SIC 9221

This industry classification includes government establishments primarily engaged in law enforcement, traffic safety, police, and other activities related to the enforcement of the law and preservation of order. The National Guard and military police are classified in SIC 9711: National Security. Private establishments primarily engaged in law enforcement, traffic safety, police, and other activities related to law enforcement are classified in SIC 7381: Detective, Guard, and Armored Car Services. Government establishments primarily engaged in prosecution are classified in SIC 9222: Legal Counsel and Prosecution. Government establishments primarily engaged in the collection of law enforcement statistics are classified in SIC 9229: Public Order and Safety, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

922120 (Police Protection)

Organization and Structure

Police protection encompasses a wide range of protective services, involving many different municipal, state, and federal government agencies. These agencies often have overlapping authority, creating a vast network of law enforcement functions. The broadest authority possible is given to certain federal agencies.

Local police officers have many responsibilities and work in major metropolitan areas, small towns, and rural areas. They may investigate crimes, arbitrate domestic disputes, administer first aid, direct traffic, or investigate fires. Some areas use police on foot, bicycle, or motor patrol, whereas many other officers have desk assignments wherein the voluminous paperwork required for law enforcement is completed. Others may be assigned to special units such as mounted police who patrol on horseback, rescue teams, canine corps, helicopter patrol, or youth gang detail. Some officers become experts of another sort, working in a laboratory doing chemical or microscopic analysis, firearms identification, or handwriting or fingerprint identification. Nearly all police officers must write reports and maintain police records.

Most police organizations have a chain of command similar to that commonly utilized by American military organizations. In large cities, sergeants, lieutenants, and captains direct the work of squads or companies of officers. Ranking officers report to a chief of police or a police commissioner. In small towns, however, the chief of police naturally commands a small force; in some instances, he or she may be the only officer in town.

Generally, local police departments are covered by civil service regulations that require applicants to pass a test for the job. Because of the physical and character demands of the job, applicants must pass a rigorous physical and psychological examination, as well as a background investigation. Each promotion to a higher rank may also require passage of an additional civil service examination.

County sheriffs generally cover rural areas or the outskirts of an incorporated city. In many cases, they are the only local police force, and in others they supplement the city police force. They often work as bailiffs, keeping order in courtrooms, and may work as guards in county jails. Many sheriffs' departments have fewer than 10 uniformed officers.

State police officers patrol highways to enforce traffic laws. They also provide aid to stranded motorists, call for emergency roadside services, and provide traffic control when road repairs are being made and during special events. State police have authority to enforce criminal laws and give traffic citations in local communities away from the highways, in most cases. They may also assist local police in crime investigations or provide crowd control during civil disturbances.

Federal law enforcement efforts include a vast network of special agents that work for various federal agencies and investigate particular types of criminal activity. Federal agents wield much authority because of their nationwide jurisdiction—they can cross state lines and negotiate with law representatives of foreign countries. Border patrol agents are a good example of federal law enforcement efforts.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employs special agents who investigate serious crimes such as bank robberies, kidnapping, terrorism, organized crime, theft of government property, and espionage, among other transgressions. The FBI is one of the most technologically advanced law enforcement agencies in the country, and it concentrates its efforts on the most serious offenses. It also is called in to investigate crimes committed across state lines, where local police are unable to extend their authority. Agents for the FBI are graduates of accredited law schools or have accounting degrees or foreign-language skills.

Like the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); the U.S. Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DEA agents conduct investigations of illegal drug activity, often working undercover. They also may be involved in preparing documents to justify the seizure of financial and other assets gained by illegal activity. U.S. Marshals serve criminal warrants issued by federal judges and are often responsible for the safety and transport of jurors and prisoners. ATF agents investigate a range of illegal activity, from suspected illegal sales of guns, to underpayment of taxes by liquor importers, to illegal transport of cigarettes. Formerly part of the Department of the Treasury, the law enforcement function of ATF was moved to the U.S. Department of Justice on January 24, 2003.

Along with the U.S. Customs Service and the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). INS agents enforce laws regulating the entry of aliens into the country. U.S. Customs agents enforce laws concerning smuggling of goods into the country, searching for banned items in tourists' belongings and among the cargo of ships and planes. The U.S. Secret Service not only protects the president, the vice president, their families, and visiting foreign dignitaries, but also investigates counterfeiting and the forgery of government checks or bonds. In addition to law enforcement agencies within the DOJ and DHS, the Department of the Treasury is home to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS agents investigate evasion of payment of federal taxes by U.S. taxpayers.

