Organisation of Police Services

The Home Office is responsible for policing in England and Wales and the Scottish Government is responsible for policing in Scotland.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, the Home Secretary answers to Parliament and the public for the provision of an efficient and effective Police Service.

There are 43 geographic police forces in England and Wales plus the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Police and the Ministry of Defence Police.

The Chief Constable/Commissioner of a force is responsible for delivering policing services. The Office of Chief Constable is the employer of police officers for the purposes of health and safety legislation.

Outside of London, publicly elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are responsible for holding their police force to account and setting the direction of the force. Their responsibilities include the appointment and, if necessary, the dismissal of the chief constable; holding the chief constable to account for the performance of the force's officers and staff; setting out the force's strategy and policing priorities; and reporting annually on progress. In London the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has responsibility for the governance of the Metropolitan Police while the City of London Police continues to be overseen by the City of London Corporation.

Additional information about the Police Service in England and Wales can be found on the Home Office website


In Scotland most police powers and functions are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Ministers retain overall responsibility for policing policy in Scotland and answer to the Scottish Government on these matters. However, there are some areas for which legislative responsibility remains with the UK Government including national security, terrorism, firearms and drugs, and the Home Secretary remains answerable on these issues.

Police Scotland is a single force responsible for policing across Scotland. It is the second largest force in the UK after the Metropolitan Police. Within Police Scotland there are 14 local policing divisions, each headed by a Local Police Commander. Alongside these there are national specialist divisions including the Specialist Crime Division (major crime investigation, public protection, organised crime, counter terrorism and intelligence) and the Operational Support Division (road policing, air support, dog branch, marine policing and the mounted branch).

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) maintains policing and appoints and holds the Chief Constable to account. Additional information about Police Scotland can be found on the Police Scotland website.

The National Crime Agency

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is a crime-fighting agency operating within the legal framework set out in Part 1 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

The NCA consists of officers, under the direction and control of the Director General (DG) of the NCA; NCA functions are exercisable on behalf of the Crown and has mandate and powers to work in partnership with the police and other law enforcement organisations in the UK and elsewhere to fight serious and organised crime.

The Association of Chief Police Officers

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) brings together the expertise and experience of chief police officers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Chief officers holding a substantive rank or appointment at the rank of Assistant Chief Constable level (Commander in the Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police) or above and senior police staff equivalents are members of NPCC. NCPP leads and coordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. NCPP policy documents and guidance can be downloaded from the NPCC website.

The College of Policing

The College of Policing is the professional body for the police service. It sets the framework for operational and training standards, professional development and a knowledge base. It operates independently of government and will be established as a statutory body once the necessary legislation is in place.

Further information about the College can be found at the College of Policing website.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has a statutory duty to independently assess and report on police forces and policing activity in England and Wales, including the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police.

HM Inspectors of Constabulary are appointed by the Crown, they are not employees of the police service or government. HM Chief Inspector reports to Parliament on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces in England and Wales. They inspect and regulate other major policing bodies such as the National Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British Transport Police and HM Revenue and Customs.

HM Inspectors have powers to seek information from police forces and to access their premises. They do not have statutory powers of enforcement. Inspection reports can be viewed on HMIC's website.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales.

IPCC investigates the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police and ensures that serious complaints against HM Revenue and Customs staff are dealt with effectively. They are responsible for deciding whether to investigate criminal allegations against a Police and Crime Commissioner and MOPAC including their respective deputies and they oversee the way complaints against staff at the National Crime Agency and the UK Border Agency are handled.

Additionally, certain types of incident must be referred to IPCC for investigation including a death or serious injury to a person following direct or indirect contact with the police or staff from any of the above mentioned agencies using police-like powers. This includes death in police custody, road traffic incidents involving police vehicles, firearms incidents, restraint and self-defence incidents (eg use of CS spray) and alleged corruption or racism.

Further information about the work of IPCC is available on the IPCC website.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, Scotland

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) undertakes independent investigation into policing in Scotland, conducting investigations into criminal allegations made against the police, death or serious injury in police custody or following police contact, police use of firearms, complaints against senior officers and any relevant police matters where the Commissioner considers it would be in the public interest to do so.

The Centre for Applied Science and Technology

The Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) provides technical support and development and research facilities for the police, prison service and other government agencies.

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Updated 2021-04-30