[Tagging] amenity=police

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Fri Mar 1 17:53:11 UTC 2019

Martin Koppenhoefer <dieterdreist at gmail.com> writes:

> I wonder what we call "police" in OSM.
> The wiki does not offer a lot of guidance (France aside): "A police station
> is a building where police officers and other staff work and are dispatched
> from, and where suspects and evidence are collected and processed."
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:amenity%3Dpolice
> Is this limited to civil police forces, or does it include military forces?
> The French seem to include the Gendarmerie (military force under the
> jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior), and similarly we include the
> Carabinieri in Italy (adding also landuse=military).

I think the issue is that the line between police and military is
basically fuzzy.

In the US, we have a rule that says the military cannot be used for
domestic law enforcement.  This is at least mostly true, but then there
are edge cases where the National Guard (military) is mobilized during
emergencies.  Of course it's overwhelmingly likely that the rule isn't
100% followed; I once met two guys with green unlabeled jumpsuits and a
very fancy helicopter with an unreadable tail number at a rural airport
-- they said they were "testing" it, and I'm skeptical.  But most people
who see a few soliders walking or on the Metro view them much like
somebody else with a job going about their business, not like police.

> What about coast guards?

In the US, I view the Coast Guard as a cross between a rescue service
and a military service.  While they have a counter-drug mission, that
only seems to come up with regard to vessels entering US waters from
outside, as opposed to people staying in the US.  And, the Coast Guard,
although part of the Department of Homeland Security rather than
Defense, is widely viewed as more military than police.  They have the
same retirement rules as the Army, and USCG people are in TriCare health
insurance, set up for Army/Navy/Air Force.

> Typically there will be many kind of "police", according to what you count
> in, and this might eventually differ between countries.

Totally agreed.

Another big deal between military vs police is rules of engagement in
terms of use of force.  And, adherence to the Geneva convention, which
prohibts hollowpoint ammunition.  Basically in the US all police have
expanding ammunition, while the military uses fully jacketed.

I think each country needs to sort the various entities into military vs
police, along some notion of "defending the country from outsiders" vs
"domestic law enforcement" and clues about adminstration and reporting.
That consensus should be documented on each country's wiki page.

> E.g. in Italy there are (list is probably not complete):
> polizia postale, forestale, carabinieri, guardia costiera, polizia locale,
> provinciale, municipale, di stato, guardia di finanza, carabinieri,
> penitenziaria, ...
> For example it may be a question (and it might also differ, depending on
> the competences and duties they have in the country, whom they are
> subordinate, etc.) whether we count customs service as police, or prison
> officers, coast guards, maybe "intelligence services" in some occasions,
> foresters, etc.

Agreed that this is messy.

In the US, prison guards are "corrections officers" and not police, as I
understand it.  The Border Patrol and other immigration people I would
sort into police.  They arrest people, rather than treating them as
prisoners of war (Geneva convention again).

Broadly, local police are under a chain of command that goes to the
local government, state police to the governor, and federal police to a
cabinet official other than Secretary of Defense (or USCG/DHS).

But here, there's a pretty wide gulf in what happens and uniforms, if
you leave out some of the things that are intentionally invisible, and
perhaps the Border Patrol.  So I'd expect the "is this particular group
police or military" to be almost entirely uncontroversial here.  I
certainly expect some other countries to be harder.

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