Special police usually describes a police force or unit within a police force whose duties and responsibilities are significantly different from other forces in the same country or from other police in the same force, although there is no consistent international definition. A special constable, in most cases, is not a member of a special police force (SPF); in countries in the Commonwealth of Nations and often elsewhere, a special constable is 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. The closest term used is Special Constables, which exist in several forms with various degrees of Peace Officer powers according to their duties and employers (most government).
In general, Special Constables do not carry firearms, but may employ other equipment for protection.
In the People's Republic of China, the Special Police Units are the local equivalent of the U.S. SWAT teams. They are tasked with duties that normal patrol officers are not sufficiently equipped to handle, such as riot control and hostage situations. In addition, the Beijing Special Weapons and Tactics Unit and Snow Leopard Commando Unit also fulfill different duties.
In Croatia, Special Police serve as special operations forces trained primarily for anti-terrorism operations. Unlike many western SWAT teams, Croatian Special Police officers are full-time, professional operators with no secondary duties. A total of four Special Police units exist in cities of Osijek, Rijeka, Split and Zagreb covering their respective regions. A fifth and most elite unit, ATJ Lučko is stationed in Zagreb and has jurisdiction over the entire country.
The Special Police were a branch of the Regular Police who were used for restoring peace and stability if it had been heavily disturbed, counter-terrorism, countering violent groups, and repressing riots (especially in prisons). The Special Police also provided security and public peace, investigated and prevented organized crime, terrorism and other violent groups; protected state and private property; and helped and assisted civilians and other emergency forces in cases of emergency, natural disasters, civil unrest and armed conflicts.
Eidiki Katastaltiki Antitromokratiki Monada or EKAM (Special Anti-Terrorist Unit), was created in 1978 and became part of the Hellenic Police. ΕΚΑΜ operators take orders only from the General of the Hellenic Police. The unit and its operators protect the Greek citizens from acts of terrorism, including but not limited to bombings, kidnappings and hijackings.
Indonesian National Police (POLRI)
Indonesian National Police Special Units:
- Mobile Brigade Corps also known as "BRIMOB" is the Special Operations Force, Police Commandos, Special Response team, Paramilitary, and riot control unit of the National Police Force of Indonesia (POLRI).
- GEGANA is an internal special unit of "BRIMOB" which conducts mainly on bomb disposal and counter-terrorist operations. It also specializes in the field of handling of chemical, biological, and radiological threats.
- DENSUS 88 / Detasmen Khusus 88 translated as ("Detachment 88") is the special counter-terrorism force of the Indonesian National Police.
- Garda Crime & Security Branch
- Garda Special Detective Unit
- Garda Emergency Response Unit
- Garda National Surveillance Unit
- Garda Regional Support Units
- Airport Police Service
- Dublin Harbour Police
- Dún Laoghaire Harbour Police
- Military Police Corps
Many functions ordinarily taken by special police units, are also taken by the Israeli special forces units.
- Yamam, one of the four special operations units of the Israel Border Police
- Yamas, special operations unit of the Israel Border Police, directly subordinate to Shin Bet
- Gruppo di Intervento Speciale
- Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza
- Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale
"Special Police" is 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. 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.
The Special Task Force is a special police unit that is somewhat equal to the US SWAT teams, however they have broader responsibilities such as Counter-Terrorism, VVIP protection, bomb and EID disposal, etc.
Special police in Republic of China (Taiwan) includes Thunder Squad of municipal governments (local police departments), Peace Enforcing Special Service Forces aka "Wei-An" Forces of Ministry of the Interior, and Military Police Special Services Company Code-named Night Hawk of Ministry of National Defense.
- Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
- Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006
- Police and Justice Act 2006
These are managed by government departments other than the Home Office, and have 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 three such forces:
- British Transport Police: Responsible for policing the rail network in Great Britain.
- Civil Nuclear Constabulary: Non-military nuclear installations and non-military nuclear material in transit.
- Ministry of Defence Police: Ministry of Defence property, personnel, other defence interests, UK nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials.
The National 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, officers are 'triple warranted' – with powers of a police officer, immigration officer and customs officer.
In United States terminology, special police can mean:
- Auxiliary police, members of volunteer, unpaid or paid, part-time civilian police, security officer units, interns;
- Company police;
- Fire police, members of specialized traffic control units responding with volunteer fire companies;
- Security police; or
- Special Law Enforcement Officers - used in New Jersey to supplement full-time police officers;
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, New York, and the District of Columbia, grant full State Police/peace officer 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, Virginia, & 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, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Smithsonian Special Police Officers carry firearms, mace and handcuffs and have arrest authority on federal Smithsonian property.
In Kentucky, special police officers are Special Law Enforcement Officers (SLEO). They are sworn peace officers with limited jurisdiction. They have full legal police powers; explicitly including arrest authority, the ability to carry a weapon, and use emergency vehicles. However, their jurisdiction is specifically limited to public property that they have been hired to protect. While Kentucky law allows both the State and local governments to use SLEO's, most are used by the Kentucky State Police in the Facilities Security Branch.
