Does anyone know of a good book that explains the US police set-up nation-wide? Living in Scotland, I sometimes (no, it's not sometimes - it's all the time) get confused when reading a US procedural and hear of county sheriff departments, highway police, city police departments, state police and the FBI. What does each one do? What are its responsibilities? Can a sheriff's department investigate a murder? Is a city police department as important as a state police department? Do police departments overlap? Is there rivalry between them or do they cooperate fully?

And why are chiefs of police elected? Do they have to be police officers before they can stand for election? Or are they politicians? Can a policeman within a particular force stand for election as chief of police?

If there is a book that explains the US set up, these are the kinds of questions I would like to have answered.

Here in Scotland (and throughout the UK) there is one police force per designated area, and it does everything. The ranks are identical (with the exception of the Metropolitan Police) The exeptions are separate Transport Police, which generally operates on the UK rail network, and a police force for the nuclear industry.

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Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland is a good one for that. It's part of the Writer's Digest Howdunit guides for writers.
I might ask the reverse, if there's a good book that explains the police system in the UK.
Hi there Pepper.

The book for you is A Writer's Guide to Police Organisation and Crime Investigation and Detection by D.J. Cole. It's published by Robert Hale of London

ISBN 0 7090 59221 1
Thank you very much. I'll have to hunt around and see if I can find it.
The reason American procedures are so confusing to those outside the US--whether the issue is police procedure or mental health, the other subject on which I've seen a lot of non-Americans puzzled by the multiplicity of laws, rules, and regulations--is that one of our most jealously guarded traditions is "states' rights." The tenth amendment to the Constitution (and last item in our Bill of Rights) states: “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people. ” And that explains why so much happens differently in every state and local jurisdiction. Liz
Thanks to everyone who replied to my query. What a great bunch you all are on this website. The replies certainly cleared things up for me. I should have known if there was a book available, Lee would have written it. I'll get hold of a copy.
Hi Jim:

I am a police chief and we are never elected. We are "appointed," i.e. hired by a mayor or a city council...the governing body of a town or city. There really is no "standardization" per se in American law enforcement because there are thousands of different jurisdictions enforcing state and local as well as federal law. County Sherrif's are always elected by popular vote of the people they serve in a county, and a little known fact about sheriffs and sheriff departments is that in most places, by law, their only mandated duties are to maintain a jail, and serve legal papers...NOT to patrol the county, enforce laws, and investigate crimes! But of course they do patrol the counties and enforcing criminal law and investigating crimes makes up the major portion of their duties. I would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have about U.S. law enforcement...just ask. You might also contact Lee Lofland, another CrimeSpace member, who is an ex-cop and author and I'm sure there are other C.S. members who would be willing to help you as well.
Jim: Lol! I answered your post before checking out any of the previous responses you received, and see that you've already gotten several excellent answers to your question...many of which directly parallell my own. It's geat to see that we have such a knowledgable bunch of folks here on CrimeSpace! My offer still stands. Email me with your questions about American law enforcement, or just post them here on the Forum, and I will be happy to try and answer them for you. I don't know everything about the subject, but after twenty eight years as a police officer, and the last eighteen as a chief, I do happen to know a thing or two about a thing or two.


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