About California Peace Officers and Law Enforcement Agencies
The state of California is governed by a set of federal, state and local laws, ranging in severity from criminal laws to infractions. Law enforcement agencies from all levels of government are responsible for enforcing these laws; in all, California is home to over 1,000 law enforcement agencies. California law enforcement agencies employ "peace officers" which derive their authority from the California Penal Code (CPC), Chapter 830. While there are many types of peace officers, civilians most routinely encounter police officers, deputy Sheriffs, and California Highway Patrol officers. This page provides a basic comparison of these agencies, as well as a description of other state agencies that employ peace officers.
Roles of Law Enforcement in California
|Police Departments||Sheriff Departments||California Highway Patrol|
|Number of Agencies||Over 300||58||1|
|Jurisdiction||City||County||Freeways and highways|
|Agency Head||Police Chiefs who are generally appointed by the city council or mayor.||Sheriffs who are elected by voters in their county.||A Commissioner who is appointed by the Governor of California.|
|Basic Duties & Activities||Police officers:
||Deputy sheriffs (officers):
While each type of agency has a specific set of responsibilities, all fully sworn peace officers can exercise their authority anywhere in the state in a few instances, including if they been given consent by the law enforcement leader with jurisdiction, or if the peace officer sees the offense occur and the offender may escape or present a danger to another person.
Other State and Federal Agencies with Peace Officers:
A full list of California's law enforcement agencies can be found in Penal Code Chapter 830.
In addition to CHP, other state agencies with peace officers include the Department of Justice, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Peace officers who work for these departments usually provide investigation services as well as enforce compliance with regulations.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), who is responsible for operating the state's prisons (different from county jails), also employs sworn peace officers - mainly correctional officers responsible for the safety of inmates and staff in state prisons. The California Department of State Hospitals employs peace officers to provide safety and security throughout the state's hospitals.
Examples of other local agencies include port and harbor police, University of California Police Departments, and California State University Police Departments.
In addition to local and state law enforcement agencies, the federal government also has agencies responsible for enforcing federal laws. The responsibilities and roles of these agencies greatly vary, as well as their levels of interaction with California agencies. Partnerships between the federal and California agencies include taskforces across the state that focus on issues such as human trafficking. There are instances when federal law enforcement agencies give a California peace officer the same authority that is vested in the federal agency; this is important as California and the federal government have different laws regarding the use of search warrants and other procedures. In these instances, the California peace officer is considered "deputized" and follows the procedures set by the federal government. At the federal level, several law enforcement agencies are housed under the U.S. Department of Justice (FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshals) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Secret Service, ICE, CBP, U.S. Coast Guard).