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A Chief of Police, also known as Police Chief or sometimes shortened to just Chief is the title typically given to the top official in the chain of command of a police department, particularly in North America. Alternate titles for this position include Police Commissioner, Police Superintendent, and Chief Constable. In contrast to a Sheriff, who is generally elected by the voters of a county, except in the states of Rhode Island and Hawaii, a Chief of Police is usually a municipal employee who owes his or her allegiance to a city. Some states have both an appointed and an elected Chief of Police (Louisiana). In some jurisdictions the head of the police commission is the leader of the police and holds a position analogous or similar to the one described here, in this case he or she is referred to as Commissioner. The New York City Police Department has both a Police Commissioner and a Chief, formerly called the Chief Inspector, now called the Chief of Department. In Louisiana a Chief of Police may serve as the Chief of Police, Marshal, and Constable for a city. The fraternal organization International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is an organization often associated with many Chiefs of Police.


Municipal ordinances dictate the scope of authority a chief possesses and limits them in the abilities of commanding. The following list is a general sense of the actions and responsibilities held by any chief of police.

  1. Oversight of a department's totality of operation and budgeting.
  2. Over sight of officers.
    1. Limited disciplinary actions to be addressed on infractions of policy, rules, regulations, laws or ordinances.
    2. Full dismissal or heavy sanctioning of officer duty varying by municipal ordinance.
    3. Promotion and rank placement of officers.
  3. Patrol, investigating, and other duties performed by officers.
  4. Production and development of department policies and regulations.
  5. Upkeep and updating of department equipment such as police cruisers, firearms, communications equipment, and uniforms.
  6. Attending community events and council meetings to give briefings on department conditions or other undisclosed information vital to municipal operation and well being.
    1. Reporting to the municipality's mayor or city director regarding operations(and dismissal of officers for misconduct varying by municipal ordinance).
    2. Reporting to the municipality's board of directors.


In the province of Ontario, Canada a Chief of Police must be a sworn police officer and therefore have completed training at the Ontario Police College or have served a probationary period with another recognized police force (such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Academy known as "Depot"). This requirement is legislated in the Police Services Act of Ontario. The legislation states in Section 2 that a Chief of Police is a Police Officer. Section 44.2 of the PSA defines the training requirements. There was a case of the Guelph, Ontario Police Department where a human resources manager was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief, but was required to complete training at the OPC. The candidate is selected by a Police Services Board.

United States

Many state constitutions require every county to have a sheriff; some make no provision for this position to be eliminated even in the case of the formation of a Consolidated city–county or "metropolitan government". In this case, a decision must be made about how to divide the powers between the county sheriff and the city's chief of police. The usual compromise allows the chief of police to exercise law enforcement jurisdiction and to give the sheriff and his or her deputies authority over jail and the serving of civil papers. An alternative and lesser-used solution is to make the office of sheriff a purely ceremonial one. One other solution, an example of which is seen in the case of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, is to provide for the sheriff to simultaneously serve as the chief of police, thus remaining as the chief law enforcement officer of the county.

The police chief of a small town may be the only paid employee of the police department and have a staff consisting only of volunteers when available. Conversely the police chief of a major city may have thousands or in the case of very large cities such as New Yorkmarker, tens of thousands of sworn officers. Further than that they will have thousands more civilian employees under his or her command including operators, secretaries, and unsworn peace officers. It is obvious that the qualifications and skills required to be a police chief vary widely. Another important consideration is how overtly a police department is influenced by politics which varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. Increasingly, all U.S. law enforcement officers including small-town police chiefs and their charges are being required to meet at least minimum levels of professional training.

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