State police or provincial police are a type of sub-national territorial police force, found particularly in North America, South Asia, and Oceania. Some other countries have analogous police forces, such as the provincial police in some Canadian provinces. Particularly in the United States, the primary goals of most state police agencies are the safety of motorists on interstate highways, and the enforcement of traffic laws on those interstate highways, but can also involve statewide law enforcement and criminal investigation.

SEK members of the State Police of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany during an exercise


Each state of Australia has its own state police force. Municipalities do not have police forces and it is left to the state forces to police all geographic areas within their respective states. Australia does have a national police force, the Australian Federal Police, whose role is to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth, both criminal law and civil law, as well as to protect the interests of the Commonwealth, both domestically and internationally. The AFP does, however, provide 'state' policing for the Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, and Australia's other external territories such as Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.[1] Prior to the Federation of Australia, each Colony within Australia had numerous police forces, but these were largely amalgamated well before Federation.


Each state in Brazil has two state police forces:

Civil Police — the State criminal investigative police.
Military Police — they are uniformed gendarmerie forces fulfilling roles as State police. They are a reserve branch of the Brazilian armed forces[2] but do not perform regular Military Police duties as they are performed by service police such as the Army Police, etc.


Three provinces in Canada have a police force with jurisdiction over the entire province. In all other provinces, provincial police services are carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In Alberta, highway patrol and civic guard duties are performed by the Alberta Sheriffs Branch.

The British Columbia Provincial Police existed from the mid 19th century until 1950 when it was incorporated into the RCMP.


The Landespolizei (or LaPo) is a term used in the Federal Republic of Germany to denote the law enforcement services that perform law enforcement duties in the States of Germany. The German federal constitution leaves the majority of law enforcement responsibilities to the 16 states of the country.

There also are several auxiliary state police forces.


Each state and territory has a state police force and its own distinct State Police Service, headed by the Commissioner of Police (State) or Director General of Police (DGP) who is an Indian Police Service officer. The IPS is not a law enforcement agency in its own right; rather it is the body to which all senior police officers of all states belong regardless of the agency for whom they work. The state police is responsible for maintaining law and order in townships of the state and the rural areas.

In addition to the state police, major cities have their own police force called Metropolitan Police which is quite similar to other normal police forces except their different rank designations; e.g., DGP is called as Commissioner of Police (State) in a state with Metropolitan Police.


Each of the 31 states of Mexico maintains a separate law enforcement agency or Policía Estatal. Each of these state forces is tasked with the protection of their citizens, keeping local order and combating insecurity and drug trafficking. Certain states including Veracruz and Nuevo León have a new model of police force designated as Civilian Forces (Fuerza Civil).


In Spain the state police are two primary police agencies:

  • the Civil Guard in all the state and territorial sea, competent of the traffic laws, crimes, environment, weapons, explosives, borders and coast, besides rescue in mountain and sea.
  • National Police Corps competent in crimes, documentation, immigration and gambling in capitals and cities of more than 50,000 inhabitants.

Also in Spain apart from these two state security bodies also exist;

  • Local police in municipalities to deal with urban traffic and local laws.
  • Autonomous Police in three autonomous communities (Ertzainas in the Basque Country, Polices Mossos de Escuadra in Catalonia, Police Officers in Navarre) These police officers of minor entity are in charge of some competences within the Autonomous Community.

United Kingdom

In 2001, the Police Service of Northern Ireland was formed in Northern Ireland, succeeding the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Similarly, on 1 April 2013, Scotland's eight regional police forces amalgamated to create a Scottish national police service, Police Scotland. Both are local as well as national forces of their respective constituent countries - effectively 'state-level' within the UK. England and Wales, in contrast, typically organise policing on a city or county basis.

United States

A North Carolina state trooper's car on I-85 in 2008.

In the United States, state police are a police body unique to each U.S. state, having statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. In general, they perform functions outside the jurisdiction of the county sheriff (Vermont being a notable exception[citation needed]), such as enforcing traffic laws on state highways and interstate expressways, overseeing the security of the state capitol complex, protecting the governor, training new officers for local police forces too small to operate an academy, providing technological and scientific services, supporting local police and helping to coordinate multi-jurisdictional task force activity in serious or complicated cases in those states that grant full police powers statewide. A general trend has been to bring all of these agencies under a state Department of Public Safety. Additionally, they may serve under different state departments such as the Highway Patrol under the state Department of Transportation and the Marine patrol under the state Department of Natural Resources.

Twenty-two U.S. states use the term "State Police", fifteen use the term "Highway Patrol", seven use the term "State Patrol", and three use the term "State Highway Patrol". In Alaska, the agency is called the "Division of Alaska State Troopers", while in Arizona, it is the "Department of Public Safety". Hawaii does not have a statewide police agency.


As a federal State, Switzerland's main police forces are states forces. Each Canton has its own police force often backed up by municipals or districts police departements. All Canton's forces are overviewed by the Federal Office of Police (also known as FedPol). Before the cold war the FedPol was the main police force in Switzerland, especially on political and counter-spying matters but after the Secret Files Scandal, its importance was reduced and many of its duties were transferred to State Police (Counter-terrorism for example).

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