You were all super helpful with a previous post I put up here (although I must also say that your collective ability to go off topic is breathtaking), so I immediately thought of you for this one.
My boss has just asked me whether "police" should have a capital letter when referring to the police force in the UK. My guess was that it should, but this was only really based on a hunch.
I tried to look it up on line, but as far as I can tell, there is no single website for the police or the Police, but quite a few fan sites for The Police. This could get confusing. Anyway, so I had trouble finding a website that referred to the police rather than, say, the Avon & Somerset Constabulary...
If you are referring to a particular (named) force, such as the Metropolitan Police or the New York Police Department, then the answer is yes. However, if you are referring to the men and women in blue in general, as in "He was arrested by the police for drink-driving", then no.
EDIT: If you were addressing a copper, or referring to his/her rank, as in "Police Constable Plod, I put it to you that my client was nowhere near the site of the alleged incident", then yes. However, you'd write "Six police constables and two sergeants arrived in ten minutes" without capitals.
"In considering the use of grammar as a corrective of what are called ‘ungrammatical’ expressions, it must be borne in mind that the rules of grammar have no value except as statements of facts: whatever is in general use in a language is for that very reason grammatically correct."
[Henry Sweet, 1891.]
Well, yes, I'm referring to the boys in blue in general, but it's still an official organisation, isn't it? Or is it?
The context is:
"Achieve a 40% reduction in people reported to the police as killed or seriously injured..."
Actually, now I look, a capital P would look stupid. You know, it's odd but I always assumed there was a central "Police", under which all the local constabularies fell. But I can't seem to find any trace such an organisation.
Learn something new every day.
EDIT: OK, now I'm puzzled by something else. Does anyone know what the difference between a "constabulary" and a "police"? We have "Dorset Police", but "Devon & Cornwall Constabulary". www.police.uk/forces.htm
It's a question of names, Alex. If we're using just a general noun, then there's no capital letter, but if we're stating a name, or title, there is. The pattern occurs with lots of words:
My usual doctor is Doctor Smith. I asked the Prime Minister whether he liked being a prime minister. I joined the University twenty-three years ago, never having worked in a university. My mother was excellent, but I think Mother Superior is not. I asked the Father to hear my confession about killing my father. Is it true, Officer, that the Metropolitan Police has more officers than any other police force?
Having read your replies, I think the question I really needed to ask was "is there such an organisation called the Police?" To which, as far as I'm aware, the answer is no.
You're right, there is no national police force (and certainly not one called "the Police"). The various geographic police forces (or services) are the responsibility of the Home Office, but each is operationally independent, answering (except for the Metropolitan Police) to a police authority.
They are inspected by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, monitored by the Police Complaints Commission, and their chief constables have set up the Association Of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to co-ordinate strategy.
There are also some non-geographic forces, like the Ministry of Defence Police (informally "MOD Plod") which guards Naval Dockyards and so on, and nuclear police and transport police.
National bodies like MI5 also have a quasi-policing role, usually carried out by liaison with Special Branch in the local police forces.
Then there's things like the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) which describes itself as "an intelligence-led agency with law enforcement powers and harm reduction responsibilities".
And HM Customs, the Border Protection Agency, immigration enforcement officials, social security investigators ...
Some people would say it sounds like a bit of a muddle, rife with possibilities for bureaucratic buck-passing!
"Constabulary" is the historic term (implying citizens organised locally to keep order, and exercising only the powers that any citizen could), but some services prefer "Police". There's no significant difference in meaning now.
I find a need to explain it oft at work, ours being that which is referred to as "a mature technology". (Some of our current production drawings recently went from pencil-on-paper straight to scan-and-file, with no CAD intermediary!)
"Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?" "I try never to burn my bridges -- but an arsonist dogs my footsteps."