I have a highly industrialized country that is rapidly economically growing, all the while expanding its territory (think along the lines of the USA's territorial expansion between 1820 - 1840.) There are a significant number of new settlements that are appearing, often the size of towns or small cities, with few people venturing out of these settlements due to the harsh conditions outside.
Crime is evident everywhere within these settlements, and as a result the central government authorizes civil servants in these new settlements to appoint watchmen to carry out law enforcement in these communities - but there is still the large issue of corruption, as most watchmen endure poor work conditions and large criminal syndicates are rife.


I want to create a new law enforcement organization (LEO) within this world that will act as a general law enforcement agency for combating crime throughout these new territories, as well as rooting out corrupt watchmen. How would this new organization function? Are there any existing examples of LEOs as I have described?

Please note that this new LEO to not be slightly related to the watchmen, I want watchmen to see this new agency as the police that enforce law within the regular police. I drew some inspiration for this world from the American Wild West.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Police police police police, but then who police the police police? Simple! Police police police police police police. But who polices the police police police? Police police police police pol.... $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Sep 1, 2018 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ So basically, you want something similar to a constitutional court, but one that watches over law enforcement officers rather than one that watches over lawmakers? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Sep 1, 2018 at 14:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good question! Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347–348), 2nd century AD. Literally, who will watch the watchmen themselves? Nineteen centuries ago. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2018 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: fbi.gov/investigate/public-corruption "Public corruption, the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority...." $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Sep 1, 2018 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ You need a Sam Vimes rising up in your police force. $\endgroup$
    – ivanivan
    Sep 1, 2018 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


Call the Feds

Your local settlements have the right to appoint a municipal police. Their authority ends at the city limits or the county line. So there is good reason to have a national police force, running national crime databases and providing coordination. Only a little step to give them oversight over individual cases and officers.

  • First, they're the ones with the databases, forensics labs, and SWAT teams. They're better paid and better trained, too.
  • Next, they have the right to take cases over if they can justify the effort to their superiors. The local cops won't be asked about their opinion, they simply have to turn their files over and provide support as required.
  • Only a little step to make them the internal affairs department, too.

However, you mentioned that the country is highly industrialized. I would expect that they already have a national police, if only to run the national databases, and those would be the logical force when it comes to law and order in the new territories. Either that, or military/militarized police if the new territories previously belonged to someone else.

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    $\begingroup$ Mythically in the Old West, this was one of the many roles of the US Marshals, who were empowered by the (federal) district courts. As late as the Civil Rights era, Marshals were sent in when local law enforcement was thought unreliable. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Sep 1, 2018 at 21:49

During the period you describe (and later as well), towns in the American West could hire Sheriffs to enforce local laws and ordinances. Since they were essentially hiring whoever was willing to step up, the problems of corruption or lack of ability could easily be felt in the town.

The surrounding Territories were the domain of the US Marshals, who patrolled the entire territory.

By analogy, then, you have a local police force in each town and a territorial Marshal's service patrolling the wider outside areas. There was plenty of room for conflicts, especially since both criminals and the Marshals pursuing them would likely end up in towns to rest and refit, and come into contact or conflict with the local Sheriffs. Jurisdictional conflicts would be likely as a minimum, and there is also the issue of the two levels of law enforcement competing against each other for the arrest and reward, or one or both being bought off by criminals or criminal factions.

One thing which will drive potential conflicts in story would be a lack fo clear definitional or jurisdictional boundaries (a Marshall is empowered to patrol the entire territory, but does that include the towns or not?). In today's world there are clear jurisdictional boundaries, and well established cooperation protocols (unlike the movies, local cops like having help from the higher levels of law enforcement since they have access to far more resources than they have on their own).

  • $\begingroup$ The movie stuff isn't entirely made up. Sure, part of it is trying to rewrite westerns as modern cop stories, and part of it is pure fantasy just to create plot conflict. But also, Chief Parker and (to a lesser extent) his protege Gates, who ran the LAPD from 1950 to 1992, sincerely believed their police force was more effective than the Feds, and used Hollywood for PR for their views (most famously with Dragnet). Gangster Squad officers actually did complain about the FBI stepping on their toes and making their job harder. $\endgroup$
    – abarnert
    Sep 2, 2018 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Also, consider the UK, where the lines between the Met and national policing organizations are a lot more ambiguous—and a lot more fluid, with major reorganizations about once per decade—than in most other countries. The Met didn't just have more experience dealing with the IRA and organized crime than the NCS, they had more resources too. $\endgroup$
    – abarnert
    Sep 2, 2018 at 19:44

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