What Do You Know About Federal Law Enforcement Agencies?


By: Alex Wittman

6 Min Quiz

Image: Darrin Klimek / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

From protecting the president to monitoring the mail, federal law enforcement agencies are charged with a variety of duties. For as long as the United States has been a country, federal law enforcement agencies have maintained law and order in our great nation. Operating both out in the open and behind closed doors, federal law enforcement agencies work to serve and protect the country as a whole. 

Operating under all three branches of the U.S. government, federal law enforcement officers enforce federal laws (makes sense, we know). Even though they are mostly hands-off at the local and state levels, federal law enforcement agencies have a major impact on our daily lives. From the products on the grocery store shelves to the administration of the federal prison system, federal law enforcement agencies greatly shape our world. We also turn to them in times of tragedy and trouble to respond to disasters and combat terrorism. 

With so many federal law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers, there's a lot to know. If you're ready to test your knowledge, look no further than this quiz! Do you know the FBI from the CIA? How about the origins of federal law enforcement in America? We challenge you to take this quiz and find out what you know about federal law enforcement agencies!

Count 'em up! How many people do federal law enforcement agencies employ in the United States?

Federal law enforcement agencies employ more than 120,000 people in the United States. The duties of a federal law enforcement officer include criminal investigation, inspections and detention.


Let's take it back to the beginning. What is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States?

In 1789, the United State government established the Marshals Service. It's the primary agency for fugitive operations and carries the motto: "Justice, Integrity, Service."


Looking at the numbers, what is the largest U.S. federal law enforcement agency?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection employs more than 27,700 people, making it the largest federal law enforcement agency. In second place, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has more than 15,200 employees.


Which of the following is NOT a principal function of federal law enforcement agencies?

Organized within the federal government, federal law enforcement agencies primarily serve to prevent, detect and investigate crimes. Other responsibilities include apprehending alleged offenders.


A place to call home. Which two federal executive departments oversee the majority of federal law enforcement agencies?

The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security house the majority of federal law enforcement agencies. Some agencies operate independently. Others are within the Department of the Interior, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.


Responding to tragedy. What event spurred the creation of the Department of Homeland Security?

Less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States established the Office of Homeland Security. In November 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act thus formally creating the Department of Homeland Security.


Which of the following law enforcement agencies is not in the Department of Homeland Security?

The Department of Justice oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Department of Homeland Security houses 22 federal departments and agencies.


Granting more power to some federal law enforcement agencies, what act greatly shaped how the U.S. protects national security?

In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act to strengthen national security. It granted federal law enforcement agencies new powers such as the expansion of the National Electronic Crime Task Force.


We know him! Which founding father served as “Postmaster General” and helped create the United States Postal Inspection Service?

As Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin recognized the need for regulation and surveillance of the mail. He appointed William Goddard to the position of “Postal Surveyor,” thus laying the groundwork for the United States Postal Inspection Service.


Organized within the Department of Agriculture, what federal law enforcement agency oversees the national forests and grasslands?

The United States Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations unit takes care of the nation's 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands. In total, the USFS oversees 193 million acres, which equates to 25 percent of all federal lands.


Charged with “protecting those who protect our nation,” which federal law enforcement agency oversees the security of the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense?

With the help of the U.S. Pentagon Police, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency upholds security within the headquarters of the Department of Defense, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The PFPA also safeguards the Mark Center Building, the Defense Health Headquarters and various other Pentagon facilities.


Within the Department of Defense, what federal law enforcement agency works in conjunction with the agency responsible for monitoring, collecting and processing information and data from around the world in the name of national security?

For both foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, the National Security Agency has been an important federal law enforcement agency since before it was even official. The NSA began as a unit to decipher coded communications during World War II. The National Security Agency Police safeguard employees, visitors and property in relation to the NSA.


Housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, which federal law enforcement agency assists in the supervision of food safety, medications and cosmetics?

Since 1906, the Food and Drug Administration has worked to protect and promote public health through its oversight of food, tobacco, medicine, supplements, vaccines, cosmetics and more. The Office of Criminal Investigations helps the FDA investigate suspected criminal violations.


Doing double duty, what branch of the armed services functions within the Department of Homeland Security as a law enforcement agency outside of wartime?

While the other military branches are forbidden from acting in a law enforcement capacity, the United States Coast Guard operates within the Department of Homeland Security when the country is not at war. The Coast Guard became a part of DHS in 2002 with the signing of the Homeland Security Act.


With a mission to detect and prevent illegal aliens, which federal law enforcement agency works with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection?

Employing approximately 20,000 agents, the United States Border Patrol is the mobile unit of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition to stopping people from illegally crossing into the United States, Border Patrol agents also combat terrorism and human trafficking.


Established in 1908 but undergoing a name change in 1935, what federal law enforcement agency is responsible for domestic intelligence and service?

Organized within the Department of Justice, the FBI is a a counter-terrorism, counterintelligence and criminal investigative agency. Although it primarily focuses on domestic issues and threats, the FBI also maintains working relationships with U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.


The man who led the charge. How many years did J. Edgar Hoover serve as FBI director?

