Police commissioner

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Police commissioner (also known as the commissioner of police) is a senior rank in many police forces.

Duties and functions

The holder is usually an experienced police officer, though some are politically appointed and may or may not actually be a professional officer. In such a case, there is usually a professional chief of police in charge of day-to-day operations. In either event, the commissioner is the designated head of the organization.

In police services of the UK, Commonwealth and USA, the title of commissioner typically designates the head of an entire police force.

A police commissioner should not be confused with a police commissary. In France, Spain and some Latin American countries "commissary" denotes the head of a single police station (analogous to a chief superintendent in UK and Commonwealth countries). However titles such as commissaire in French and comisario in Spanish can mean either commissioner or commissary in English, depending on the context.


The Australian Federal Police and the autonomous Australian state and territory police forces are each presided over by a commissioner, who is accountable to constituents through a minister of state. The state of Victoria at one time (during the 19th-century Gold Rush) appointed commissioners for both the metropolitan area and the goldfields. Outranking both was a "chief commissioner"—a title which has survived the disappearance of the earlier junior commissioners. In Victoria, as elsewhere, the second-highest rank is deputy commissioner.

The insignia of rank worn by a commissioner in the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police Force is a crown over a star and crossed and wreathed tipstaves, similar to the insignia of a military full general. In all other civilian forces, the insignia is a crown over crossed and wreathed tipstaves, similar to the insignia of a military lieutenant-general.


In Canada, the highest-ranking officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and of the Ontario Provincial Police holds the rank of commissioner. In the province of Alberta, the Police Act requires the municipality to appoint police commissioners that are required to provide public oversight of the police. In Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, there are nine commissioners, including two city councillors and seven city-appointed members, the object being to "provide civilian oversight for the police service".[1] The commissioners appoint and oversee a chief of police, to whom is delegated the day-to-day management of the force.[2]


In reference to the police of France and other French-speaking countries, the word "commissioner" might be used to translate commissaire, which also translates as commissary. It is a rank equating approximately to the British police rank of chief superintendent. The rank above is called "divisional commissary". A former intermediate rank of "principal commissary" was abolished in 2006.


The second-highest career bracket in German law enforcement leads to the rank of police commissioner or Kommissar. Training encompasses 3 years in a police academy (graduating as Diplom-Verwaltungswirt or Bachelor of Public Administration). The highest possible rank within this career bracket is that of Erster Hauptkommissar. The work of a Kommissar, in general, centers on investigation of felonies, depending on the branch of police and department he belongs to. Roughly equivalent to a British commissioner would be (Landes-) Polizeipräsident or Inspekteur der Polizei, titles that differ between police forces in Germany.


The National Police of Iceland employs a National Commissioner (Icelandic: Ríkislögreglustjóri) (four-star-rank) that is the head of 15 districts across Iceland. The Commissioner is not an experienced police officer whatsoever, like most police chiefs in Iceland are educated lawyers, not experienced police officers.

There are 15 districts in the Icelandic police, each district has a police chief of their own, but the National Commissioner is above them, the minister of interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir is in charge of law enforcement in Iceland.


Insignia of an Indian Police Service officer with rank of director general of police

In the Indian Police, a commissioner of state police is designated Director General of Police (three-star rank) although a police commissioner of a city may be a "commissioner of police"[3][4] (three-star rank), Inspector General of Police[5] (two-star rank) or Deputy Inspector General of Police (one-star rank).


In the Indonesian National Police, there are four levels of commissioner: police grand commissioner (Komisaris Besar Polisi), police grand commissioner adjutant (Ajun Komisaris Besar Polisi), police commissioner (Komisaris Polisi), and police commissioner adjutant (Ajun Komisaris Polisi). Due to strong military influence in its history, even now police ranks can be compared to the ranks of the Indonesian military. The four commissioner ranks are equivalent to the Indonesian military ranks of colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and captain, respectively.


In the Italian Police, a commissioner (commissario) is the superintendent of a commissariato, a police station/detachment that can either serve an entire township of small or medium dimensions, or a limited area in a metropolitan city.


In Poland, a commissioner (komisarz) is a relatively low rank, directly above podkomisarz and below nadkomisarz, comparable to a lieutenant of the armed forces.


In the Romanian Police, similarly to the French Police (see commissaire de police), the rank of commissioner (comisar) is equivalent to the British police rank of superintendent (see also Romanian police ranks).


In Spain, a National Police commissioner is the chief of a police station. This rank is called comisario principal. There's a commissioner in the biggest cities and in smaller cities the chief of the police is headed by a superintendent. In the Civil Guard, this rank does not exist because it has a military organization. See National Police ranks and Civil Guard ranks

United Kingdom

In England and Wales, outside of Greater London, police and crime commissioners are directly-elected officials charged with securing efficient and effective policing of their police area. They are not warranted police officers, although they appoint and hold to account their chief constable. The first police and crime commissioners were elected in November 2012, with the lowest electorate turnout ever in England and Wales.

Historically the title "commissioner" has denoted the professional chief police officer of certain police forces, and that is still the case within Greater London, with the Commissioner of the City of London Police and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Both these commissioners are appointed, not elected, and since the 1950s have been career police officers (as opposed to the previous practice of appointing former British Army officers). Although they were technically justices of the peace until the 1970s,[6] the commissioners have always worn a similar uniform to police officers, and have been treated similarly in terms of pay and terms of service.

United States

In some U.S. states, the sheriff fills the same function as a police commissioner. For example, in Las Vegas, Nevada the elected county sheriff heads a combined county-municipal Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (created via a 1975 merger of the Clark County Sheriff's Department and the former Las Vegas Police Department). A handful of U.S. police agencies use the title "commissioner" for their highest-ranking officer, including the California Highway Patrol, the Baltimore City Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. In most departments with a commissioner, he or she is a civilian political appointee who may or may not be an experienced police officer; and a chief officer, such as a chief of police or a superintendent, manages day-to-day functions of the department. This is the case in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Kansas City, and many other police departments. Some departments have a board of commissioners that are civilians who oversee the department. The Los Angeles Police Department and Detroit Police Department each have their own board of commissioners.[7][8]

See also


  1. Bylaw 14040: Edmonton Police Commission Bylaw at Edmonton Police Commission
  2. Appointment of the Chief of Police at Edmonton Police Commission
  3. Mumbai Police: Organization at Mumbai Police
  4. Mumbai Police: Hierarchy at Mumbai Police
  5. Faridabad gets its first Commissioner of Police at zeenews.india.com
  6. The Metropolitan Commissioner ceased to be a justice on 1 April 1974 (see section 20 (commencement)) by virtue of section 1(9)(a) of the Administration of Justice Act 1973 (as in para 10, Schedule 1 to the Act), and the City Commissioner ceased to be a justice before 1973 by Part 2 of Schedule 5 to the Justices of the Peace Act 1968.
  7. "Board of Police Commissioners | Boards | City of Detroit MI". www.detroitmi.gov. Retrieved 2015-12-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>