Cleaning up this galaxy, one plastic criminal at a time. note On the other hand, why should they send an elite soldier on a $40,000,000 bike after a squid for stealing a hundred bucks?
"From the freshest Konstabel to the most respected Oberst, Patrol officers are a true Band of Brothers. Their's is a lonely duty, served far from home and family. But someone must guard the hearthfires."
Quite simply, an organization of peacekeepers in outer space.
This is not the same as a Starfleet-style fleet of ships. For one, those usually exist for the purposes of exploration and/or war; for another, Space Police tend to work in small groups and have a certain jurisdiction. In other words, it's much like the difference between the real police and the military.
Where they get that jurisdiction from, though, is often different. They're more likely to be part of a huge, galaxy-spanning organization, and are often more of an elite force than just regular policemen. They may not even answer to the government.
Adding to the aforementioned "elite force" feel, they may have some kind of exclusive technology that can only be manufactured in limited amounts, or an ability that only certain individuals can use.
Sometimes, the space police is introduced to the plot unexpectedly, especially if it takes place on a planet that is yet to discover other space-faring civilizations (read: Present Day Earth). In this case, the space police, while preferring to not interfere with local affairs, intervenes as a sudden external force in matters that they deem to have interplanetary if not interstellar consequences. In addition in the typical Super Hero universe, they are the ones who can take powerful alien criminals into custody after they are defeated without upsetting the status quo of Earth having to deal with such criminals.
See also Super Cop, Time Police.
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The Galaxy Police in the Tenchi Muyo! series. They've got their jurisdiction from the Galaxy Union. It's a loose alliance of the most influential nations around, mainly humans (in the form of a couple of rival empires) and wau — a race of large antropomorphic felines.
Haruko from FLCL claims to be a member of some interstellar peacekeeping organization, but it's never clear whether this is truth or just another layer of cover story.
She is there to catch Atomsk, apparently, but it's doubtful any agency would approve of her other activities.
The Intra-Solar System Police (ISSP) from Cowboy Bebop is basically an extension of Interpol extended to the entire solar system. Much like Interpol, they technically have jurisdiction everywhere, but cannot exercise that jurisdiction without permission from the sovereign governments or local police forces. This generally means that bounty hunters like the crew of the Bebop are called upon to catch those that slip through the cracks and bring them to ISSP custody.
The Time-Space Administration Bureau (TSAB) plays this role in Lyrical Nanoha, unexpectedly intervening in Nanoha and Fate's clash in the first season and becoming regulars (and their employers) later.
Unified Public Security Agency, Ryouko's organization, in Kemeko Deluxe! is similar to TSAB.
From DC Comics, the Green Lantern Corps, though they're more spread-out than most, with only one Lantern for many star systems; additionally, they're independent of any government, being run by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and their mighty power rings pack an incredibly versatile punch.
It's been suggested that the Corps were based on the Lensmen, but the creators denied having read the stories. Later writers, however, included shout outs such as Green Lanterns named Arisia and Eddore, after the Godlike alien empires of the Lensman novels.
The revamped post-Rebirth Corps now has two Lanterns per sector, who are even referred to as police-style back-up. Earth actually has four Lanterns, but only two (Jordan and Stewart) operate in Sector 2814, while the others (Gardner and Rayner) are specialists based out of Oa.
The GLC is also unusual (at least by comic book standards) in how far they take the law enforcement metaphor, having things like badges, allotments of vacation days, and specialized departments like the Alpha Lanterns who are an Internal Affairs department within the Corps. They've also been seen investigating crime like real-life detectives rather than just blasting bad guys through walls.
Their limited number is partly justified by the fact that they tend to assist local law enforcement where feasible (eg. if Hal Jordan runs into a human supervillain, even one of his own enemies, they are more likely to be thrown in an Earth jail than an Oan one); there may be other superheroes in the area (eg. Earth again, which has the Justice League, of which Hal is a member, and many others) who at the very least can act as support, or outright allies; and because sci-fi writers do have a sense of scale as the majority of star systems will likely have only one inhabitable planet, if any at all, and many won't even want or need a GL, assuming they've reached a level of technological advancement that would make one feasible in the first place. In many respects they are more like an intergalactic Interpol than a real police force, 'cept more proactive.
In the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, there were the Science Police, who wavered from allies to antagonists between adaptations.
In the Marvel Universe, the Nova Corps (which were very similar to the GLC in many ways).
