A commissary is a government official charged with oversight.
In many countries, commissary is used as a police title. It often corresponds to the command of a police station, which is then known as a "commissariat". In some armed forces, commissaries are officials charged with overseeing the purchase and delivery of supplies, and they have powers of administrative and financial oversight. In this case the "commissariat" is the organization associated with the corps of commissaries.
In some countries both these roles are used, for example France uses "police commissaries" (commissaires de police) in the French National Police and "armed forces commissaries" (commissaires des armées) in the French armed forces.
Commissary is commissaire in French, commissario in Italian, Kommissar in (standard) German, Kommissär in Swiss German and Luxembourgish, comisario in Spanish, commissaris in Dutch and Flemish, komisario in Finnish.
The word is recorded in English since 1362, for "one to whom special duty is entrusted by a higher power". This Anglo-French word derives from Medieval Latin commissarius, from Latin commissus (pp. of committere) "entrusted".
A Spanish police Commissary is considered to be equal in rank to a commandant in the Spanish army.
In the French National Police, a commissaires is assigned to a commune with a population of more than 30,000. Larger communes have more than one. Paris has well over one hundred commissaires. All commissaires are graduates and can fulfill both administrative and investigative roles.
In the Soviet Union, commissaries powers of oversight were used for political purposes. These commissaries are often known as commissars in English.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.