What is Law Enforcement?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Law enforcement is the collective term for professionals who are dedicated to upholding and enforcing the laws and statutes that are currently in force in a given jurisdiction. There are law enforcement jobs that focus on local settings, while others are focused more on upholding and enforcing national laws. In addition to enforcing laws, the function of legal enforcement also involves managing the punishment process for people who are convicted of crimes, up to and including managing the process of incarceration.

Most police departments use cars that are equipped with radios to patrol urban areas.
Most police departments use cars that are equipped with radios to patrol urban areas.

At its core, law enforcement seeks to achieve two goals. First, enforcement professionals seek to prevent the occurrence of a crime that is in some way damaging to another human being or to society as a whole. Second, people employed in some enforcement capacity will seek to ensure suspected criminals are tried in a manner that is in compliance with local laws. Various officials will also assign some form of punishment or imprisonment that is considered equitable for the type of crime committed, while also seeking rehabilitation of criminals when and as possible.

Scotland Yard is the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police.
Scotland Yard is the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police.

The concept of law enforcement is not new. Since the beginning of recorded time, there have been people appointed to maintain the standards and rules of the tribe or other society. For example, ancient Chinese culture used a system involving prefects or protectors who were assigned by the ruling government. The role of the prefect was to protect the general public, hear the facts regarding alleged criminal activity, and impose fines or other forms of punishment as deemed appropriate.

Judges are one part of the law enforcement system.
Judges are one part of the law enforcement system.

Today, there are a number of law enforcement jobs found at many different levels. A local police force serves by protecting the rights of citizens living within a specified jurisdiction. Police are empowered to apprehend and arrest people who are suspected of committing acts deemed to be criminal in nature. In many cultures, the administration of the police department works with other law professionals to make sure the suspect is held in custody or at least remains in the general area until he or she can stand trial for the suspected criminal activity.

Law enforcement may set up check points to search for suspicious items.
Law enforcement may set up check points to search for suspicious items.

State and federal law enforcement professionals are also empowered to apprehend suspects where there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Most nations have one or more enforcement agencies that have broad authority to function anywhere within the borders of the nation and any territories the country may possess. Some of the best known national agencies of this type include the FBI in the United States, and Scotland Yard in the United Kingdom.

Law enforcement also includes other professionals who manage some aspect of the containment, punishment, and possible rehabilitation of criminals. Employees of state and federal penal systems are considered to be members of the law enforcement community. In like manner, private detectives are also often viewed as being associated with legal enforcement. Probation officers, district attorneys, and court judges are also enforcement professionals who help to protect the rights of all citizens and seek to minimize the incidence of crime within society.

Law enforcement includes cracking down on illegal drug activity.
Law enforcement includes cracking down on illegal drug activity.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


There are many jobs that you may be able to do within Law Enforcement that do not require you to meet the physical demands required of sworn peace officers. I would suggest that you go to your local agency, either online or in person, and inquire about volunteer or other positions that you may be eligible to apply for. Good luck!


Something that has not been mentioned is the amount of schooling required for law enforcement jobs. Almost all police agencies now require an associates degree, and the one that does not is rare.

I know that one of the larger police departments around here requires more than that. They require bachelors degrees for the sergeants, and masters for the lieutenants.

All federal law enforcement jobs that I have seen so far require you to have at least bachelors, and be at least the age of 21. I did notice for the Marshals though that you could have several years of police experience instead.

But do not let that dissuade you that is my current goal as well. I am just finishing up my associates in criminal justice, and getting ready to go for my bachelors. I can tell you from the people I have met it is a very rewarding career, and most would not trade it for anything.

also on the article. Scotland yard is the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police. They do not not have national policing power.


I would like to have a career in law enforcement. However I have MS, I use crutches and a wheelchair for now. How can someone in my shoes work in law enforcement? Please reply. My Name is Robert. Thank you.


What about law enforcement in Nigeria, where the principal agent of government, Nigeria Police, is under heavy suspicion by the populace of not performing the role conscientiously and diligently, leading among others to lawlessness and lack of adequate security for life and property, most especially during election periods.

Does this fall under your purview of discourse?


Greenweaver- You can also be a state trooper or a police officer. These positions can also lead to detective work.

In order to be a police officer I know that you have to seek law enforcement training from the Police Academy. Once you graduate from there then you can officially become a police officer.


SurfNturf- Those sound like really exciting careers. I know that you can also be a Customs Agent and work for the dept of Homeland Security.

They generally screen all incoming shipments and assess the corresponding import duties for all incoming shipments.

It is their job to make sure that no hazardous or illegal items are found in the cargo shipments.

The great thing about many of these federal law enforcement jobs is that they offer a retirement pension after so many years of employment.

Many people that have successfully retired from law enforcement employment not only get to collect a sizable pension, but are usually young enough to start an entirely different career if they want.


BrickBack- I think it would be so cool to be an F.B.I. agent. I also wanted to say that the secret service also involves protection of the President, Vice- President and their subsequent families and would be another great career choice.

In addition, secret service agents specialize in covert operations that investigate high level financial crimes.

U.S. Marshalls also offer exciting opportunities. These agents main responsibility is to seek and find fugitives. They are often involved in finding high level drug cartel kingpins and dangerous habitual criminals that are at large.

This is a high risk, high reward type of job that is not for the faint at heart.


There are a lot of law enforcement employment opportunities. Some law enforcement careers include supporting the federal government.

For example, an F.B.I. agent focuses on high level federal crimes like fraud including mortgage fraud, kidnappings, money laundering and fmany other high profile crimes.

The F.B.I. does offer internships for those seeking law enforcement careers with the F.B.I. or other agencies.

Post your comments
Forgot password?