Background and Development

The U.S. police system has its roots in England. The City of New York was so impressed with the efficiency of the London Metropolitan Police that it sent a delegation to London to study the department in 1833. The result was the formation of the New York City Police Department in 1844, the first of its kind in the United States. It was followed by the establishment of the Boston Police Department in 1850. Americans did not adopt the English system entirely, however. The English and European systems favored strong central government control. In contrast, Americans favored local control—the early settlers were suspicious of any type of centralized government control. Local autonomy was fiercely defended, which is probably why the United States still maintains local police forces.

The New England states became centers of commerce and industry, with a municipal-type government and a locally elected constable to enforce the laws. In the southern part of the country, which was more agricultural and rural, the county form of government was more suitable, and the county sheriff became the preferred law enforcement officer. The first state police agency was the Texas Rangers, created in 1835, and the first federal law enforcement agency was the Secret Service, formed in 1865.

As the twentieth century came to a close, the nature of police work was very different—and arguably more dangerous—than it had been many years before. For example, on July 24, 1998, Americans were shocked to learn that two policemen were gunned down in the line of duty while guarding the nation's Capitol in Washington, D.C. Thus, concern for protecting the protectors was justifiably heightened. In 1999, 10-year-old Stephanie Taylor of Oceanside, California, made national news when she raised $3,000 to help purchase bulletproof vests for the city's local police dogs. In addition, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) remained very active in legislative lobbying on all matters involving gun control, a politically charged issue for all American following a deadly rash of school shootings from 1996-99 that killed dozens of students in various cities around the country.

Notwithstanding, stories of alleged police brutality continued to make headline news as the century came to a close. One of the most controversial stories involved New York police officer Justin Volpe, who in 1999 confessed to beating and sodomizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. Another politically charged matter was the string of appeals filed on behalf of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, indicted for murdering a policeman in the 1980s.

On a national level, with the booming stock market of 1998 and 1999, there was an epidemic rise in securities and investment fraud. In 1998, the FBI reported 865 securities fraud indictments and informations, with seizures of nearly $40 million and total restitution of over $1.2 billion. By 1999, Internet-related stock fraud was costing investors $10 billion per year. With an estimated 200 million Internet users in the year 2000, the number of online investors was expected to triple by 2003.

Another big crime market in the latter 1990s was a major increase in "product counterfeiting," the unauthorized duplication and mass production of "bootlegged" videotapes, sound recordings, and computer software. In such matters, local police agencies often coordinate with the FBI in scam operations directed at containing the spread of this black market. The 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, the October 1999 crash of Egyptair Flight 990, and a rash of bombings at abortion clinics also resulted in the cohesive networking of local, state, and federal police authorities to combine resources for investigation and information processing.

Current Conditions

By the early 2000s, police agencies were forced to contend with unprecedented concerns about significant terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history took place when hijacked commercial airliners were used to destroy the World Trade Center towers in New York. Other attacks that day involved a hijacked jet that damaged the Pentagon, as well as the crash of another hijacked jet in Pennsylvania. Subsequently, mail tainted with deadly anthrax bacteria was circulated in the U.S. postal system, causing several deaths and forcing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to implement a number of security measures. In addition to the anthrax scares, in 2002 a 21-year-old college student from Wisconsin planted 18 pipe bombs in rural mailboxes. Although no deaths resulted from the pipe bombs, a number of postal workers and residents were injured. During a time span of five days, the USPS dedicated some 150 postal inspectors to the case—which covered five states, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas—before it was finally resolved.

Conditions such as these led Congress to create the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Along with the Homeland Security Council, this new government agency created the Homeland Security Advisory System, which uses five warning levels to communicate perceived terrorism "threat conditions" to the American people. These levels are: low (green), guarded (blue), elevated (yellow), high (orange), and severe (red). As the potential for an attack increased, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as National Guard units, were increasingly involved in security efforts coordinated by various federal agencies.