The current Nova series takes this and runs with it. The suggestion of Ego the Living Planet becoming a Corpsman (instantly dismissed as "crazy"; what's actually happening is a bit more complex), is a clear Shout-Out to Mogo.
Another organization from The DCU, a modern-era precursor to the Legion of Super-Heroes called L.E.G.I.O.N. (Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network), was founded to fill the gap left by the Green Lantern Corps after they disbanded for a short time in the late '80s. They're about halfway between a police force and a mercenary outfit, and bump heads with the Green Lanterns fairly often.
They've also twice been taken over by villains (in the later issues of their regular book, and in a current miniseries), leading to the good guys becoming R.E.B.E.L.S.
The Darkstars were also formed to pick up the slack when the GLC disbanded, and included a number of former Lanterns in their ranks, but their ranks slowly dwindled and the last remaining members gave their lives in a fight against an evil Physical God called Starbreaker. Their name and equipment have since been appropriated by the zombie-like servants of another evil space-deity, Lady Styx.
The 1990s Trinity miniseries (not to be confused with the more recent titles about Clark, Bruce and Diana) was essentially the G.L.C., L.E.G.I.O.N., and Darkstars in a jurisdiction dispute.
Rick Random: Space Detective was created in the 1950's by Edward Holmes, who realized the growing popularity of sci-fi after Sputnik, but was stuck editing a detective comic. The British comic hero worked for the Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation, investigating mysteries and battling Space Pirates, Mad Scientists and other such villains.
Subverted in Marvel's Darkhawk. We have a group of intergalactic super-beings with the same costume and powers, which is usually the case with this trope when it applies to comics. It's subverted in that, instead of cops, they're actually Space Pirates.
Gort and Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). In a twist, Gort (the robot) turns out to be the officer, and Human Alien Klaatu is his assistant. In the short story on which the movie is based, Farewell to the Master, Klaatu is only an artificial construct created to make it possible for Gort to communicate with humans.
Jedi Knights tend to have policing the galaxy as one of their regular duties (along with acting as ambassadors to political disputes and ridding the galaxy of the Sith), yet in Knights of the Old Republic, many members of said Republic seemed to labor under the assumption that "space police" apparently meant "person who is obligated to fight in wars whether they want to or not".
A particular type of Jedi, "Watchmen", act as law enforcement on frontier worlds where there's very little if any government infastructure. In the first Knights of the Old Republic game the Jedi on Dantooine are pretty much the only law enforcement the planet has, so much so that they're swamped with trying to help the colonists and fight the Jedi Civil War with Revan's Sith; the player can help out by undertaking some missions for the populace including a murder mystery (that's also a Secret Test of Character). Corellian Jedi act primarily in their home system and work closely with the Cor Sec, the local police force. The mainstream Jedi consider them a little odd for this, as well as for marrying and having children against the Jedi Code, but they respect them and are not against working with them on occasion.
The bounty hunter in Pitch Black leads the other crash-survivors to believe that he's a law-enforcement agent, although it's unclear whether he's pretending to be Space Police, or an officer of a planetary police force that sent him up to retrieve a fugitive.
The Finders in Abraxas: Guardian Of The Universe.
The Men in Black, though they are not in space as such and stay on Earth.
Sean Connery's character in Outland is a literal example: a US Marshal posted to a mining outpost on one of Jupiter's moons.
The Panoply in Alastair Reynolds' The Prefect. They are have habitat busting weapons, and high tech weaponry. However, they are severely limited in their jurisdiction; They can only enforce a person's right to vote and have a connection to the equivalent of the Internet. They have to petition the habitats to be allowed to use their weaponry, and they cannot interfere with the Ultras, who control the interstellar ships.
The Galactic Patrol in the Lensman novels, especially the Lensmen themselves, though it's more militaristic than most examples of this trope.
James H. Schmitz's "Agent of Vega" series features assorted 'Galactic Agents', space-going Lone Rangers with super-cybernized spaceships as their faithful 'Silvers'. The Agents work for the Third Co-ordinator of the Vegan Confederacy and have no respect whatsoever for the Alien Non-Interference Clause.
The Monitor Corps from James White's Sector General series. Paramilitary police with Cool Ships, to be sure, but at the end of they day they're still Gardai in space, and proud of it. (The Etlan War, for example, is described as a particularly widespread riot in Monitor Corps official documentation, and nobody ever uses lethal force. Ever.)
