Chief of police
A Chief of Police is the title typically given to the top official in the chain of command of a police department, particularly in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. Alternate titles for this position include Commissioner
Police commissioner
Commissioner is a senior rank used in many police forces and may be rendered Police Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. In some organizations, the commissioner is a political appointee, and may or may not actually be a professional police officer. In these circumstances, there is often a...

, Superintendent
Superintendent (police)
Superintendent , often shortened to "super", is a rank in British police services and in most English-speaking Commonwealth nations. In many Commonwealth countries the full version is superintendent of police...

, and Chief constable
Chief Constable
Chief constable is the rank used by the chief police officer of every territorial police force in the United Kingdom except for the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police, as well as the chief officers of the three 'special' national police forces, the British Transport Police, Ministry...

. In contrast to a US Sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

, who is generally elected by the voters of a county, except in the states of Rhode Island and Hawaii, a Chief of Police is usually a municipal
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 employee who owes his or her allegiance to a city
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 or town. Some states have both an appointed and an elected Chief of Police (Louisiana). In some jurisdictions, the head of the police commission is the leader of the police and holds a position analogous or similar to the one described here, in this case, he or she is referred to as Commissioner. The New York City Police Department
New York City Police Department
The New York City Police Department , established in 1845, is currently the largest municipal police force in the United States, with primary responsibilities in law enforcement and investigation within the five boroughs of New York City...

 has both a Police Commissioner and a Chief, formerly called the Chief Inspector, now called the Chief of Department. In Louisiana, a Chief of Police may serve as the Chief of Police, Marshal, and Constable for a city. The fraternal organization International Association of Chiefs of Police
International Association of Chiefs of Police
The International Association of Chiefs of Police was founded in Chicago in 1893 as the National Chiefs of Police Union. The primary goal of this organization was to apprehend and return criminals who had fled the agency jurisdictions in which they were wanted...

 (IACP) is an organization often associated with many Chiefs of Police.


Municipal ordinances dictate the scope of authority a chief possesses and limits them in the abilities of commanding. The following list is a general sense of the actions and responsibilities held by any chief of police.
  • Oversight of a department's totality of operation and budgeting.
  • Oversight of officers.
    • Limited disciplinary actions to be addressed on infractions of policy, rules, regulations, laws or ordinances.
    • Full dismissal or heavy sanctioning of officer duty varying by municipal ordinance.
    • Promotion and rank placement of officers.
  • Patrol, investigating, and other duties performed by officers.
  • Production and development of department policies and regulations.
  • Upkeep and updating of department equipment such as police vehicles, firearms, communications equipment and uniforms.
  • Attending community events and council meetings to give briefings on department conditions or other undisclosed information vital to municipal operation and well being.
    • Reporting to the municipality's mayor or city director regarding operations (and dismissal of officers for misconduct varying by municipal ordinance).
    • Reporting to the municipality's board of directors.


In the province of Ontario, Canada a Chief of Police must be a sworn police officer and therefore have completed training at the Ontario Police College
Ontario Police College
The Ontario Police College is located in Malahide Township, just east of Aylmer, in Elgin County in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.-Programs:...

 or have served a probationary period with another recognized police force (such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Academy known as "Depot"). This requirement is legislated in the Police Services Act of Ontario. The legislation states in Section 2 that a Chief of Police is a Police Officer. Section 44.2 of the PSA defines the training requirements. There was a case of the Guelph, Ontario Police Department where a human resources manager was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief, but was required to complete training at the OPC. The candidate is selected by a Police Services Board
Police board
A police board is an appointed form of local government charged with the responsibility of overseeing a local police forceIn the United States, the term is used for some police departments. For example, the Chicago Police Board oversees the Chicago Police Department...


United States

Many state constitutions require every county to have a sheriff; some make no provision for this position to be eliminated even in the case of the formation of a Consolidated city–county or "metropolitan government". In this case, a decision must be made about how to divide the powers between the county sheriff and the city's chief of police. The usual compromise allows the chief of police to exercise law enforcement jurisdiction and to give the sheriff and his or her deputies authority over jails and the serving of civil papers. An alternative and lesser-used solution is to make the office of sheriff a purely ceremonial one. One other solution, an example of which is seen in the case of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is a joint city-county police force for the City of Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada. It is run by the Sheriff of Clark County, elected every four years. The current Sheriff of Clark County is Douglas C...

, is to provide for the sheriff to simultaneously serve as the chief of police, thus remaining as the chief law enforcement officer of the county.

The police chief of a small town may be the only paid employee of the police department and have a staff consisting only of volunteers when available. Conversely the police chief of a major city may have thousands or in the case of very large cities such as New York, tens of thousands of sworn officers. Further than that they will have thousands more civilian employees under his or her command including operators, secretaries, and unsworn peace officers. It is obvious that the qualifications and skills required to be a police chief vary widely. Another important consideration is how overtly a police department is influenced by politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

which varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. Increasingly, all U.S. law enforcement officers including small-town police chiefs and their charges are being required to meet at least minimum levels of professional training.
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