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A law enforcement officer (also called peace officer), in North America, is any public-sector or authorized, government-contracted private-police officer, charged with upholding the peace, mainly police officers, customs officers, correctional officers, court officers, probation officers, parole officers, auxiliary officers, and sheriffs or marshals and their deputies. A security guard, however, is generally not referred to as a law enforcement officer.

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" but, basically, 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.

Jurisdictions may restrict the powers granted to those who have "peace-officer status" instead of "police-officer status". For example, in New Yorkmarker, all New York State Court Officers, as well as Court Clerks, assigned to the 1st and 2nd Judicial Departments are classified as peace officers who can carry a firearm both on and off duty.


In Canadamarker, the Criminal Code (R.S., c. C-34, s. 2.) defines a peace officer as:

[All members of the Canadian Forces have Peace officer power while they are engaging "in the course of any military operation, training or administration, either as a result of a specific order or established military custom or practice". Section 156 of the National Defence Act declares that members of the Canadian Forces who have been designated as Military Police shall be considered peace officers under the Criminal Code of Canada.]

Section (b) can designate as a peace officer a member of the Correctional Service of Canada under the following via the Corrections and Conditional Release Act:[141359]

In addition, legislatures of provinces can designate a class of officers (ie. Conservation Officers) to be peace officers.

United States


U.S. Law Enforcement Officers include (but may not be limited to) the following:


  1. Police officers
  2. Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
  3. Constables and deputy constables
  4. Fish and game wardens
  5. Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker (FBI) agents
  6. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents
  7. United States Marshals and Deputy Marshals
  8. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents
  9. Bureau of Diplomatic Security special agents
  10. United States Border Patrol agents
  11. Immigration inspectors
  12. Customs and Border Protection officers
  13. Federal Air Marshals
  14. United States Secret Service special agents and uniformed officers
  15. District Attorney and Prosecuting Attorney investigators


Sections 830 through 831.7 of the California Penal Codelist persons who are and who are not peace officers in California. Peace officers include, in addition to many others,

  1. Police; sheriffs, undersheriffs, and their deputies. (§ 830.1[a])
  2. The California Attorney General and special agents and investigators of the California Department of Justice. (§ 830.1[b])
  3. Members of the California Highway Patrol. (§ 830.2[a])
  4. Members of the University of California Police Department or the California State University Police Department. (§ 830.2 [b]&[c])
  5. Special agents of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (§ 830.2[d])
  6. California State Park rangers. (§ 830.2[f])
  7. Certain employees of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. (§ 830.3[c])
  8. The State Fire Marshal and assistant or deputy state fire marshals. (§ 830.3[e])
  9. Fraud investigators of the California Department of Insurance. (§ 830.3[i])
  10. Members of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District Police Department. (§ 830.33 [a])
  11. Welfare fraud investigators employed by the California Department of Social Services and all county welfare departments. (§ 830.35[a])
  12. County coroners and deputy coroners. (§ 830.35[c])
  13. Parole officers and correctional officers of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (§ 830.5 [a]&[b])

Most peace officers have jurisdiction throughout the state, but many have limited powers outside their political subdivision. Some peace officers require special permission to carry firearms. Powers are often limited to performance of peace officers’ primary duties (usually, enforcement of specific laws within their political subdivision); however, most have power of arrest anywhere in the state for any public offensethat poses immediate danger to person or property.

A private person (i.e., ordinary citizen) may arrest another person for an offense committed in the arresting person’s presence,or if the other person has committed a felony whether or not in the arresting person’s presence (Penal Code § 837), though such an arrest when an offense has not actually occurred leaves a private person open to criminal prosecution and civil liability for false arrest. A peace officer
  1. May, without a warrant, arrest a person on probable cause that the person has committed an offense in the officer’s presence, or if there is probable cause that a felony has been committed and the officer has probable cause to believe the person to be arrested committed the felony. (Penal Code § 836).
  2. Is immune from civil liability for false arrest if, at the time of arrest, the officer had probable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.

Persons are required to comply with certain instructions given by a peace officer, and certain acts (e.g., battery) committed against a peace officer carry more severe penalties than the same acts against a private person. It is unlawful to resist, delay, or obstruct a peace officer in the course of the officer’s duties (Penal Code § 148[a][1]).

New York State

New York State grants peace officers very specific powers under NYS Criminal Procedure Law, that they may make warrantless arrests, use physical and deadly force, and issue summonses under section 2.20 of that law.

There is a full list of peace officers under Section 2.10 of that law. Below are some examples.

  1. That state has law enforcement agencies contained within existing executive branch departments that employ sworn peace officers to investigate and enforce laws specifically related to the department. Most often, these departments employ sworn Investigators (separate from the New York State Police) that have state-wide investigative authority pursuant to the departments mission.
  2. The New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) is a state investigative agency housed under the State Department of Health. Narcotic Investigators with the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement are sworn peace officers who carry firearms, make arrests, and enforce the New York State Controlled Substances Act, New York State Penal Law, and New York State Public Health Law.
  3. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance employs sworn peace officers as Excise Tax Investigators and Revenue Crimes Investigators. These State Investigators carry firearms, make arrests, and enforce New York State Penal Law related to tax evasion and other crimes. Excise Tax Investigators may execute Search Warrants.
  4. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Division of Field Investigation also employ sworn peace officers as State Investigators. All DMV Investigators carry Glock 23 firearms and enforce New York State Penal Law and Vehicle and Traffic Law. The DMV Division of Field Investigation investigates auto theft, odometer tampering, fraudulent documents and identity theft crimes.
  5. Private corporations can also register their employees as peace officers with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. One example is the resident-owned RiverBay Corporation's Co-op City Department of Public Safety in New York City which, , employs more than 100 public safety officers that are sworn as Special Patrolmen.
  6. Auxiliary Police officers in New York State are registered as peace officers with the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJS). One example is the NYPD Auxiliary Police in New York City which, as of 2008, has more than 4,500 Auxiliary Police officers who are registered by DCJS as "Part Time Peace Officers without Firearms Training", and are registered as peace officers in the DCJS registry of peace officers.


Texas Statutes, Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 2.12, provides:

See also


  1. New York State Court Officers
  2. Court Clerks
  3. California Penal Code, Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 4.5, Peace Officers. Accessed 12 September 2008
  4. Public offenses in California include infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
  5. California Penal Code, Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 5, Arrest and by Whom Made, § 837.
  6. California Penal Code, Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 5, Arrest and by Whom Made, § 836.
  7. California Penal Code, Part 1, Title 7, Chapter 7, Other Offenses Against Public Justice, §148.
  8. New York State Assembly web site. Click on CPL for Criminal Procedure law, then article II, then section 2.20. Accessed December 3, 2007
  9. New York State Assembly web site. Click on CPL for Criminal Procedure law, then article II, then section 2.10. Accessed December 3, 2007
  10. N.Y.S. Criminal Procedure Law, Section 2.10, Part 26, Peace officers designated pursuant to the provisions of the New York state defense emergency act

External links

Peace Officer associations

U.S. National associations

U.S. State associations

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