The Special Corps from The Stainless Steel Rat consist of former criminals who have been caught and are now used to catch other, more dangerous criminals or combat galaxy-spanning threats. They can call on military and government resources (usually by posing as powerful government officials with the help of forged documents). Their leader Inskipp (once a notorious criminal himself) is incensed to discover there's another secret and even more powerful organization, the Morality Corps (which enforces the moral code of humanity), and then yet another group: the Time Corps (which protects the timeline).
The Patrol in many of Andre Norton's science fiction stories. Also, in her "The Time Traders" series, there's speculation that the alien "Baldies" are this - at one point, the heroes wonder whether a video they found is the record of an actual case or the equivalent of a television "cop show."
In the X-Wing Series, part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, one of the pilots was on the Corellian Security Force, essentially the police of the Corellian system. Corellia's Jedi tended to work pretty closely with them. Largely the CSF stayed within the system. The Jedi had a saying - "There is no luck, only the Force", and the CSF liked to modify it to tell criminals who chalked up being caught to bad luck - "There is no luck, only the Corellian Security Force".
Jack Vance's Gaean Reach stories used the Interworld Police Coordination Company. It started as a private firm to exchange information about criminals between planetary jurisdictions, but eventually grew to a level of authority where a senior IPCC representative felt himself justified in summarily executing several corrupt local cops.
The Manticoran and Andermani navies in Honor Harrington serve as this in Silesian Confederacy space, enforcing the anti-piracy and anti-slavery laws that the Silesian navy is too weak, corrupt or ineffective (which one is the case depends on the exact system in question) to enforce on their own.
Per House of Steel, the Grayson Space Navy began as the Grayson Space Guard, serving as a sort of orbital Coast Guard with little actual military capability, at least until the Civil War started by the Faithful. Given that one of the Faithful's first moves in the war was to attack the orbital infrastructure with surface-to-space missiles, it surprised nobody to learn that the GSG decided to support the Moderate faction instead. Arguably, they began the transition from Space Police to Space Navy when they developed the capability to deploy Kinetic Strikes.
Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct was a rare live action series about this, with a strong New York City feel. It didn't do so well.
Space Precinct was a reworking of a pilot Anderson had produced about ten years before hand called Space Police, the title was changed upon learning that Lego had a toyline called Space Police (see below). The series didn't have a lot to do with this trope anyway, aside from the title; it was a fairly standard cop show With TACKED-ON CYBERPUNK ELEMENTS!
Farscape's Peacekeepers were initially created to act as a neutral peacekeeping force by powerful aliens in the far distant past. Over time, they became interstellar fascists.
The series Space Rangers. The premise was a 'Texas Rangers' type organization operating in space.
Power Rangers Turbo/Carranger also has the Blue Senturion/Signalman, either a policeman from an alternate timeline or a an actual space cop.
Star Cops was short-lived British 'hard' sci-fi series about the International Space Police Force — nicknamed the "Star Cops" — who provide law enforcement for the newly developing colonies of the Solar System.
Doctor Who. The Judoon are mercenary police (though the Doctor derides them as "intergalactic thugs"). "The Eleventh Hour" gives us the considerably weirder but even more callous Atraxi, who threatened to torch the entire planet Earth to prevent Prisoner Zero's escape.
25th century Earth's Adjudication Bureau get mentioned in "Colony in Space" (although the supposed Adjudicator in that story is actually the Master), and go on to play a major role in the Doctor Who New Adventures (where it's still around in the 30th).
The Firefly 'verse has two versions of this: the Federal Marshals ("Feds") and the Interplanetary Police ("Interpol"). The RPG sourcebook goes into more detail than the show had time to. Interpol concentrates on tracking suspects and investigating crimes (e.g. the Alliance cruiser Dortmunder alerts them to Serenity's illegal salvage operation in the pilot), while the Feds enforce Alliance national laws and pursue criminals across interplanetary borders (they're the cops hunting Simon and River).
Babylon 5: By the end of the fourth season, the Rangers have begun to fill this role, helping to keep the peace between the different members of the League of Nonaligned Worlds and later the Interstellar Alliance. Notably, they can't even get the League races to agree to this arrangement without convincing them their borders are being threatened by a new undetectable enemy, and the first time war looms between any of the Alliance members, the Rangers prove too thinly stretched to be able to stop both sides from shooting.
In the GURPSTraveller volume "Sword Worlds", the Confederation Patrol is described as sort of an interstellar coast guard for the Sword Worlds Confederation. It handles interstellar fugitives, pursues pirates and smugglers and conducts espionage and counterespionage.
The IISS though mostly an exploration and intelligence service has units with police powers in the Imperium. Notable among these is the S3 which is kind of a "space SWAT".