In 1924, Hoover became head of the Bureau of Investigation, which preceded the FBI. The bureau received its current name in 1935. When he died at the age of 77, Hoover had spent 48 years as FBI director.


Organized within the Department of Justice, what federal law enforcement agency has a mission to combat drug smuggling and distribution in the United States?

Since 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration has worked in coordination with other federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to detect and pursue drug investigations. President Richard Nixon signed a bill establishing the DEA.


Star power! Which federal law enforcement agency has made multiple pop culture appearances, including “Breaking Bad” and “Narcos”?

The Drug Enforcement Administration has appeared in multiple television shows and movies, including its own reality TV program on the Spike TV network. In addition to “Breaking Bad” and Narcos,” the DEA has a central role in the James Bond film “License to Kill.”


Which president established the United States Secret Service?

On April 14, 1865, Lincoln established the United States Secret Service. That same day, John Wilkes Booth shot and killed Lincoln in the Ford Theater. Initially, the Secret Service's purpose was counterfeiter apprehension. It wasn't until 36 years later that the agency began protecting the president.


As of 1930, what federal law enforcement agency is responsible for the custody and care of inmates in the United States?

Presently, the Federal Bureau of Prisons oversees approximately 183,000 inmates. One of the largest federal law enforcement agencies, the BOP is organized within the Department of Justice.


Formerly part of the United States Department of Treasury, which federal law enforcement agency works to prevent and investigate unlawful activities concerning alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives?

Now under the Department of Justice, the BATFE works closely with state and local task forces to ensure the lawful use of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. Although not officially established until the 1970s, the origins of the agency date back to the prohibition era in the United States.


See them on the screen! What federal law enforcement agency is featured in the TV series “Justified”?

Actor Timothy Olyphant played Raylan Givens, a deputy U.S. Marshal from Kentucky. The TV series, which dramatized the U.S. Marshals Service, comprised of six seasons and concluded in April 2015.


Meet the new you. Overseen by the U.S. Marshals, what is the name of the program that protects high-risk witnesses?

Since 1970, the Federal Witness Protection Program has safeguarded witnesses and gone as far as to provide new identities to permanently hide high-risk persons. To date, the U.S. Marshals have protected more than 7,500 witnesses and their families.


Which of the following is NOT the Federal Bureau of Investigation's focus?

As arguably the most powerful federal law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI tackles crimes that specifically fall under their jurisdiction such as cases where the criminal crosses state lines and violations of federal laws. The FBI does not prosecute cases.


There's a limit on that. How long can an FBI director serve?

Following J. Edgar Hoover's nearly five-decade reign as FBI director, the president now appoints the FBI director for a 10-year term. In addition to “Federal Bureau of Investigation,” FBI stands for the agency's motto: Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity.


What firearm do FBI agents carry for standard duty?

Congress granted FBI agents the authority to carry handguns in 1934. To start, agents carried .38s but switched to 10mm semi-automatics in the 1990s. When it became apparent the 10mm semi-automatics were too powerful for standard duty, the FBI switched to .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handguns.


Within the Department of the Interior, which federal law enforcement agency combats threats such as illegal wildlife trade, habitat destruction and environmental contaminants?

The Office of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces wildlife protection laws. Their work includes preventing the exploitation of protected species, identifying and disrupting animal smuggling rings as well as enforcing hunting regulations.


What federal law enforcement agents are responsible for protecting the National Park System in the United States?

Specifically referring to uniformed agents, the National Park Service rangers enforce regulations and laws within the national parks. The first national park ranger, Harry Yount, enforced hunting regulations within Yellowstone National park in the 1880s.


Organized under the Department of the Interior, which federal law enforcement agency polices Native American tribes and reservations that do not have their own police force?

As federal police officers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police respond to crimes committed on reservations. They may have the authority to enforce tribal law, and preferred candidates for the position are Native Americans.


On average, how many fugitives do the U.S. Marshals arrest every day?

On average, the U.S Marshals arrest 366 fugitives every day. This federal law enforcement agency utilizes their “15 Most Wanted” fugitive program to bring attention to high-profile fugitives, such as individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety.


In 1989, how many kilograms of cocaine did U.S. law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, seize?

During the late 1980s, the DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies turned their focus to Mexico-based drug traffickers. Due to its strategic location between South America and the southern U.S. border, the use of Mexican territory increased, and in 1989, law enforcement agencies seized 40,000 kilograms of cocaine (up from less than 2,000 kilograms in 1985).


Like the U.S. Marshals, the FBI also has a “Most Wanted” list. How many fugitives from its list have been located or caught?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has put more than 494 names on its “Most Wanted” list. Of those named fugitives, the FBI has either located or caught 465 of them.


In 1993, near what city did Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives agents famously raid, starting a 51-day FBI-led standoff?

In February 1993, ATF agents conducted a raid to execute a federal search warrant on a compound near Waco, Texas, belonging to the Branch Davidian sect. After a gun battle resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Branch Davidian members, the FBI took over and launched what became known as the Waco Siege.


Established during World War II, what federal law enforcement agency serves to investigate criminal activities involving two of the five military branches?

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigates criminal activities involving the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Marine Corps. A long-running television show dramatizing this federal law enforcement agency (“NCIS”) has been on their air for 16 seasons.


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