Territorial police forces
England and Wales
Except in Greater London, each
territorial police force covers one or more of the
local government areas (counties) established in the 1974 local government reorganisations (although with subsequent modifications), in an area known in statute as a
police area. These forces provide the majority of policing services to the public of England and Wales. These forces have been known historically as "
Home Office police forces" due to the
Acts of Parliament that established them although use of that description was only correct for the Metropolitan Police and in that case ceased to be so when local control was transferred from the Home Office to the
Metropolitan Police Authority. Despite the implication of the term, all police forces are independent, with operational control resting solely with the chief officer of each force (the
Chief Constable or with regard to the
Metropolitan Police and
City of London Police forces, their respective Commissioners); each force was overseen by a
Police authority until these were replaced by
Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012.
The Police Act 1996 is the most recent piece of legislation, which outlines the areas of responsibility for the 43 territorial forces of
England and Wales (found in Schedule 1 of the Act).
Constable is the lowest rank in the police service, but all officers, whatever their rank are "constables" in terms of legal powers and jurisdiction. Police officers in territorial police forces in England and Wales derive their jurisdiction from Section 30 of the Police Act 1996. This section outlines that such officers have jurisdiction throughout England and Wales and also the adjacent United Kingdom waters.
Special Constables, who are part-time, volunteer officers of these forces, used to have a more limited jurisdiction – limited solely to their own force areas and adjacent forces (collectively, their "constablewick"). Since 1 April 2007, however Special Constables of England & Wales have full police powers throughout those two countries. This means that, in contrast to the majority of countries, all UK volunteer police officers now have exactly the same powers as their full-time colleagues. There are a number of situations in which the jurisdiction of a constable extends to one of the other countries – see
the main article for details.
As of March 2010 police numbers in England and Wales were:
- Police officers: 143,734
- Other staff: 79,596
As of March 2010 police numbers in England:
- Police officers: 136,365
- Other staff: 75,408
Dyfed-Powys Police (Heddlu Dyfed Powys)
Gwent Police (Heddlu Gwent)
North Wales Police (Heddlu Gogledd Cymru)
South Wales Police (Heddlu De Cymru)
As of March 2010 police numbers in Wales were:
- Police officers: 7,369
- Other staff: 4,188
- Collaborative units
- South East Counter Terrorism Unit
- South West Counter Terrorism Unit
- East Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit
- East Midlands Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit
West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit
- North West Counter Terrorism Unit
- North East Counter Terrorism Unit
- Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit
Most police powers and functions have been inherited by the
Scottish Government and
Scottish Parliament from the
Scottish Office. Areas for which legislative responsibility remains with the UK Government include national security, terrorism, firearms and drugs. The
Police (Scotland) Act 1967, as amended, was the basis for the organisation and jurisdiction of the eight former territorial forces in Scotland that were formed in 1975. These forces covered one or more of the areas of the
local government regions established in the 1975 local government reorganisation (and since abolished), with minor adjustments to align with the post-1996
council area borders. These forces provided the majority of police services to the public of Scotland, although Scottish police officers also have limited jurisdiction throughout the rest of the United Kingdom as required (See above comments under English and Welsh forces).
In 2011, the
Scottish Government announced that it planned to amalgamate the eight territorial forces in Scotland, along with the
Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, into a single agency. The
Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, an Act of the
Scottish Parliament, codified this amalgamation and brought about the new
Police Service of Scotland (to be known as "Police Scotland"). The new force was established on 1 April 2013.
In 2017, plans were being debated in the Scottish Parliament to merge railway policing with Police Scotland.
As of December 2012, police numbers in Scotland were:
Community Support Officers, commonly referred to as "Police Community Support Officers", were established by Section 38(2) of the Police Reform Act 2002, which applies only to England and Wales. There are therefore no Community Support Officers in Scotland.
County and borough based police forces were not formed in Ireland as they were in Great Britain, with instead a single
Royal Irish Constabulary covering most of Ireland (the exceptions being the
Dublin Metropolitan Police, which was responsible for policing in
Dublin, and the
Belfast Town Police force, which was replaced by the RIC in the 1880s). The
Royal Ulster Constabulary was formed in 1922 after the establishment of the
Irish Free State, and served until the reforms of the police under the terms established initially by the
Good Friday Agreement of 1998 undertaken by the
Patten Commission, which led to the renaming of the RUC in 2001. The
Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 sets out the basis for the organisation and function of the police force in the province. Until 2010, police powers were not transferred to the devolved
Northern Ireland Executive, unlike Scotland, instead remaining with the
Northern Ireland Office. However, in January 2010 agreement was reached between the two largest parties in the Assembly, the
Sinn Féin, over a course that would see them assume responsibility for policing and justice from April.
As of April 2007 police numbers in Northern Ireland were:
- Police officers: 7,216
- Full-time reserve police officers: 335
- Part-time police officers: 684
- Other staff: 2,265
Police in Northern Ireland do not employ Police Community Support Officers
County police forces traditionally bore the name "
constabulary" upon their formation (as a derivation of "
constable"). The reorganisation of police forces over the years has seen this name dropped in favour of "police" as a name, as many have decided that the word "constabulary" is confusing for people more used to searching for the word "police".
 However, a number of police forces in the areas overseen by the United Kingdom retain the name "constabulary":