Traffic police or traffic officers, often referred to colloquially as traffic cops, are police officers who direct traffic or serve in a traffic or roads policing unit enforcing rules of the road. Traffic police include officers who patrol major roads and also police who address traffic infractions on other roads. It has been noted that:
...traffic police, who are regarded as peripheral to most police forces, participate in both authoritative intervention and symbolic justice. Perhaps alone of all the assignments, traffic police are full-service police. They are different from the rest, however, because their work is limited to a particular venue — namely, public thoroughfares — and to particular people — namely, those who operate motor vehicles. But in terms of work, traffic police are detectives as well as patrol officers.
Traffic police have existed in some form for nearly three centuries:
Road traffic began to increase in volume and speed during the eighteenth century, and the above mix of practices led to a clear need for some legal rule-making. In response, in 1722 the lord mayor of London appointed three men to ensure that traffic kept to the left and did not stop on London Bridge. They were possibly the world's first traffic police.
Examples of traffic police departments
- Bangalore City Traffic Police, India
- Kolkata Traffic Police, India
- National Traffic Police, Israel
- Islamabad Traffic Police, Pakistan
- Traffic Police (Sri Lanka)
- Road Policing Units, United Kingdom
Traffic officers who are not sworn police officers
- Highways Agency Traffic Officers, England
- Welsh Government Traffic Officers
- Dartford Crossing Traffic Officers, England
- United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, Traffic Laws Annotated 1979 (1981), p. 17.
- David H. Bayley, Police for the Future (1996), p. 34.
- M. G. Lay, Ways of the World: A History of the World's Roads and of the Vehicles That Used Them (1992), p. 199.