Legal Dictionary


Definition of police


    From Middle French police, from Latin politia ("state, government"), from Ancient Greek πόλις (polis), "city").



police (uncountable)

  1. An organisation granted the legal authority to enforce the law. See usage note.

    Call the police!
    The police operating in New York City operate under the New York City Police Department, several other City agencies and boards, and several public authorities.

  2. (plural only; not used in singular form) Members of the police force.

    Three police arrived in two cars.
    The policewoman arrived in her car.

  3. (US, singular, nonstandard) (plural=police) A police officer

    * 2006, David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets[1], ISBN 0805080759, page 440:
    This time it is the worst kind of call a murder police can get.

Usage notes

  • Formerly a singular noun, police (#1) is now almost always used as a collective noun with a plural verb, as in "Run, the police are coming!"


  • the cobblers
  • the fuzz
  • pigs
  • 5-0
  • popo
  • the heat
  • filth
  • cops/coppers
  • bobbies
  • peelers
  • woodentops (UK - referring to uniformed officers)
  • 6-up

Related terms


to police (third-person singular simple present polices, present participle policing, simple past and past participle policed)

  1. (transitive) To enforce the law and keep order among (a group).

    Extra security was hired to police the crowd at the big game.

  2. (transitive) To patrol or clean an area.

    * 2006, Robert B. Parker, Hundred-Dollar Baby, Putnam, ISBN 0399153764, page 275,
    "Fire off several rounds in a residential building and stop to police the brass?"

Further reading

The police are people empowered to enforce the law, protect property and reduce civil disorder. Their powers include the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with police services of a state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. The word comes via medieval French police, from Latin politia ("civil administration"), from ancient Greek πόλις ("city").

Law enforcement, however, constitutes only part of policing activity. Policing has included an array of activities in different situations, but the predominant ones are concerned with the preservation of order. In some societies, in the late 18th century and early 19th century, these developed within the context of maintaining the class system and the protection of private property.

Alternative names for police force include constabulary, gendarmerie, police department, police service, crime prevention, protective services, law enforcement agency or Garda Síochána, and members can be police officers, troopers, sheriffs, constables, rangers, peace officers or Garda. Russian police and police of the Soviet-era Eastern Europe are (or were) called militsiya. As police are often in conflict with individuals, slang terms are numerous. Many slang terms for police officers are decades or centuries old with lost etymology.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex causae
2.     lex situs
3.     lex loci celebrationis
4.     lex patriae
5.     Clayton's Case
6.     lex domicilii
7.     AORO
8.     lex loci delicti commissi
9.     defence of property
10.     Miranda warning