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State police are a type of sub-national territorial police force, particularly in Australia and the United Statesmarker. Some other countries have analogous police forces, such as the provincial police in some Canadianmarker provinces, while in other places, the same responsibilities are held by national police forces.

United States

In the United Statesmarker, 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), 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 support services, 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 Department of Natural Resources. Twenty-three U.S. states use the term "State Police."

Types of US State Police Agencies

State Police

These forces are fully empowered law enforcement agencies with statewide jurisdiction, which conduct patrols and respond to calls for service and perform all the other aforementioned duties. The State Police may be the name of the independent agency or it may fall under a Department of Public Safety. These states are Arkansasmarker, Connecticutmarker, Delawaremarker, Idahomarker, Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, Kentuckymarker, Louisianamarker, Mainemarker, Marylandmarker, Massachusettsmarker, Michiganmarker, New Hampshiremarker, New Jerseymarker, New Mexicomarker, New Yorkmarker, Oregonmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Rhode Islandmarker, Vermontmarker, Virginiamarker, and West Virginiamarker.

The Alaskamarker State Police was renamed Alaska State Troopers in 1967.

Highway Patrol

In other states, the state police are known by different names. However, most have the same jurisdiction over the entire state as the agencies that are simply called "State Police". The rankings of the highway patrol may be trooper or officer. The names are usually historical and do not necessarily describe the agency's function or jurisdiction. They may exist as part of or separate from the state police:

Note: The New Hampshire Highway Patrol has since been merged into the NH State Police as Troop G - Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

Other State Police agencies

  • State Bureaus of Investigation (SBI) - the state's detectives, (New Jersey State Detective Agency).
  • State Bureau of Narcotics - the state-level counter-part to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • Department of Public Safety (DPS) exist in 30 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Vermont), often these provide oversight and coordination over various state-level police agencies, such as State Police, State Bureau of Investigation, or Highway Patrols.
  • Motor Carrier Enforcement - another organization with many various titles and may be part of the actual State Police or Highway Patrol. Many belong the their state's Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, or even the Secretary of State. These agencies conduct vehicle inspections and enforce the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) as mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They conduct safety inspections of commercial motor vehicles (primarily trucks and buses), inspects highway shipments of hazardous materials, and performs compliance reviews (safety performance audits) on motor carriers. The DPS adopts and enforces driver and vehicle safety regulations and hazardous materials regulations as part of this program. Both the Arkansas Highway Police and the New Hampshire Highway Patrols are motor carrier enforcement agencies.
  • Marine Patrol - The state water police.
  • State Park Police - New Jersey, New York. Florida Park Patrol.
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement - In 1967, the Florida Legislature merged the responsibilities of several state criminal justice organizations to create the Bureau of Law Enforcement. The Bureau began with 94 positions, headed by a Commissioner who reported to the Governor, certain Cabinet members, two Sheriffs, and one Chief of Police. In July 1969, after government restructuring, the Bureau became the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). FDLE is structured to deliver services in five program areas:Executive Direction and Business, Support Program, Criminal Investigations and Forensic Science Program, Florida Capitol Police Program, Criminal Justice Information Program, Criminal Justice Professionalism Program.
  • Illinois Secretary of State Police - The Illinois Secretary of State Police monitors amongst other things handicap parking violations.
Today, FDLE is headed by a Commissioner who is appointed by the Governor and approved by the Cabinet. Headquartered in Tallahassee, FDLE employs nearly 2,000 members statewide who work at the department’s seven Regional Operations Centers, 15 field offices and seven crime laboratories. The members of FDLE are guided by four fundamental values as they respond to the needs of Florida’s citizens and criminal justice community: service, integrity, respect, and quality.
  • New Mexico Mounted Patrol - Established in 1942, consisting of part-time volunteer peace officers to augment all enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies within the state.


Several Commonwealth of Nations countries have state police or analogous subnational police.


In Canadamarker, policing is primarily a provincial responsibility, but only three provinces have provincial police services: Ontariomarker (Ontario Provincial Police), Quebecmarker (Sûreté du Québec), and Newfoundland and Labradormarker (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary). The other provinces all contract their provincial policing responsibilities to the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker (RCMP), which also perform limited federal policing responsibilities throughout Canada. The Alberta Sheriff is a province-wide force, but assists the courts and does not fulfil all police duties. All provinces, whether they have their own provincial police service or use the RCMP, also assign policing responsibilities to some municipalities. Some cities (Toronto Police Service) and some urban areas (York Regional Police) in Canada maintain their own police service.


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 the 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 and to protect the interests of the Commonwealth both domestically and internationally. The AFP does however provide 'state' policing for the Australian Capital Territorymarker, Jervis Bay Territorymarker and Australia's other external territories such as Norfolk Islandmarker.

Prior to the Federation of Australia each Colony within Australia had numerous police forces, however these were largely amalgamate well before Federation.


Each state has a state police force, headed by the DGP (Director General of Police). 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 forces called Metropolitan Police. The laws in individual states vary, so the metropolitan police may or may not be subordinate to the state police.

Other countries


Each state in Brazilmarker has two state police forces;


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


The Italian State Police, the Polizia di Stato, is one of three national police forces in Italy. They perform general police duties alongside the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza.

The (Polizia Provinciale) is a general term used to identify provincial-level police forces in Italymarker. Some Italian province have their own police force (more or less like the American county police, but with much less power). Polizia Provinciale are small police organisations and their main duties are to enforce regional and national hunting and fishing laws but have also expanded into environmental protection. The forces' vehicles are usually white with a green or blue stripe along the side.


Each Prefecture of Japan maintains its own police force while the NPA serves to coordinate them. Each prefectural police headquarters contains administrative divisions corresponding to those of the bureaus of the National Police Agency. Headquarters are staffed by specialists in basic police functions and administration and are commanded by an officer appointed by the local office of the National Public Safety Commission. Most arrests and investigations are performed by prefectural police officials (and, in large jurisdictions, by police assigned to substations), who are assigned to one or more central locations within the prefecture. Experienced officers are organized into functional bureaus and handle all but the most ordinary problems in their fields.


Several communities/nationalities in the Kingdom of Spainmarker possess their own police force akin to "State Police" or "Community Police", like Ertzaintza in Euskadimarker, Mossos d'Esquadra in Cataloniamarker and Policía Foral in Navarramarker.


  1. [1]
  6. New Mexico Mounted Patrol Official Website, Accessed November 24, 2009

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