What Law Enforcement Agency Has the Most Power

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

What Law Enforcement Agency Has the Most Power

There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States at various levels, including local, county, state, and federal.

Do you know what law enforcement agency has the most power? The Department of Justice is the one with the highest authority due to its broader scope of responsibilities and duties.

Within the DOJ, the highest law enforcement agency is the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). The DOJ is also affiliated with federal agencies like the USMS, DEA, and ATF.

Read on to find out more about agency rankings within the DOJ.

Ranking Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (In DOJ)


Among all levels of law enforcement agencies, federal law enforcement agencies are legally a part of the executive branch of the US Government and function independently of the others.

The Department of Justice holds more authority than all other law enforcement agencies. Keep in mind that there is no federal law enforcement agency that has unlimited jurisdiction.

Let us further discuss the various federal law enforcement agencies the DOJ oversees in a descending level of power.

1. Federal Bureau of Investigation


The FBI is known to be the top law enforcement agency at the federal level. It has the broadest investigative authority – its jurisdiction spans over 200 federal crime categories.

They have a variety of responsibilities, including defending the country from terrorist attacks, cybercriminal activities, foreign intelligence, civil rights concerns, organized crime, foreign intelligence, and more.

2. Drug Enforcement Administration


The Drug Enforcement Administration is the primary federal agency overseeing laws and regulations regarding drugs and restricted substances. It fights illegal drug distribution and trafficking within the country, sharing jurisdiction with the FBI and other Department of Homeland Security agencies.

That said, this agency also has the authority to pursue US drug-related cases that have reached an international level. In addition, the DEA vigorously seeks and executes legislation related to federal money laundering and bulk currency smuggling associated with narcotic sales.

3. United States Marshals Service


The responsibility of the USMS revolves around taking care of all the details in the federal court. Their role is to ensure the court runs smoothly, as legal teams (judges and lawyers) are solely responsible for representing clients and making fair case decisions.

The USMS has substantial arrest authority and aid in capturing/transporting dangerous fugitives for states and localities. They also offer Protection of Witnesses—a program that protects government witnesses as well as their immediate independents.

This agency within the DOJ has jurisdiction within the US and its territories. As the oldest US law enforcement agency, it has a significant influence on the criminal justice systems in federal judicial districts.

4. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives


The ATF’s roles include prevention and criminal investigation of federal violations involving explosives and firearms. They are also responsible for apprehending unlawful tax evasion/trafficking of tobacco and alcohol, as well as acts of arson and bombing.

This law enforcement agency holds primary jurisdiction in arson investigations, demonstrating advanced proficiency in responding to fires related to federal interests and cases of arson for profit.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) vigorously prevents terrorism, reduces violent crime, and addresses potential threats from illegal firearms.

5. Interpol Washington

source: justice.gov

INTERPOL Washington extensively liaisons between law enforcement efforts in the United States. They ensure that actions and responses in law enforcement adhere to the country’s laws and interests, along with their own regulations and policies.

This agency’s jurisdiction involves networking with law enforcement agencies from 195 nations. However, it’s important to note that the claim of having arresting powers is untrue.

As part of its influence in law enforcement, INTERPOL Washington fosters intercommunication of police databases and advocates safe calls, engagement, and help among law enforcement agencies worldwide.

6. Community Oriented Policing Services


The agency with the least power that operates within the federal jurisdiction of the DOJ is the COPS.

Their main role is to gain a connection with the community to enable them to build a healthy and safe space for the majority in a state or any territorial scope.

The COPS positively influences the civilians’ satisfaction with police service, increased officer job satisfaction, the inclination of public fear of crime, and a drop in crime rates.

Exploring the Discussion Further on This Topic:

TIL there are over 80 different federal law enforcement agencies in the United States
byu/palkiajack intodayilearned


Now, you possess a deeper understanding of what law enforcement agency has the most power.

You can now recognize the pivotal role of the DOJ in federal law enforcement, understand the rankings of agencies under its jurisdiction, and appreciate their collective responsibility and safe call for national security.

Also, as an additional knowledge in law enforcement, did you know that in Texas, the most powerful law enforcement forces are the Texas Rangers, as they are experts in interrogations?

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