How Countries Around The World Started Their Law Enforcement Agencies

While law enforcement agencies across the globe share many similarities, they also have many differences. Every country has its own unique way of enforcing the law based on their country’s history. The structure and organization of law enforcement agencies can vary quite dramatically, but whether you’re in New Zealand, Japan or Canada, the police usually share the same goals: maintaining public order; preventing and ensuring safety and security of the people, and preventing and investigating crimes. Some countries are more adept than others. Some are outright terrible. Here is how different countries started their law enforcement agencies.

Convicts Turned Cops

While their jobs now are to arrest criminals, Australia’s first police force was made up entirely of convicts. In 1788, New South Wales was being policed by the UK’s Royal Navy. A lack of rations began to arise, and Governor Phillip realized that the colony needed its own police force. The Night Watch was created. The only problem was that the only people available to man the Night Watch were the transported convicts. Twelve of the best-behaved convicts were chosen, separated into four gangs and assigned with patrolling. In 1790, more convicts were chosen to form the Sydney Foot Police. They all did their job quite effectively, as crime plummeted.

A Tale Of Two Forces

Italy isn’t the only country with two national police forces…
Italy isn’t the only country with two national police forces…

Italy has two national police forces: the Polizia and the Carabinieri. Named after the rifle they traditionally carried, the carabinieri force was founded by Victor Emanuel I, Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia almost half a century before Italy as we know it even existed. When Italy was unified, instead of dissolving when the Polizia was formed, the Royal Corps of Carabinieri remained a nationwide military presence. Both of the duplicate forces are hailed for heroic achievements, as well as hated for their use of excessive violence. The Carabinieri is often the butt of politically incorrect jokes because of their older, strict regulations, such as ridiculous mustaches.

France’s Law Enforcement

France also has two national police forces. The Police Nationale is one of the most efficient and best-trained police forces in the world, and also extremely difficult to get into. While its origins date back to 1812, the current system was set up in 1966 and is considered a civilian task force. It operates mostly in large cities and urban towns.

Originated in 1306, the Gendarmerie Nationale is part of the French armed forces and operates in smaller towns, rural areas, military installations, airports and shipping ports. It fulfills a range of military and defense missions. It has been a major influence on gendarmerie forces around the world.

In The Act

From the end of 1945 until 1993, the Dutch police was composed of the municipal police and the state police. In the 1990sit was reorganized into its current state, consisting of 25 Regional Units. Netherlands National Police Agency has its own command staff which is under the Dutch Commissioner. Each police officer of each unit must be prominently and visibly present on the streets in order to keep watch over the citizens, with the goal of catching criminals in the act rather than after the fact. They’re extensively trained in fraud, drugs, human trafficking, environmental crimes and sexual offenses. The force consists of 18% women.


Read on to see what other country’s police officers don’t carry weapons…
Read on to see what other country’s police officers don’t carry weapons…

Initially, the law in Iceland was enforced by individuals permitted to do so by the national parliament. Then as industry started to flourish in 1778, the first police force was formed. They were nightwatchmen armed with morning stars, whose primary purpose was keeping watch over the prisoners of the Reykjavík prison. Then in 1803, when Reykjavík became a free state, a proper police force was formed. They were both municipal and state police services. In 1972 they all became members of the State Police. In 2006, there were only 710 police officers in the whole country. Until this day, the police are only armed with a small baton or nightstick.

No Need For Guns

The policy in Norway are unarmed… and surprisingly crime is extremely low, and murder is very rare. The police force was established in the 13th century. The first chief of police was appointed in 1686, and Oslo established a uniformed police corps in 1859. In 1937 two specialty agencies were created: the Police Surveillance Agency (later the Police Security Service) and the Mobile Police Service. After fearing a terrorist attack in in 2014, the police were ordered to carry guns, but that was revoked in less than a year. However, they keep submachine guns and pistols locked down in their patrol cars, and are trained in using them.

From Samurais To Topnotch Officers

Between 1603–1867 policing in Japan was done by magistrates who were samurais. The system went through a series of changes as Japan modernized. After Japan surrender in WWII, the 1947 Police Law was created and the The National Police Agency (NPA) was created. The NPA supervises 47 separate police departments in Japan. They determine the standards for the other departments, which are quite high. They are considered one of the highest trained and most effective police forces in the world. Their training is extremely intense and versatile, covering crime prevention, natural disasters, and law enforcement.

Lack Of Firearm Training

This is a far cry from some of the more brutal police forces in the world.
This is a far cry from some of the more brutal police forces in the world.

When Ireland was facing great civil unrest in 1812, Chief Secretary Sir Robert Peel formed a Peace Preservation Force, which later became The Constabulary of Ireland in 1836. The members served under a strict code, with their lives being governed both on and off duty, and were more like a quasi-military force. With the rise of the IRA, civil unrest was again at an all-time high in the 1970s and 1980s, and the police force was radically reformed. Political control lessened and the force was temporarily disarmed. Today, only 20 to 25 percent of Irish police officers are qualified to use firearms, yet Ireland has much lower crime rates than many other countries.

Brutal And Unnecessary Force

Sudan is known to have one of the most corrupt police forces in the world. In 1989 a British army captain was placed in the central administration for police duties. When Sudan gained its independence in 1956, the government gave tribal leaders authority to keep order among their people. The Nimeiri regime reformed the police once again, and they became a source of fear rather than security. This remained even after the Nimeiri regime was abolished. With constant genocide and civil war, the police are known to act for their own interest, often requesting bribes to pursue criminals and using violence against those who say anything negative about them.


