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Law Enforcement Agency (LEA)


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A law enforcement agency (LEA), in North American English, is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.

Outside North America, such organizations are usually called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police, others are known as sheriff's offices/departments, while investigative police services in the United States are often called bureaus, for example the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Jurisdiction
LEAs which have their ability to apply their powers restricted in some way are said to operate within a jurisdiction. 

LEAs will have some form of geographic restriction on their ability to apply their powers. The LEA might be able to apply its powers within a country, for example the United States of America's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or its Drug Enforcement Administration, within a division of a country, for example the Australian state Queensland Police, or across a collection of countries, for example international organizations such as Interpol, or the European Union's Europol.

LEAs which operate across a collection of countries tend to assist in law enforcement activities, rather than directly enforcing laws, by facilitating the sharing of information necessary for law enforcement between LEAs within those countries, for example Europol has no executive powers.

Sometimes a LEA’s jurisdiction is determined by the complexity or seriousness of the non compliance with a law. Some countries determine the jurisdiction in these circumstances by means of policy and resource allocation between agencies, for example in Australia, the Australian Federal Police take on complex serious matters referred to it by an agency and the agency will undertake its own investigations of less serious or complex matters by consensus, while other countries have laws which decide the jurisdiction, for example in the United States of America some matters are required by law to be referred to other agencies if they are of a certain level of seriousness or complexity, for example cross state boundary kidnapping in the United States is escalated to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Differentiation of jurisdiction based on the seriousness and complexity of the non compliance either by law or by policy and consensus can coexist in countries.

A LEA which has a wide range of powers but whose ability is restricted geographically, typically to an area which is only part of a country, is typically 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 with political, military, religious, or racial matters.

A LEA’s jurisdiction usually also includes the governing bodies they support, and the LEA itself.

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