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Special Police does not have a consistent international meaning. In many cases it will describe a police force or a unit within a police force whose duties and responsibilities are significantly different from other forces in the same country or significantly different from other police in the same force as described in the following sections. The status of Special constable in many (if not most) cases does not indicate a member of a special police force; in countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and often elsewhere it will usually describe a voluntary or part-time member of a national or local police force or a person involved in law enforcement who is not a police officer but has some of the powers of a police officer.



Special Police is not a term used in Canada. Special Constables exist in various forms with different powers according to their duties and employers.

Former Yugoslavia

The Special police are a branch of the Regular Police who are used for Restoring peace and stability if they have been heavily disturbed, Counter terrorism, Countering violent groups, and repressing riots (especially in prisons). The Special Police also provide security and public peace, to investigate and prevent organized crime, terrorism and other violent groups; to protect state and private property; to help and assist civilians and other emergency forces in a case of emergency, natural disaster, civil unrest and armed conflicts.


The Special Guard, created in 1999, became part of the police in 2008. It was intended to take on sentry tasks to free up regular police for other duties.[1]


Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale

Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza

New Zealand

"Special Police" is not a term actively used in New Zealand. Aside from the New Zealand Police, special powers are derived in legislation for customs officers, Fisheries Officers, and also Fire Police. Of those mentioned, the Fire Police hold the full legal powers of a Police Constable when on official duty. Customs Officers, Fishery Officers, Aviation Security Officers, have limited powers (including the power to arrest or detain) in particular circumstances.

People's Republic of China

In the People's Republic of China, the Special Police Units are their local equivalent of US SWAT teams. They are tasked with duties that normal patrol officers are not sufficiently equipped to handle, such as riot control and hostage-situations.

Sri Lanka

The Special Task Force is a special police unit that is some what equal the US SWAT teams, however they have broader responsibilities such as Counter-Terrorism, VVIP protection, bomb and EID disposal, etc.[2]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom special police force has a special meaning in law and describes one of the forces defined as such in legislation including :-

They are distinguished from other police forces by having duties and responsibilities associated with particular legal or illegal activities rather than the geographical areas which are served by a single territorial police force.

There are four such forces:

Note:- the Serious Organised Crime Agency (whose full powers are limited to England and Wales) is not a police force but an agency responsible to a Secretary of State; however, its workforce includes constables drawn from various UK police forces.

Officers of the Special Police Forces have the same powers as their territorial police counterparts but only when operating on land to which their jurisdiction applies (i.e. BTP only have full authority on a railway or other transport system which employs their services), unless a territorial force (or one of its constables) asks for help, or if police action is required and it would be impractical to wait for an officer of the local territorial force to arrive.

In the United Kingdom the basic phrase special police has no particular meaning and is not usually used to describe a member of a special police force in preference to standard descriptions; special constables are voluntary and/or part-time members found in both territorial and special police forces.


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland formerly had three categories of special police: A Specials, who were full-time and paid, but could not be posted outside their home areas; B Specials, who were part-time, usually on duty for one evening per week and serving under their own command structure, and unpaid but given allowances; and C Specials, who were unpaid, non-uniformed reservists, and used for static guard duties near their homes.

The Ulster Special Constabulary was Protestant dominated and seen by the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland as an oppressive force. The Special Constabulary was abolished in 1970.

United States

In United States terminology, special police can mean:

  • Fire Police, members of specialized traffic control units responding with volunteer fire companies;
  • Auxiliary Police, members of volunteer, unpaid, part-time civilian police units;
  • Special Law Enforcement Officers - used in New Jersey to supplement full time police officers;
  • Security police; or
  • Company police.

The term can also refer to limited police power granted in some jurisdictions to lifeguards, SPCA personnel, teachers, and other public sector employees which is incidental to their main responsibilities. Special Police Officers (or SPO's) can be employed to protect large campuses such as theme parks, hospital centers, and commerce centers.

Some states, such as Maryland, grant full State Police authority to SPOs for use in whatever area they are employed to protect. They can make traffic stops in their jurisdiction if they have had accredited training. They are also permitted to conduct traffic control and investigations pertaining to the area protected by them, while a majority of SPOS are armed with a firearm, some states permit the age for an SPO to be 18, while still they can not carry a sidearm. Special police can make a criminal arrest and run blue strobe lights on their vehicle.

Smithsonian Museum Special Police in NY & DC

The Smithsonian museum utilizes federal employees designated as "special police" under the United States Code (Title 10, Chapter 63, §6306). These officers patrol Smithsonian property in New York and the District of Columbia. Smithsonian Special Police Officers carry firearms (In New York only supervising officers carry firearms), mace and handcuffs and have arrest authority on federal Smithsonian property.

Special police in North Carolina

In North Carolina, some private companies have their own special police forces. These include hospitals, hotels, race tracks, and shopping malls and are more properly referred to as "Company Police". There are also companies that offer contract special police services for a fee to anyone who has property they wish to protect. In the state of North Carolina, special police differ greatly from security companies. Special police officers have full arrest powers on any property they are hired to protect within the state as granted by the North Carolina Attorney General. Special police officers must also attend and pass the Basic Law Enforcement Training program like all other police officers. Security officers do not have arrest powers as their job is to mainly observe and report.

See also


External links


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