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​​​​​​​Law enforcement in Australia & Australian Federal Police

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Law enforcement in Australia
Law enforcement in Australia is one of the three major components of the country's justice system, along with courts and corrections. There are law enforcement officers employed by all three levels of government – federal, state / territory, and local.

Federally, the main law enforcement agency is the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which has a wide mandate to enforce Australian criminal law and protect its national interests. There are also a number of other agencies that have powers confined to specific areas, such as national security (ASIO), customs and immigration (ABF), and white-collar crime (ATO, ACCC, ASIC). Each branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has its own military police, although there is also an overarching ADF Investigative Service for more complex investigations.

As each Australian state enacts its own laws, general law enforcement duties are the responsibility of state police forces, who are in turn responsible to a government minister (usually the Minister for Police). These forces carry out the bulk of general policing throughout the entire state, including in metropolitan areas. Other state-government departments may also have investigative powers for specific offences within their purview. The Northern Territory also has its own police force, but in Australia's other territories (including the Australian Capital Territory) law enforcement is handled by the federal government.

Australian state and federal police routinely carry firearms. While on duty, most officers' duty belts consist of a handgun, a Taser, an expandable baton, pepper spray, a set of handcuffs, ammunition magazines, gloves, torch and a two-way radio. Local governments have their own smaller force of authorised officers – known as council rangers – to enforce local laws pertaining solely to individual local government jurisdictions. Council rangers generally do not have full police powers (unless they are sworn as special constables).

Australian Federal Police

The primary federal law enforcement agency in Australia is the Australian Federal Police. The AFP are responsible for the investigation of federal offences (crimes against the Commonwealth) and have federal jurisdiction throughout Australia. They provide protective services to federal government property and personnel/dignitaries, including major airports, buildings, foreign embassies/diplomats etc. and provide state-styled law enforcement services to external territories and the Australian Capital Territory (and in turn Jervis Bay Territory), the only of the two major mainland territories to not maintain its own state(/territory) police. The boundaries between the two levels of law enforcement are somewhat flexible and both state and federal police co-operate on or transfer cases between each other depending on the specific circumstances. State police can enforce federal, state and local laws, but federal police cannot enforce state or local laws.

The AFP also provides liaison officers to various overseas posts to assist in relations with various police forces overseas, as well as providing community policing to assist in the development of foreign law enforcement agencies and peacekeeping operations in locations such as the Solomon Islands with the RAMSI Mission and Cyprus.

The AFP was created in 1979, having been the result of an amalgamation of the now defunct Commonwealth Police and Australian Capital Territory Police Force. This makes it quite young as many of the various state police forces were established in the 19th century.

Australian Border Force
The Australian Border Force is responsible for customs and immigration enforcement and border protection at Australia's ports as well as in Australian waters, and conducts investigations where the AFP does not have primary jurisdiction. Unlike AFP Officers, Border Force Officers do not have fully vested federal police powers, only arrest and detain powers at Airport jurisdiction. They may however detain persons for state or federal crimes or warrants until that person can be presented to a federal or state law enforcement officer with the appropriate powers. Australian Border Force officers have the authority to carry firearms where a supervisor gives approval. In practice only maritime officers and specialist counter terrorism officers carry firearms.

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