Agencies which have the ability to apply their powers in a restricted way are said to operate within a jurisdiction. Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) will always have some form of territorial or geographic restriction which they have to comply with. A certain agency might be able to apply its powers on the territory of the whole country, within a division of the country, or across a collection of countries, as Interpol does.
An agency that enforces the law with a wide range of powers but whose enforcement ability is restricted geographically to an area which is only part of a country, is referred to as local police or territorial police. Other LEAs have a jurisdiction defined by the type of laws they enforce or assist in enforcing. For example, Interpol does not work in the fields of political, military, religious, or racial matters.
LEA’s jurisdiction may be determined not only by the territorial principle but also by the complexity and seriousness of the non compliance with a law that the agency has to discover and pursue. Some countries determine the jurisdiction in these circumstances by means of policy. Another important factor in this aspect may be the resource availability and allocation between agencies. In many countries around the world differentiation of jurisdiction based on the seriousness and complexity of the non compliance either by law or by policy and consensus usually coexists.
LEA’s jurisdiction may typically be granted for more than one level of the country’s administrative division, for example at the division levels of state, province or territory level, and even at the sub division level, for a county, shire, or municipality or metropolitan area. In the United States typically each state and county has its own Law enforcement agencies.
By rule, agencies which operate on an international level tend to assist in law enforcement activities, rather than directly enforcing laws. They achieve their goals by facilitating the sharing of information necessary for law enforcement between agencies within the countries they operate in. That’s the reason why such agencies do not have executive powers.
Often a LEA’s jurisdiction will be geographically divided into smaller areas for administrative and logistical efficiency reasons. An operations area is often called a command or an office.
While the operations area of an Agency is sometimes referred to as a jurisdiction, any such area still has legal jurisdiction in all geographic areas where the Agency operates. However, there is an established rule by policy and consensus, that the operations area will not work in other geographical operations areas of the agency, different from its own.
There may be a case where one legal jurisdiction is covered by more than one agency. That may occur mainly for administrative and logistical efficiency or for policy and historical reasons. For example, the jurisdiction of English law is covered by a number of law enforcement agencies called constabularies, with each constabulary still having legal jurisdiction over the whole area of England and Wales. These constabularies, however, do not normally operate outside their areas if that is not explicitly stated or agreed to.
The primary difference between separate agencies and operational areas within one legal jurisdiction is the degree of flexibility to move resources between agencies and to move them within an agency. When multiple agencies cover one legal jurisdiction, each agency still typically organises itself into operations areas.
In the United States within a state’s legal jurisdiction, county and city police agencies do not have full legal jurisdictional flexibility and this has led to mergers of adjacent police agencies.
The responsibilities of a federal law enforcement agency vary from country to country. Federal agency’s responsibilities are typically countering fraud against the federation, immigration and border control of people and goods, investigating currency counterfeiting, policing of airports, protection of designated national infrastructure, and national security.An agency’s jurisdiction usually also includes the governing bodies it supports, and the LEA itself. As a result in the United States there are numerous federal agencies of law enforcement – Federal, Tribal, State, County, City, Town, Village, special Jurisdictions and others.