other's ambitions somewhat in check. Rome's Praetorian Guard was separate from the Legion, although that's where its ranks were drawn from.
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  #11  
Old 10-04-2009, 02:11 AM
Bearflag70 Bearflag70 is offline
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Originally Posted by suranyi View Post
The premise is wrong. In California, for example, we have the California Highway Patrol and the California State Police.
CHP and CSP merged in 1995 and retained the name CHP.
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  #12  
Old 10-04-2009, 10:07 AM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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The OP brings up a point that was brought up after 9-11. Different agencies not co-operating among themselves.

So why do we need different agencies? This is mostly a historical legacy. The USA is a big nation and the population is all over. Even in relatively empty parts like the American West you find Salt Lake City and Las Vegas (both over a million in the metro area)

Because of distance, local enforcement was better than federal enforcement. Here's a great example, most of what is now Clark County Nevada (which contains Las Vegas) was not part of Nevada when it was admitted as a state. Indeed until 1960 the population was mostly concentrated in the Reno area.

But Gold was discovered in the (what is now) Clark County area. It didn't turn out to be as big of a find as they thought, but the area was taken away from Arizona Territory and given to Nevada. Why? Because they thought a "gold rush" into the area would bring people and law and order is better handled locally (through a state government) than through a territory (Arizona territory) which is federally administered.

So Nevada wound up with what is Clark County today.

So you see the historical reasons behind it.

Now once something is established you don't get rid of it easily. Why? Because no one is going to voluntarily just give up their jobs.

The OP brigns up duplication and this is a problem but when you look closely you also see it's not merely a problem of seperate agencies but within agencies themselves.

If you look at police departments you find officers within a police department compete for resources just as much as officers from sepearte law enforcement agencies.

So even if you had ONE agency instead of two or three or four, it doesn't mean you're not gonna have the competition or duplication.
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  #13  
Old 10-04-2009, 01:10 PM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Originally Posted by MEBuckner View Post
*Even now I don't think the UK has a "national police force" or forces in the way that France or Russia do.
No we dont,we have county police forces plus The Ministry of Defence police which operates in defence establishments(No connection with military police or similar though obviously they cooperate) and The Atomic Energy Commission police as I recall.

I'm not an expert on this subject so I defer to anyone who is better informed then me but I'm broadly correct at the very least.
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  #14  
Old 10-05-2009, 10:11 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
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Originally Posted by pravnik View Post
Yes, but they're both divisions of the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS Highway Patrol is the uniformed division, and the Texas Rangers are the plainclothes investigative division.

However, there are other state law enforcement agencies other than the DPS: the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (which has state duties similar to the federal BATF), the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (similar to the federal Bureau of Prisons), state campus police for individual universities, and so on. Also, some municipal areas will have local law enforcement other than the city police department, like the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Police, Dallas City Marshal's Office, etc.
From when I was living in College Station, Texas, I recall that you'd see the CSPD, Brazos County Sheriff's office, and the Texas A&M University Police (you'd sometimes see them responding to off-campus stuff near the university campus, like car accidents and such). From what I understand the way jurisdictional law works in the state of Texas, the Bryan Police Department could theoretically do law enforcement in College Station if they wanted to, but the city of Bryan probably keeps them busy enough as it is.

Also, the last I heard, Houston had two or three police departments at least, one that patrolled the turnpikes and the highways, one that patrolled the city proper, and one responsible for the Port of Houston.

Within the US Military, we have a separate law enforcement branch for each branch of the military, and I'm pretty sure each branch has its own plainclothes equivilant to the FBI (IIRC, Navy CIS, Army CID, Air Force OSI, no idea what the Marines use). We see the AFOSI guys on base here in business suits and sunglasses. My girlfriend, an avid Final Fantasy fan, likes to refer to them as "Turks".
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  #15  
Old 10-05-2009, 10:15 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Lust4Life View Post
No we dont,we have county police forces plus The Ministry of Defence police which operates in defence establishments(No connection with military police or similar though obviously they cooperate) and The Atomic Energy Commission police as I recall.

I'm not an expert on this subject so I defer to anyone who is better informed then me but I'm broadly correct at the very least.
Well, there's also MI5.
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  #16  
Old 10-05-2009, 02:01 PM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Well, there's also MI5.
They're civil servants rather then police, though they did get involved with investigating organised crime and suchlike when the Cold War finished.
I would hazard a wild stab in the dark that they have a lot more to preoccupy them nowadays.
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  #17  
Old 10-05-2009, 02:17 PM
sweeteviljesus sweeteviljesus is offline
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I don't know about other states, but in Texas, an LEO is an LEO. A cop in Dallas could theoretically give a ticket to someone in Houston. I heard from someone who was probably blowing smoke that game wardens from Parks and Wildlife would be brought along on drug raids because they had broader search powers.

Austin, where I live, has the Travis County Sheriff's Dept., the Travis Co. Constable's Dept, the Austin Police Dept., the city Marshall's service, the Capitol police (part of DPS), UTPD (for UT), and the Parks Police.

Rob

Last edited by sweeteviljesus; 10-05-2009 at 02:20 PM..
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  #18  
Old 10-05-2009, 07:30 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
Every town and city in America has (no more than) one police department, every county has one sheriff's office, every state has one state police force. But at the federal level we have the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, all with overlapping jurisdictions. Isn't that kind of redundant? Wouldn't a single federal law-enforcement agency make more sense?
A lot of States have a State-level police agency with broad jurisdiction that overlaps that of many small county or municipal police forces. I'm even aware of some counties (for example in Georgia) that have both a County Police Department and a County Sheriff Department, and while both have specified duties (in that case it seems the Sheriff's Department is more related to court security, sort of) they both also seem to have oddly overlapping jurisdictions.

That being said, the simple and short answer is the Federal government is a huge bureaucracy with many fiefdoms and many of those fiefdoms wanted their own private police forces. It's part and parcel of the general inefficiency of the Federal government.
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  #19  
Old 10-05-2009, 07:35 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Most likely the best way to run law enforcement, both on the State and Federal level would be to have centralized academies and a central processing/hiring arm. Once you make it in as a law enforcement officer you specify what area you'd like to serve in and (subject to availability) you get assigned to a particular division and then to a specific location.

Essentially all the Federal-level LEOs would have "one" (same-named) employer but many possible duty assignments.

Sort of similar to how when you're in the U.S. Army you're in the Army, period, but also can have any number of MOS.

Likewise at the State level you'd work for and be trained at a facility ran by the State, and then assigned to a specific department (anywhere from performing local police duties in a small rural town to a huge metropolis, or running highway patrol et cetera.) I could see it leading to much better coverage of police resources in areas with weaker tax bases and greater standardization across the board.
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  #20  
Old 10-05-2009, 07:43 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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A similar thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=509076
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  #21  
Old 10-05-2009, 08:02 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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See also: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=523135
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