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Who can commission LEOs?


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  • Who can commission LEOs?

    A thread in the General section got me started wondering about this. I used to work for the University of Oklahoma PD and I know that there was specific legislation that allowed state universities to commission LEOs, but I never gave any thought to where the authority comes from to commission officers for the mish-mash of various other jurisdictions in the state. Counties and cities are pretty obvious, but what about non-political jurisdictions like school districts and airports? Are there specific laws enabling them or is there some "catch-all" general definition? What other jurisdictions can commission LEOs? State parks, I think, and the wildlife department and I would guess that district attorneys can commission investigators as LEOs. Other than the railroads which are specifically allowed by federal law, are there any "private" or "quasi-private" agencies which can commission LEOs? And somewhat off on a tangent -- how does a geographic area become a "city" for the purpose of commissioning LEOs? I'm familiar with the term "incorporated" but what does that really mean? Is it just a matter of filing paperwork with the state or are there other requirements?

    None of this really matters, but I'm just curious.
    "Son, you are a walkin' violation of the laws of nature...But we don't enforce them laws."

    I am just a country boy tryin' to make some sense
    But I'd like to ask the Congress, I'd like to ask the President
    "Can ya tell me where all the money went?"
    We might not be broke but we're badly bent!

    The Tractors -- "Badly Bent" from the album Owner's Manual

    "Common sense. So rare, it should be a super power." Exodus 259

  • #2
    Each state's Legislature passes laws defining what government agencies are empowered to operate police departments. Most of it is generally worded (cities, counties state universities, school districts, airport police, etc.) so a new authorizing law doesn't have to be passed every time a new entity is formed.

    However, when you start getting into unique and specialized agencies, legislation specifically granting police powers is often required. This is to ensure people don't start using loopholes in the law to make themselves cops. For example, California used to have a blanket law allowing transit districts to form their own police departments. A few years back an alien and convicted felon who was rich, bought six busses, started providing dial a ride services to the elderly in a small Southern California community and then appointed himself and several of his friends as transit police officers.

    Now, you cannot go out and form a specialized police department in California unless the Legislature has specifically granted police powers to your government agency as a matter of law. In order for this to happen, there is usually a lot of negotiating that goes on between the various law enforcement professional associations to ensure that you are legitimate, that a turf war is not created and that the mission of your agency does not interfere with that of an existing agency.
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