Sample Criminal Justice Research Paper on Policing Levels in the Local, State and Federal

Policing Levels in the Local, State and Federal

American policing is a large and complex system consisting of more than 20,000 agencies at the local, state and federal levels. These agencies operate along with private security industry which has its employees. According to Crank (2014), the reasons behind the fragmented form of the policing system into three levels are based on two beliefs. First, it is historically evident that earlier, the Republican citizens feared federal police force. Secondly, Americans believe that it is more convenient, and best results can be obtained when local problems are handled at the local level. Fragmentation, however, creates three main problems which include lack of uniformity in recruitment, management and policies across police departments, wasteful duplication of efforts in the system and finally, ineffective communication and sharing of information across and between agencies. There is no formal central unit for controlling and coordinating the activities of the three levels hence these levels may work independently in certain situations towards same roles and responsibilities of protecting the society from crime. All the levels are administrated by specified set of rules, responsibilities, and procedures.

Policing function at the local, state, and federal organizational levels

The local police include municipal, regional, county and tribal police. These units were created and are governed by the local government body. Their main function is upholding jurisdiction laws, providing patrol and investigating local crimes. Both the local and state agencies have a policing culture where officers on patrol are free to make independent decisions without consultation. The common activities that attract independent decisions making include those that do not require conducting arrests or making reports to a supervisor (Kurke & Scrivner, 2013).

The state police agencies are involved with all police functions of the state that comprise law enforcement, prevention of crime, investigation, and persecution of offenders. They are also involved in highway traffic enforcement through involvement in traffic patrols, investigation of accidents and incidents of highways, and conducting of measures on the safety of citizens on highways. The other functions of this level of organization is providing investigation and intelligence services statewide.The agencies also have the responsibility of managing state emergencies, supporting state and local law enforcement efforts, and maintaining criminal records and identification systems to ensure all resources related to criminal, non-criminal, and judicial functions are comprehensive, reliable and effective.

The federal police agencies follow the authority of the federal government, and their main purpose is handling issues concerning enforcement and security which are outside the boundaries of the state but affect regions of the country or the American nation as a whole. These agencies include the federal bureau of investigations, firearms and explosives, border patrol, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, drug enforcement and administration U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The duties of federal officers include police response and patrols, investigating criminal offenses and providing inspection services, security, and protection.

Differences and similarities

Local, federal and state police levels all work towards protecting the society from crimes. They are all administrative bodies empowered by the jurisdiction of the government that create them. The other similarity is the related activities resulting from cooperation and collaboration within organizational levels. The state police provide highway patrol servicers on state roads including those transversing a community even if it has its police force. Both the state and county police attend to crucial matters like rape by providing investigation assistance to smaller agencies. In order to minimize overlapping of investigations, the federal police allow the local and state police to access their databases and systems. They also call upon the other levels in cases where there is cross jurisdictional boundaries like immigration and drug trafficking.

There are differences found in the policing levels. Firstly, the policing levels practice their jurisdiction authority on different regions as designated by their responsible bodies. The local police have jurisdiction over crime within the local communities, the state police have jurisdiction over state roads and enforcing law nationwide including in rural areas with no local policing entities while federal police agencies have jurisdiction over federal crimes. Secondly is the difference in the employment procedures. The local police officers are hired by their city government through specified rules and regulations. The state police officers are appointed differently depending on the level of management. This is because of the specialized and fragmented form of the agencies. The top management is usually made up of political appointees while the middle-level managers are appointed from within the force.Finally, each level is overseen by a governmental body which authorizes its functions and operations. The local agencies are governed by the city government, the state police agencies are governed by laws set out by their statutes of operations, while the federal police agencies follow the federal laws.

Leadership characteristics and responsibilities

The local police agencies should ensure each member of the team have leadership qualities which are community oriented, for the effective providence of services and accomplishment of organizational objectives (Cordner, 2014). The agencies should lead effectively through creating reliable and effective partnerships with the community, application of efficient problem-solving strategies and incorporation of the culture of the community. This way, the community can be united together in identifying and addressing the issues of crime. For a local police leader to be effective, he or she should have technical and human skills. Technical skills are essential in applying available tools and techniques required to carry out their duties and responsibilities. They should be good observers of culture and behaviors and should be able to effectively enhance cooperation to facilitate the gathering of information.

Considering the state police agencies are highly specialised and fragmented, the agency should provide effective leadership through proper guidance and direction to ensure smooth running of the operations (James, 2013).  The complexity that exists in the management of personnel and crime cannot be solved without police leadership. The police agencies are therefore required to evaluate missions and visions at a larger angle since they play a bigger role in the society. The individual police officers should be leaders and followers at the same time in enforcing laws and maintaining order in serving the public. Leadership development programs are a critical responsibility in this level in enhancing leadership skills of the employees, supervisors, and managers.

            The federal police officers should have effective leadership skills to enhance their dealings outside the states boundaries. First, they should have the ability to nurture the internal and external relationships of a country. They should also have skills that facilitate cooperation and partnership and finally, should value diversity in every function of their work. All agencies at all levels should apply leadership responsibilities in all levels of management with top managers overseeing the entire organization while the officers respect the code of ethics to achieve best results in their activities.


American policing is a critical operation that requires improvement and development to maintain peace, order, and safety of the society. The complexity of the system due to fragmentation has created the need for the development of leadership through law enforcement training and education. To avoid duplication of efforts in different policing levels, there is also the need for more cooperation and coordination through the creation of a central body to govern all the levels. Innovation may also be an in integral strategy to solve failures within the policing agencies, for example, those brought by the complex system.


Cordner, G. (2014). Community policing. The Oxford handbook of police and policing,


Crank, J., & Crank, J. P. (2014). Understanding police culture. Routledge.

James, G. (2013). Preview (Doctoral dissertation, Empire State College).

Kurke, M. I., & Scrivner, E. M. (2013). Police psychology into the 21st century.

 Psychology Press.