The People’s Armed Police Force of China (PAPF) was officially established in 1983 when the PLA transferred its internal security and border defense to the Ministry of Public Security. They worked closely with the armed forces and other public security organizations. Throughout the years, the police in China have been more involved in maintaining government control than solving crimes. They are poorly paid and ill-trained, with many lacking the basic tools they need to do their jobs properly, like cars, cameras, and computers. They’ve become known for corruption, often using torture to force confessions, and arresting people planning to give testimony against them.

Super Safe

Many other countries’ police forces have the opposite problem…
Many other countries’ police forces have the opposite problem…

Being a police officer is considered one of the safest jobs in New Zealand, even safer than being a farmer. The official police force, the Armed Constabulary Ordinance, was established in 1846. During the gold rushes of the 1860s, the Armed Constabulary was required to split its efforts between regular law enforcement and military support during the land wars. The Police Act 1886 established New Zealand’s first national, civil, police force, which was unarmed. Today, the police in New Zealand are decentralized and divided into 12 districts. Only a dozen senior officers nationwide are allowed to carry a handgun on any given shift.

Not The People’s Police

AUNG HTET/AFP/Getty Images
AUNG HTET/AFP/Getty Images

Under British Indian rule, Burma’s police force was called the Indian Imperial Police. (Fun Fact: the writer George Orwell served in the Indian Imperial Police in 1922.) In 1937, Bruma gained its independence, and the police force was later renamed the People’s Police Force, which was composed of many former army officers. The people still associated them with the “British Imperialists” so they had little respect for them, not to mention they were very underfunded. It was reorganized in 1995 and remained the Myanmar Police Force. They still don’t have the best reputation, having been accused of demanding pay from crime victims in order to launch investigations.

Military Tactics

The police in Brazil have a martial history. Initially, the law was enforced by state-led armies, but became federal when they gained their independence in 1822. In the late 1930s, under the dictatorship, the police force was reformed. State led police forces were created, though many continued to use their military tactics such as targeted killings and torture. When the constitution was created in 1988, the military and civil police then had to answer to state government officials. However, many still use military tactics to deal with Brazil’s extensive criminal enterprises, and often civilians suffer because of it.

Russian Reform

The first police force in Russia was established in 1718. The Moscow Police, along with numerous similar departments operated in major cities and districts, were policed by rural police or gendarmerie units. During the February Revolution in 1917 the police became the main target of the revolutionaries. The Ministry of Police of the Russian Empire was dissolved in 1917 and the People’s Militia (Militsiya) was formed. They became known for corruption and brutality. The militia was changed to the Russian Police in 2011, and underwent a number of reforms, such as federal centralization, personnel reduction, salary increase and more rights for detainees.

Violating Human Rights

Perhaps they should take some notes from Canada…
Perhaps they should take some notes from Canada…

The Haitian Police were initially part of the Haitian Army. Even after numerous reforms, they’ve continued to operate like a military. In 1994 when democracy was introduced to Haiti, the first independent police force was created. The UN helped to structure it, along with multinational military forces and other international agencies. But they still struggle today due to lack of proper leadership and poor communication with the rest of the Haitian government. In 1998, the U.S. attempted to help them recruit and train new officers. Despite all of this, it remains corrupt and is viewed as an oppressive force, They’ve been accused of violating human rights, even kidnapping, murder, and rape.

On Their High Horse

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are both federal and national. In 1873, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force with 150 recruits. The new police force gradually acquired the name “North-West Mounted Police.” By 1885, the force had grown to 1,000 men. In 1920 it was renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the 1970s new responsibilities were added, including airport policing, VIP security and drug enforcement. Their responsibilities now include organized crime, terrorism, illicit drugs, economic crimes and threats to the national borders. They have extensive educational and “in the field” training, and are known for having high standards.

World Class Training And Corruption

Policing in Kenya was initially provided by the East African Trading Company, and after 1902, by the Kenya-Uganda Railway. A new colonial force was established in 1920, comprised mainly of British and Indian recruits. African officers filled the lowest ranks until Kenya finally achieved its independence in 1963. Currently it operates at a national level, with three branches. Every unit of the Kenya Police Service now undergoes specialized officer corps training from world-class experts, such as the Police Academy in Canada. Despite this, a survey a few years back revealed that over 90% of Kenya’s population had paid a bribe to police to avoid brutality.

Successful Restructuring

After the Revolution of 1848, Austria developed a gendarmerie military force to enforce the law. While it initially was responsible for the entire Austrian Empire, it also became responsible for public order. It wasn’t until 2005 that law enforcement in Austria had major reconstructing, combining the Gendarmerie, Federal Safety Guard Corps and Detective Corps into one Federal Police. The Federal Police are organized into nine federal state commands and are responsible to investigate crimes, local security and border control. Austria is ranked as the third most peaceful country in the world.

The Questionable U.S.

In the colonial days of the United States, cities created watch systems comprised of community volunteers, warning the communities of any looming danger. This continued until the 1830s when the first centralized municipal police department was formed. The South operated a bit differently, beginning with “Slave Patrols” that policed slaves. By the 1880s most major cities had a police force.

Today, policing in the States is done by federal, state, local and city departments. More reform in the 1960s was done in hopes of stopping the corruption and brutality. While U.S. police forces are considered one of the best trained in the world, they still are the subject of much controversy involving their tactics.