I was chatting with a course mate in the morning and we talked about alcohol, then he mentioned ''in Poland you can't drink publicly, as the 'civic guard' may talk to you.''

Neither of us knew what the appropriate word for 'civic guard' would be.

It's not like the policeman but more like police only for some certain districts, like a superintendent? Is there any term for it?

  • 1
    In AmE, local police.
    – Lambie
    May 20, 2019 at 15:35
  • 5
    Each country has its own systems for law enforcement, and in many countries there are multiple systems of law enforcement with their own terminology. In the U.S., the word for police who are only allowed to operate in a certain area is simply police, because all police are constrained in this way, and there is no national police.
    – choster
    May 20, 2019 at 15:36
  • @Lambie I think we might be talking past each other. My point is that law enforcement is generically the police, regardless of their jurisdiction. If someone sees a mugging, he might shout call the police! without any regard as to which force would actually be in charge, whether municipal or county or state. And no, the FBI is not a police force.
    – choster
    May 20, 2019 at 21:54
  • @choster, I said it functions like a police force. They have Federal jurisdiction, no other law enforcement agency does (unless you're talking about the Coast Guard, for example). In fact, for the OP's purposes it would be cops in the US and coppers in the UK.
    – Lambie
    May 20, 2019 at 23:13
  • @choster Don't some states, at least, have a state police force (state troopers? marshals?) but some cities within the state have city police forces and counties within the state have sheriffs? I'm British and my knowledge of US policing comes from TV shows so I'm asking. This structure, if it exists, might be a bit more like the Polish one ignoring the FBI altogether.
    – BoldBen
    May 21, 2019 at 8:49

2 Answers 2


Some local councils in the United Kingdom employ meighbourhood wardens. These are civilians, with no special powers of arrest.

The Neighbourhood Warden Service deal with environmental problems to improve local areas. They promote community involvement and social inclusion, especially among young people. Regular patrols are carried out throughout the county, dealing with issues they encounter, or are reported to them. They also help to tackle low level anti-social behaviour, where it is safe to do so.


They may also be called Street warden, community warden, city warden, safety warden

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • responding to anti-social behaviour incidents

  • reporting crime to the police

  • telling the council and other authorities about environmental problems

  • issuing fixed penalty notices for litter, graffiti and dog fouling

  • making sure empty properties are safe and secure


Street wardens (sometimes referred to as community wardens) do not have police powers, nor are they the same as police community support officers. Most street wardens have no powers, but instead have priority reports, meaning their calls for assistance are dealt with sooner. They also have specialist reporting forms to log anti-social behaviour, environmental issues, and traffic violations.

Some local authorities have empowered street wardens to issue on the spot fines for littering and dog fouling. Some also have the power to confiscate alcohol from youths.



Such terminology is closely tied to the peculiarities of the legal system of a particular country, and there is therefore no straightforward way of translating a term like this into the language of a country with a different legal system. If one is speaking to an audience whose country happens to have something very similar in its legal system, one may use the term that is used for it in that country as the translation. That will, however, rarely be the case.

If the audience is from a country whose legal system does not have anything sufficiently similar, then one has to determine how important the precise legal status of the officers in question is to the point of the communication. If it isn't, one may use some term that is not exactly accurate (e.g. police officer in this case), as long as the inaccuracies do not interfere with the point one is trying to convey. On the other hand, if the point hinges on the precise legal status of these officers, then the only solution is to explain it, by saying something like 'In our country, we have a class of law-enforcement officers who have powers A, B, and C, but not D, E, and F. They are appointed by X, and supervised by Y. In our language, they are called . . . , which literally means . . . '.

It should be noted that the problem here is not, strictly speaking, a translation problem. It is not due to the fact that Polish and English are different languages, but to the fact that Poland is a different country from the country of the audience. Problems of the same kind arise when one is speaking of matters related to, say, Australian law to a U.S. audience, or the other way round.

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