Right now it is both a force and a brand. For some, though, it is fast be becoming a description of things on the ground.
A year after it was first floated, Scotland's Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has again raised the prospect of an "intelligence commissioner", a retired judge-type to vouch for police data as it seeks to drive the bad guys from security contracts to taxi firms, bars and nightclubs.
All laudable intentions except for the fact neither the guy looking to open a pub nor the local authority required to make a decision gets to see this intelligence.
In the hypothetical case of the liquor licence bid (Sir Stephen's comments were after all made at the Alcohol Focus Scotland annual conference), only the commissioner's assessment would be provided to a licensing board.
Is just taking a commissioner's word for it compatible with an open and just legal system based on facts and evidence? Or is the rule of law being removed from people merely "suspected" of being involved in crime, depriving someone of a likelihood on charges they cannot defend themselves against? (Remember, licensing courts are quasi-judicial.)
And while tactics of disruption are fair game in the police armoury against organised crime, Police Scotland risks accusations of using the licensing system against individuals it feels it can never obtain enough evidence against to convict through the proper courts.
Already the proposals have been described as having all the fairness of witch trials and accused of breaching any sense of natural justice and human rights.
It comes in the context of accusations that Police Scotland is increasingly elbowing its way into the licensing system, pushing the envelope further and further in legislation still finding its feet.
That is understandable given the brutally high correlation between alcohol and violent crime, but too often, lawyers and licensing board chairs and clerks say, with scant regard to the law as it stands.
In a recent case in Aberdeen, the police complained of alleged criminal links to the Ask Nightclub, leading to the local authority withdrawing the licence. Fast forward to the court appeal, where the sheriff rules that assertions by the police are not enough on which to base a decision and that the refusal of any licence must have basis in fact.
Even where "evidence" is led, boards complain of occasions where police representations fail to provide sufficient evidence for them to act or contain basic errors such as referring to wrong sections of the legislation.
Then, clearly frustrated at the caution by licensing boards of costly legal battles, the head of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents in May warned that if boards were not prepared "to make the tough decisions about licensing of alcohol perhaps it is time to pass such decisions to the chief constable in order to keep people safe".
The phrase about "enforcer, judge and jury" springs to mind.
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