What Does a Police Commissioner Do?

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Have you ever wondered what a police commissioner does?

We’re not surprised. After all, it is a senior rank that anyone interested in being part of the police force will probably wish to achieve.

The problem is that there are different titles used for a top officer, and it’s not always police commissioner.

The police chief is one such rank.

What’s a Police Commissioner?

Also referred to as police and crime commissioners in some countries, the police commissioner is the title given to the highest-ranking police officer in an area.

It is this person’s responsibility to make sure that their jurisdiction is free of crime and that their police officers are held accountable for their.

Most police commissioners earn their rank through their policing merits and experience.

However, some are politically appointed or elected into this position.

This means that there are police commissioners out there who may not actually be sworn police officers to begin with.

Finally, it is essential to note that each country has its own title designation for its top-ranking police officer.

Even here in the U.S., not all police departments have commissioners. There are a lot of cities and towns where only a police chief sits at the top. Meanwhile, others only have commissioners.

There are also cities and town with a commissioner and one or several police chiefs taking charge of the police departments within their jurisdiction.

No wonder police chiefs are commonly confused with commissioners. 

Police Commissioner vs. Police Chief: Is There a Difference?

Police commissioners and police chiefs have a lot of shared responsibilities.

As mentioned, there are even cases when they can take over each other’s responsibilities when either one of these positions is vacant.

That said, they do have two notable differences:

  • Their Rank

For places with a police commissioner and a chief of police, the police commissioner will always hold the higher rank.

  • Their Main Responsibility

A police commissioner’s responsibility is two-fold. He is not only concerned about the crime in the area but also responsible for his officers’ actions.

Meanwhile, a police chief’s primary responsibility is managing the daily operations of a police force or police department. 

This is especially crucial if the appointed commissioner doesn’t have prior background experience in policing.

There are also cases when there are several police chiefs in an area, each in charge of his own police department (for sites with several communities) or bureaus (for places with certain areas of concern).

For instance, the NYPD has five different investigative bureaus, and each is headed by its own chiefs.

There’s the Chief of Crime Control for the Crime Control Strategies bureau and the Chief of Counterterrorism for their Counterterrorism bureau.

The other bureaus are Detectives, Intelligence, and Internal Affairs.

learn what does a police commissioner do

What Does a Police Commissioner Do?

Honestly, the answer will depend on the location and whether there’s a police chief present or not.

However, most police commissioners share these three primary responsibilities:

Community Safety

The police commissioner is usually in charge of community engagement. 

His responsibility is to set community meeting locations and conduct community meetings with the city council.

This seeks to make sure that their local priorities and efforts are aligned.

Crime Plan and Objectives

It is the commissioner’s duty to create the crime objectives of their area guided by a solid crime plan. 

In this regard, it’s also his responsibility to reach out to criminal justice partners when needed.


Part of the challenges of being a commissioner is setting the police budget and ensuring that the force has enough to keep running, especially when managing a range of agencies.

Aside from those mentioned, there are also police commissioners tasked to tackle cases beyond just their area of jurisdiction.

Certain events can warrant commissioners to take on cases at a national level and sometimes even access to international policing capabilities.

Board of Police Commissioners

In some select areas, there is no one police commissioner.

Instead, a board of several commissioners made up of volunteers appointed by the mayor, such as in Los Angeles, California.

The members of the board of police commissioners usually have non-police jobs. However, they will be required to dedicate at least 20 hours a week to the commission.

Their responsibilities include hearing the community’s concerns about crime control and policing in the area.

They are also concerned about setting the police department’s policies, developing a strategy, and forwarding it to the police chief.

The chief of police will then be required to report to the board of commissioners and provide updates on how things are going.

What It Takes To Be a Police Commissioner

Each country or state will have its own required credentials on what they’re looking for in a police commissioner. However, most of them ask for the following:

You must be educated.

Those applying for a police commissioner position are usually expected to have at least a related bachelor’s degree

Most commissioners have a college degree in criminal justice, but not all.

You must live in the area.

You might still get hired even if you’re from another city, but that would depend on your background and experience.

That said, you will be expected to move to that area once hired. Most cities will require it.

You are a leader.

Even those who don’t have a policing background can still get the position if they have considerable experience (at least 10 years or more) in leading people.

If you are interested in applying for this position, it won’t hurt to come armed with a stand-out police commissioner resume.

Plus points if you are already an experienced police officer without any charges of police misconduct. 

The Important Role of a Police Commissioner

A single, effective police officer patrolling the area is not enough to keep an entire community safe.

To properly enforce justice, a police commissioner must to rise to that responsibility.

He also makes sure that every member of the police department is working as a singular unit with a common goal.

So, if you’re wondering what a police commissioner does, then you should know that it is a role reserved for strong leaders with brave hearts.