Inquisition is more of a State Sec. Adeptus Arbites, on the other hand, are closer to the standard understanding of what police can and must do, although they're still noticeably darker than usual and have more limited jurisdiction — that is, they enforce only general Imperial laws, of which there are few, leaving most to the local police. In short, they are FBI IN SPACE, with a healthy dose of Judge DreddShout-Out.
Pictured above: one of the smallest sets from the 2009 reboot of LEGO Space Police, three LEGO lines of various ages devoted to this trope. In the first two runs their enemies were humans, the Blacktron faction of LEGO Space, but the 2009 reboot had aliens as the enemy and nothing but.
Some people like to interpret this most recent line as Darker and Edgier. Note that all the criminals are aliens, humans are rarely shown in poor light, and the space police are unusually heavily armed. The fact that one set is essentially a Space Pimpmobile, complete with a SPACE PIMP, just adds to the feel.
Your anti-human sentiments have been recorded, citizen...
The video game Freelancer ups the ante not only by featuring the aptly named Liberty Police, Inc. and Bretonia Police, but also by featuring the Liberty Security Force, kinda like the Space FBI. Oh, and notice how the Liberty Police is a private security company!
The Spectres in Mass Effect, who are given special rights by the Citadel Council that places them above the law and allows them to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure galactic peace. C-Sec fulfills the role of normal police.
The Spectres are more like interstellar James Bond-figures than police, though. C-Sec only operates in the systems closest to the Citadel, so they aren't quite universal police force, either.
In the Mass Effect universe, most planets tend to be on their own for providing for their own security, often contracting the services of various agencies running the gamut from Law Enforcement, Inc. to outright Private Military Contractors. For the Earth Systems Alliance, the Alliance Navy serves the role of Space Police whenever the situation warrants (usually against slavers or Space Pirates).
EVE Online's CONCORD Assembly is an independent body formed by consent of the four empires. They use their own powerful proprietary technology to keep order in secure systems. Their jurisdiction is limited however, leaving most of the galaxy lawless and rather dangerous.
Some corporations and vigilantes attempt to enforce their own brand of justice outside Concord-secured space, as well. Given that non-secured space is one of the most brutal free-for-alls in all of video game history, the actual effectiveness of their efforts is debatable.
In Magical Starsign, there really IS a "Space Police" in this game, but they are almost completely controlled by the head villain of the game. Plus, the officers tend to prefer paperwork over, well, real work, and are usually pushovers in battle (or in one case, living stools for one of the bosses).
The title of Policenauts refers to a group of five Earth-based policemen who were chosen to uphold law and order in the space colony Beyond Coast. They are succeeded by the Beyond Coast Police Department, which functions like a regular police department, although the actual law enforcement in the colony is carried out by the Advance Police unit, which serves as the BPC's equivalent to a SWAT team (with EMPS).
From Tachyon: The Fringe, Star Patrol is responsible for keeping the peace between all the different warring megacorporations and assorted small factions. Their Enforcer starships are maneuverable, tough, and very, very well-armed. The few times where you have to tangle with them, you're strongly advised to run for the nearest TCG at maximum speed. There are also a few times where they fight alongside you.
Their cruisers are supposed to be the most versatile capital ships in known space, having the maneuverability of a frigate, the fighter-carrying capability of a carrier, and the firepower of a cruiser. They never participate in any in-game engagements, though.
While Star Patrol is supposed to enforce laws in all known space, they are, in practice, limited to the Solar System and parts of a single sector in the Fringe. Commander Alberion Obulo is determined to do his job well, though.
In later expansions, you are able to build police cutters to protect trade sectors from Space Pirates.
Referenced in Portal 2, where the SpaceCore warns the player to "Play it cool, here come the space cops".
Comes in "Border Patrol" and your standard "Police" variants in the X-Universe games. They buzz about, scanning ships for contraband. They have few weapons (typically just a few Impulse Ray Emitters, the peashooter weapon of choice), as actual combat is usually done by the Navy.
spacepd.com is a site that is really only about space police on the outside, for the most part. The rest of it is random comics and art. However, the author, David Chen, did make a Kickstarter program to sell space police badges, seen here.
In the South Park episode "Pinewood Derby", the Space Police were sent to Earth in pursuit of notorious space robber Babyfark McGeezak. It's all a setup, police and criminal, to see what Earthlings do with large amounts of stolen valuables.
In one episode of Teen Titans, Centauri police arrive on Earth in pursuit of Starfire's sister.