kids encyclopedia robot

Police facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
British police officers in London.

Police are a group of people whose job it is to enforce laws, help with emergencies, solve crimes and protect property. People who work for the police are called police officers or policemen. They work out of a police station. Police are trained in first aid and rescue, because police officers are often one of the first people to get to a place where people are sick or injured, such as a car accident, or a fire.

The word police was borrowed from French into the English language in the 18th century, but for a long time it applied only to French and continental European police forces. The word, and the concept of police itself, were "disliked as a symbol of foreign oppression". Before the 19th century, the first use of the word police recorded in government documents in the United Kingdom was the appointment of Commissioners of Police for Scotland in 1714 and the creation of the Marine Police in 1798.

The first example of a statutory police force in the world was probably the High Constables of Edinburgh, formed in 1611 to police the streets of Edinburgh, then part of the Kingdom of Scotland.



In ancient Egypt evidence of law enforcement exists as far back as the Old Kingdom period. During the fifth dynasty at the end of the Old Kingdom period, warriors armed with wooden sticks were tasked with guarding public places such as markets, temples, and parks, and apprehending criminals. They are known to have made use of trained monkeys, baboons, and dogs in guard duties and catching criminals. During the Middle Kingdom period, a professional police force was created. Police officers were responsible for administering punishments handed down by judges. In addition, there were special units of police officers trained as priests who were responsible for guarding temples and tombs and preventing inappropriate behavior at festivals or improper observation of religious rites during services.

In ancient Greece, publicly owned slaves were used by magistrates as police.

In the Roman Empire, the army played a major role in providing security. Roman soldiers detached from their legions and posted among civilians carried out law enforcement tasks. The Praetorian Guard, an elite army unit which was primarily an Imperial bodyguard and intelligence-gathering unit, could also act as a riot police force if required. There was no concept of public prosecution, so victims of crime or their families had to organize and manage the prosecution themselves.

Under the reign of Augustus, when the capital had grown to almost one million inhabitants, 14 wards were created; the wards were protected by seven squads of 1,000 men called vigiles, who acted as night watchmen and firemen. In addition to firefighting, their duties included apprehending petty criminals, capturing runaway slaves, guarding the baths at night, and stopping disturbances of the peace.

Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas also had organized law enforcement. The city-states of the Maya civilization had constables known as tupils. In the Aztec Empire, judges had officers serving under them who were empowered to perform arrests, even of dignitaries. In the Inca Empire, officials called curaca enforced the law among the households they were assigned to oversee, with inspectors known as tokoyrikoq (lit. he who sees all) also stationed throughout the provinces to keep order.


The police have different powers to help them do their job. These powers are different in different countries. Most police officers have the power to arrest people, search people, and search houses/properties. They sometimes carry equipment such as guns, batons and pepper spray. The area where a police officer can use these powers is called their jurisdiction. If the officer goes outside of his jurisdiction, they are no longer allowed to use his powers. Another police force has to then take over.


Victorian Police Motorcycle, Geelong, Aust, jjron, 30.9.2010
Police motorcycles are commonly used for patrols and escorts, as seen here in Australia

The police deal with;

  • Stopping crime and protecting the public. They do this by patrolling on foot in uniform and in police cars. It is often agreed that seeing police officers makes people feel safer and that it stops some some forms of criminal behavior.
  • investigating crime. This means that they find out who did the crime. Some crimes, such as robbery or murder are investigated by detectives.
  • To help in emergencies or problems the that are not crimes. They could go to car accidents, fires, or people who are sick or hurt. The police work with firefighters, ambulances, and rescuers. They could direct traffic, help lost children, give traffic tickets, and many other things.

Parts of police departments

Most police departments have most of their officers in two main groups: a "patrol" group that has officers who wear uniforms, and a "detective" group that has officers who wear normal clothing.

  • Patrol officers travel through their area to see what is happening. They drive marked cars with warning lights and sirens (makes sound to warn people). Patrol officers also enforce traffic regulations and run the local jail.
  • Detectives work on investigations that are more complex.

Not all countries use the same words to describe these groups. In the United Kingdom, for example, patrol officers form the "uniform branch", while detectives work within the CID ("Criminal Investigation Department"). Police uniforms, equipment and methods can change a lot depending on the country. In some areas, groups of police are train for special jobs such as dealing with riots or when a situation is very bad.

Police Poland 2 AB
A Polish police officer with some of his equipment

Police in different countries

Different countries have different names for their police. In Ireland, they are called the Garda. In Russia, they were called the Militsiyer until 2012; now, they are called the Politsiyer, closer to the English "police". Other names for police services are sheriff's office, marshal's office or department of public safety. In the same country there can be different types of police officer who have powers in different areas and situations, such as state police, military police and local police. Worldwide, police make up a small percentage of the people they serve. On average there are 303.3 police officers per 100,000 population.

A Spanish police car


In most countries, police officers have been trained to carry guns. Even in countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland where most police officers do not carry guns, more are being trained to do so because gun crime is getting worse. Firearms training teaches that the use of a firearm is only when lives are at risk.

Related pages

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Policía para niños

kids search engine
Police Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.