Which of the following is correct?

  1. Devon Police is recording incidents


  1. Devon Police are recording incidents
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Why police used as singular in this link? I'd like to cite Collective noun “police” — singular or plural?, but the system won't let me because that one's been closed with no upvoted or accepted answer. – FumbleFingers Jul 14 '16 at 18:23
  • I don't consider that this is a duplicate of Why police used as singular in this link? But it is effectively a duplicate of the closed Q.. This Q. is 'general reference', but I've answered it nevertheless, in the hope that (if this Q. is not also closed) it might be available for citing again similar future Qs. – TrevorD Jul 14 '16 at 19:49
  • 2
    I upvoted this question for the same reason that I upvoted TrevorD's very sound answer: in hopes that EL&U question reviewers will use it as a reference answer for all future questions that ask the same thing, instead of replicating the "general reference" closure wheel over and over and over. To make that result more likely, I have edited the head to make clear what the question is about. – Sven Yargs Jul 14 '16 at 20:12
  • Isn't that a BE vs AE distinction? – Simon Richter Jul 15 '16 at 0:24
  • @SimonRichter Isn't what "a BE vs AE distinction". My answer specifically addresses both BrE & AmE. – TrevorD Jul 15 '16 at 8:53

The following dictionary extracts clearly indicate that police is treated as a plural noun.
(The extracts are from the British English entries, but the corresponding American English entries also indicate that the usage is as a plural noun.)

police (Cambridge Dictionary)
noun [ plural ]
Example sentences:
The police are investigating fraud allegations against him.
The police are appealing to the public for any information about the missing girl.
When she was stopped by the police for speeding, she gave them a false name and address.

police (Oxford Dictionaries (ODO))
noun [treated as plural] (usually the police)

(This question is actually just a 'general reference' question which could be answered by looking in a dictionary.)

The closed question Collective noun “police” — singular or plural? addressed the same question and provided a similar answer.

The question Why police used as singular in this link? indicates that both singular & plural usage for police are common in Indian English.

Related (from ELL): “police are” or “police is”

  • I upvoted this answer because, if left open, it should dispose of all future questions about the singularity or plurality of police quite nicely. I hope that others will agree that it is more sensible to provide and keep open a solid answer to a general-reference question—like this one—that keeps being asked (so we can close subsequent iterations of the question as duplicates), than to keep closing each new instance of it as "general reference" in a sort of Ground Hog Day (or whack-a-mole) loop. – Sven Yargs Jul 14 '16 at 20:05
  • Note that when talking about 'police' as a singular subject, the correct form us to use 'police <subject>', eg 'Police Officer', 'Police Department' etc – Robotnik Jul 14 '16 at 23:59
  • @sumelic The dictionaries are shown in the respective links. I always cite my sources. – TrevorD Jul 15 '16 at 8:50
  • Oh, I know the links include it; I'm not trying to accuse you of not citing the sources. I'm just suggesting a different format. There was a big brouhaha about this on Meta some time back, and it seems the moderators and Stack Exchange administrators prefer the wordier citation format because links can be stripped in some contexts. I've also been convinced of its advantages, but you may see some downside to it that I don't. – herisson Jul 15 '16 at 9:08
  • I think it's "Devon police are" (if "police" is a common noun), but "Devon Police is" (where "Police" is an element of the singular organization's proper name). – ChrisW Jul 15 '16 at 11:29

The BBC's web site uses "is" as in the following examples (which I found using this Google search https://www.google.fr/search?q=site:bbc.co.uk+%22police+is%22):

All the above are singular.

But the subtitle of the first title above is as follows, using the plural "have" instead of "has",

The Metropolitan Police have been accused of …

So it's presumably, "Devon Police is", and, "The Devon Police are".

The reason, I assume, is that in the second case, "The Devon Police" refers to a collection of several police-persons in Devon, or members of that group; whereas in the first case, it's the name or title of a/the single entity or organization unit which employs them ... similar to, for example, the British Gas web site saying,

British Gas is the largest UK energy and home services company.

... rather than "British Gas are" (because the name refers to or identifies a single company, not to a group of people).

Since you asked about "Devon Police", "is" can be found on the Devon & Cornwall Police web site too:


The word "police" usually refers to a group of police officers:

The police is or The police are

ELT Stackexchange - Police is or are?

Grammatically, the word "police" should be treated as plural because it usually refers to a group of people (police officers). Sometimes, "police" can be treated as singular in some special cases, especially in Indian journalism. In your case, I think the most correct answer should be plural.



Police is plural. Always. It has no singular form; unless you specify "police officer".

  • 4
    This does not actually answer the question raised. Also note that, in the UK, we do not refer to a "Police Department". Q refers to "Devon Police" - Devon is a county in the UK, and Devon Police is the police force for that county. – TrevorD Jul 14 '16 at 18:39
  • See amended answer. We (in the US) may or may not refer to a "Police Department", depending on the situation. This was just for trying to give two distinct examples. In actuality we have both city and county police, at least in my state; but the county police are referred to as the County Sheriff's Office (not Department). Local city police might be referred to as "the Police", "the City Police", "the City Police Department", depending on the context or formality. – David Aug 24 '16 at 17:18

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