Following the September 11 attacks, the FBI began sharing unprecedented levels of sensitive intelligence with local police executives, including police chiefs and sheriffs at approximately 18,000 U.S. police agencies. In some large cities, departments devoted entire units exclusively to counter-terrorism. For example, in the New York Police Department, some 1,000 officers were assigned to this task. In addition, 300 officers took part in a counter-terrorism bureau that was led by a retired general from the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the Associated Press. Task forces established by the FBI to combat terrorism even involved police officers from leading U.S. universities, where large numbers of foreign individuals come to study.

The potential for such attacks called for high levels of scrutiny to avoid possible disasters. This heightened need for vigilance also required continued cooperative efforts between citizens and police agencies. Many local agencies continued to adopt a "community policing" approach in which officers build close, ongoing relationships with residents and neighborhood organizations. The intention is to establish trust, solve problems before they lead to crime, and draw on citizens as a resource for crime prevention. Also, many police agencies and departments have secured Internet Webs sites that provide information to the general public about police work. According to the Community Policing Consortium, by 2003 some 86 percent of Americans were protected by law enforcement agencies that relied on community policing. This was a significant increase from 1993, when only 15 percent of the population benefited from this added protection.

In 2002, Harris Interactive conducted a national opinion poll to gauge consumer opinion about police. According to the Westchester County Business Journal , the overall results were positive. The publication reported that, in the category of friendliness and helpfulness, 73 percent of respondents rated police as "excellent" or "pretty good." In terms of being responsive to calls for assistance, 68 percent of respondents gave police a positive score. An almost identical percentage (67 percent) gave police a positive rating for refraining from the use of excessive force.


In 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that nearly 3 million people were employed in protective service occupations. This total included almost 600,000 police and sheriff's patrol officers and more than 87,000 detectives and criminal investigators. Most were employed by local government agencies, as there are about 18,000 state and local police agencies in the country.

Job stress is common for police officers, whose work brings them in contact with some of society's worst members and conditions, sometimes in life-threatening circumstances. In 1995, 162 officers died in the line of duty, the highest number since 1989. By 1998, that number had come down to 137 police officers and detectives, but 38 of the 137 were homicide victims. In 2001, the number of officers killed in the line of duty had increased again, reaching 159. Of these, 39 were homicides.

Research and Technology

Anyone who had not heard of DNA testing prior to the O.J. Simpson trial and President Clinton's impeachment trial probably learned more than he or she ever wanted to know about it during those few months of trial. Taxpayer dollars continue to help bring police agencies up to state-of-the-art technology in crime prevention and detection. New ways of identifying persons based on biological characteristics, such as "biologic fingerprinting," have evolved, as have electronic devices for pinpointing an officer's location. Additionally, by the late twentieth century many police agencies around the country had started implementing test devices for remote gauging of blood alcohol levels. Using this technology, persons on probation for substance abuse offenses could breathe into their specially equipped telephones from their homes, and their blood-alcohol levels would be electronically measured and transmitted to local police authorities.

Further Reading

"Case History: Mumia Abu-Jamal," 1998. Available from .

Community Policing Consortium. "About Community Policing," 1999. Available from .

——. "About the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)," 21 May 2003. Available from .

"FBI to Share Terrorism Intelligence with Local Police." USA Today, 3 December 2001.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Operation Counter Copy," 1999. Available from .

——. "Operation Investnet," 1999. Available from .

Gorlick, Adam. "University Police, FBI, Joining Forces to Track Terrorism." Associated Press. 27 January 2003.

Law Enforcement Links Directory, 1999. Available from .

"Legislative Issues." The Police Executive Research Forum, 1999. Available from .

"New York Police Shift Focus to Terrorism, Long Considered the Turf of Federal Agents." Associated Press. 21 March 2003.

"Police Must Be Held Accountable." Newsweek, 21 June 1999.

Taylor, Humphrey. "Nationwide Attitudes Toward Police Still Positive." Westchester County Business Journal, 8 April 2003.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "DHS Organization," 29 May 2003. Available from .

——. "Homeland Security Advisory System," 21 May 2003. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. "2001 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," 21 May 2003. Available from .

——. "Fatal Occupational Injuries by Occupation and Major Event or Exposure," 1998. Available from .

——. "Fatal Occupational Injuries by Occupation and Major Event or Exposure, 2001." 21 May 2003. Available from .

"Vested Interest." People, 26 July 1999.

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