I have seen that in some scenarios word police is treated as a singular noun and in some other scenarios it is treated as a plural noun. I don't know the exact difference!

Can anybody provide few examples demonstrating the scenarios when the word police is treated as a singular and a plural noun?

Does it depends on the context only to treat it as plural or singular?

Consider these examples:

  • The police are blocking off the street where the accident occurred

  • A police officer is getting information from the neighbors.

  • The police department is at the corner of First and Main streets.

  • The New York police force has a special counter-terrorism squad

  • The police force is responsible for catching criminals

In the above examples, I can see the usage of 'Police' word as both singular and plural.
I need to understand the exact concept when it will be as plural or singular?

  • Here are two examples: If there were a couple of uniformed individuals at your door asking for your spouse, you would say, "Honey! The police are here to see you!" If there was only a single uniformed person at your door, you could say, "Honey! There is a police officer here to see you!" or "...policeman..." or "...policewoman..." Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 23:24
  • Note that there is a difference in usage between police and police officer.
    – FakeDIY
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 10:59
  • The word Police is plural because it is not used for one person of police but when we use this word it tells about the whole group of the police so it is plural.
    – user24692
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


The word "police" is rather special: It has no singular noun form. Something like that police over there is securing the scene would be incorrect. One would always construct sentences in the plural form like so:

The police are out in force today.

Anything done by the police will reflect on them.

Other words that take no singular form would include pants, trousers, scissors, and clothes.

Confusion arises because "police" is also used as an adjective. Consider these sentences:

A police department is housed in that building.

The police chief was highly visible at the town meeting.

In these two sentences, we are not speaking of "a police". You could easily remove the word from both sentences and they would make sense semantically and grammatically. Instead, the word describes the department or chief. It gives us context.

"Police" also has a verb form. You may encounter it like this:

The Boy Scout troop must police the area before they leave to remove any trash.

The verb means "to investigate, to search, to clean up". This certainly does fit in with a subset of the duties of a police department.

  • 1
    This is true for standard English, but there are non-standard usages of police as a singular noun. For instance, on the TV show The Wire, set in Baltimore, characters say things like "I'm a murder police" (meaning "I'm a homicide detective"). It's hard to tell if this is dialect, slang or jargon, but I believe the show is generally considered to be realistic in its use of language. Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 16:48
  • 1
    I'm neither from Baltimore, nor a cop, but I've never heard a construction like "a murder police", and would balk (at least mentally) if I did hear someone use it. Was the Wire character being intentionally humorous, perhaps?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 11:18
  • Found this while looking for an explanation of the use of "a police" in an audiobook set in Baltimore. I think that usage is a regionalism. It was quite jarring every time I heard it (especially by a cop who grew up in New York. It's difficult for me to see someone coming in from outside and picking up that phrasing).
    – foggyone
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 20:10
  • I've never seen "a police" except as an adjective: "This is a police matter. Our village doesn't have a police department."
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 1:33
  • In the The Wire's finale, the character Jay Landsman does use the phrase "a true murder police."
    – John B
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 2:23

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