Federalizing LE: Looking at examples overseas

The degree to which an effort to federalize local law enforcement in the United States may succeed remains to be seen — we have, as the song goes, “only just begun.” But we can look at a couple of examples overseas as we begin contemplating the potential ramifications.

In 1965, Sweden nationalized what some maintained was an ineffective and fragmented police force, consolidating 554 local jurisdictions into 119 districts and standardizing training and education for all law enforcement throughout the country. However, concerns soon emerged that this centralized police force could not meet local needs, so since the 1980s Swedish police authorities have attempted, though a variety of bureaucratic changes, to return at least a modicum of authority to local police chiefs. Despite these efforts, the national Swedish Police remains one of the largest government structures in the country. 1

More recently, in 2006, authorities attempted to complete the ongoing centralization of police services in England and Wales, where federal authorities already provide 80-85 percent of law enforcement funding. Despite the belief in some circles that locally-controlled police performed poorly, these efforts nonetheless foundered on the shoals of an attachment to localism. 2


1J.R. Kleberg, “Sweden-State Police Not Police State,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Vol 48, Issue 6, June 1980, pp. 14-19
2See Trevor Jones and Arie van Sluis, “National Standards, Local Delivery: Police Reform in England and Wales,” at www.spaef.com/file.php?id=113

About the author

Retiring after nearly 22 years of active duty in the Army, Lance Eldridge worked as the director of a law enforcement training academy and served as a rural patrol deputy and patrol officer in Colorado. While in the military, he held leadership positions in a variety of organizations and has written extensively about US military strategy, operations, and history. He is a graduate of the US Army's Command and General Staff College and the Norwegian Staff College. He holds a Masters Degree in History and a Masters Degree in Strategic Intelligence. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in national security strategy, European regional security, US history, and terrorism. He now works in northern Virginia.

Contact Lance Eldridge.

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