In Massachusetts, Special Police Officers are either similar to reserve or part-time police officers and part of a regular police department or they are Special State Police Officers and are part of a college or university police force. Special Police Officers attend and graduate from the MA Municipal Police Training Council Reserve & Intermittent Police Officers Academy There are also a plethora of special police officers who work in the city of Boston; these officers either work directly for the city (school police, municipal protective service, health commission police, housing police, or BFD arson investigators) or for private security companies. The city of Boston requires these agencies to attend a Boston Police approved academy, that is 160 hours. The state requires all reserve/intermittent officers to complete 372.5 hours of training, with an additional 56 hours for those carrying a weapon.
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. North Carolina 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.
In New Jersey, Special Law Enforcement Officers are used to supplement full-time police officers. There are currently three classes of special law enforcement officers.
Class I SLEO's are allowed to conduct routine traffic detail, spectator control, and similar duties, but are not authorized to carry a firearm while on duty.
Class II SLEO'S are permanent, regularly appointed full-time police officers. They're authorized to carry a firearm.
Class III SLEO's are retired fully trained police officers who are under the age of 65 years old. They serve on a part-time basis and authorized to provide security while on school or college premises during hours when the school or college is normally in session or when occupied by students, teachers, or professors. These Officers do not replace regular law enforcement officers or school resource officers currently employed in schools.
By law, all armed SLEO's must return their firearm to the station house unless the firearm is owned by the SLEO in compliance with unit policy on personally owned firearms. All Class II and Class III SLEO's are fully trained and certified police officers in the State of New Jersey. Class I SLEO's go through different certifications, but still have police officer status. Class Two Officers in Newark carry weapons off duty.
The Texas Special Police were formed along with the Texas State Police during the administration of Texas Governor Edmund J. Davis on July 22, 1870, to combat crime statewide in Texas. There were thirty special policemen assigned as auxiliary officers throughout the state. On April 22, 1873, the law authorizing the state police was repealed by the newly-elected Democrat ic-controlled state legislature.
Texas state law authorizes mayors to appoint special police officers to enforce the municipality's laws, avert danger, or protect life or property; because of riot, outbreak, calamity, or public disturbance; or because of threat of serious violation of law or order, of outbreak, or of other danger to the municipality or its inhabitants. (§ 341.011. SPECIAL POLICE FORCE IN TYPE A GENERAL-LAW)
Virginia possesses special police officers employed, typically, in the private police field. These officers are regulated by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and are termed special conservators of the peace (SCOP). These officers must meet specific training requirements and be sworn in by the district court judge or magistrate in the area where they request a commission. These officers, when so sworn and certified, are permitted to utilize the term 'police' and are permitted to operate emergency vehicles equipped with red flashing/strobing lights (municipal law enforcement operates either blue or combinations of blue and red).
This class of officer should not be confused with armed security officers who in Virginia possess arrest authority on property they are employed to protect. Armed security officers do not have fresh pursuit authority (off of their grounds/property) whereas SCOP officers do.
The San Francisco Patrol Special Police is a neighborhood police force authorized in the City Charter, with officers appointed and regulated by the Police Commission after an initial security review by the San Francisco Police Department. Hourly rates for service are principally paid by private clients, with some cost to the City for general program administration concerning standards of professional performance, but not concerning day-to-day operations. Thus, the nature of this special police force is both quasi-private and quasi-public. The force has been in operation in the United States, city of San Francisco for over 162 years. By current City Code the force provides patrols on the streets of San Francisco as well as at fixed locations, and also provides a range of other safety services as requested by private clients.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Superintendent of the New Orleans Department in accordance with New Orleans Home Rule Charter section 4-502 (2) (a) (b) and New Orleans Municipal Code 17271 MCS 90-86, may deputize private Security Guards, within the city limits, with limited Police Power as New Orleans Police Special Officers. Louisiana R.S. 40:1379.1 (b) states the Special Officer, when performing those tasks requiring a Special Officer's commission, shall have the same powers and duties as a Peace Officer, however, that when not performing these tasks directly related to the special officer's commission, he shall be regarded as a private citizen and his commission shall not be in effect. Special Officers may make arrest for felony or misdemeanor offenses on the property or area they are to protect, patrol, or in relation to their direct assignment. However, Special Officers still may make an arrest, as a private person, for a felony, whether in or out of his presence, under Louisiana Law CCRP Art.214 Arrest by private person; when lawful.
Washington utilizes special police in both the public and private security sectors. Most work for private security companies although many security officers in the Washington DC area also have special police status. Special police are required to be licensed and are appointed by the Mayor 
Operations jurisdiction: Catalonia
GEI Special intervention group (GEI) in catalan: Grup Especial d'Intervenció. this area It was created in 1984 with the collaboration of the Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK) of Germany.
The Ministry of Public Security has a High Command of Mobile Police Force. It includes six regiments of mobile police and three battalions of special police.
- "Special Task Force, Sri Lanka Police". police.lk. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11.
- "NCA Investigator - National Crime Agency". www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- "About The Class - William Cloran Academy". bostonspo.com.
- "Basic Reserve Police Academy". Mass.gov.
- Ann Patton Baenziger, "The Texas State Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969)
- John G. Johnson, "STATE POLICE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jls02), accessed April 09, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- "Texas Local Government Code - Section 341.011. Special Police Force In Type A General-Law Municipality".
- "San Francisco Patrol Special Police - Qualifications". sfpatrolspecpolice.com.
- "D.C. Law 16-187. Enhanced Professional Security Amendment Act of 2006". D.C. Law Library. Open Law Library. Retrieved 15 March 2019.