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 central government department, the Home Office, being responsible for and providing the majority of funding these police forces. 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. 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, and constables of one jurisdiction do have reciprocal powers of arrest in each others jurisdictions as a matter of course – see the main article for details.
As of March 2010 police numbers in England and Wales were:
- Police officers: 143,734
- : 16,918
- Other staff: 79,596
As of March 2010 police numbers in England:
- Police officers: 136,365
- : 16,200
- 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
- : 718
- Other staff: 4,188
- Collaborative units
- South East Counter Terrorism Unit
- Thames Valley & Hampshire Joint Operations Unit
- Surrey Police & Sussex Police Tactical Firearms, Operations Command and Roads Policing Unit
- South West Counter Terrorism Unit
- Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police Strategic Alliance Unit
- Alliance Police: Gloucestershire Constabulary, Avon & Somerset Police and Wiltshire Police.
- East Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit
- Norfolk & Suffolk Roads Policing Unit
- Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit
- Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit
- East Midlands Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit
- West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit
- Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police Specialist Operations Unit
- North West Counter Terrorism Unit
- Cheshire Police & North Wales Police Alliance Armed Policing Unit
- North East Counter Terrorism Unit
- Durham and Cleveland Specialist Operations Unit
- Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit
- Gwent Police & South Wales Police Joint Armed Response 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 DUP and 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":