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Police are an institution of government that employs personnel to enforce law and maintain civil order and peace. An individual employed in such an organization is known as a police officer, constable, or (in less-enlightened areas and by less-enlightened people) a policeman or policewoman. While police officers typically wear uniforms and are armed to some degree, police are distinct from the military.

Modern police forces include various bodies to perform different tasks. These include general beat cops, plain clothes detectives and deep cover agents, traffic patrols, forensic divisions (including Crime Scene Investigations units and forensic accountants), airborne divisions using helicopters, and various heavily armed rapid response teams.

Police developed as urban societies developed. China and ancient Rome both developed professional law enforcement institutions. In Europe during the Middle Ages up to the Age of Enlightenment, law enforcement was usually handled by informal means. Modern police forces began to appear around the 19th century. Among the first modern police force was the London Metropolitan Police, created in 1829 and organized by Sir Robert Peel.

Police in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Futuristic police forces often appear in science fiction, and some stories are built around technological or social developments in law enforcement.

  • RoboCop (from the film of the same name) is a cyborg police officer in a privatized police force.
  • The Judges in Judge Dredd combines law enforcement with judicial authority.
  • Ghost in the Shell focuses on Section 9, an advanced law enforcement body handling cyber crime and terrorism.
  • In Discworld several books focus on the Ankh Morpork City Watch, a developing police force handling the day to day law enforcement in a city with a diverse population including dwarves, trolls, golems and the undead.
  • Simon R. Green's Hawk & Fisher books are based on the activities of the Watch in a fantasy city.