In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
If our protagonists are
visiting Commie Land
or a Banana Republic
, they will never run into the Secret Police
Why would they? You only need a police force if there is crime, and the country the heroes are in either has the lowest crime rate in the world or absolutely no crime at all
. Any troublemaker just tends to "disappear
" overnight; people who see their neighbors being taken away know it's best to look away and not guess why. As there are no criminals, there's no need for any kind of law court, judicial system, anti-torture laws or state prison either.
Common in Dystopian
fiction. If the Secret Police
existed and had their own military force, then it would be a State Sec
If the culture isn't so bad, or the police—while secret, or at least very quiet—aren't altogether evil or brutal, they may just be The Men in Black
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Anime & Manga
- Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell. A rare case of members of such an organisation being the protagonists rather than antagonists, focusing on fighting dangerous criminals and terrorists, and are actually supposed to be secret (as in the public not knowing they officially exist). However, Being the good guys doesn't mean they don't play this trope straight in all other respects.
- In Samurai Champloo, there are couple of characters working for the shogunate's secret police, but they are all good guys. There is hardboiled detective parody, Manzou the Saw, as well as an Action Girl and her partner who work to bring down a prostitution/crime ring.
- The "Cipher Pol No. 9" (CP9) of the universe of One Piece: they're the World Government's secret assassins, trained in infiltration and in the Rokushiki (six techniques) in order to complete their missions. They have the authority to kill any citizen that is presented as a threat to the World Government, including nobility.
- Ratman has "S Security", the Hero Association's top enforcers who are dispatched to covertly eliminate threats to the Association like the eponymous Anti-Villain Protagonist.
- In Naruto we had the ROOT organization which was a branch of ANBU that answered directly to Danzo Shimura instead of the Hokages.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam, we have the Principality of Zeon's Secret Servicenote , though they only exist in backstory. Their activities throughout Zeon's existence include killing off the Daikun family and their supporters to ensure the Zabis' rule, and disappearing One Year War protesters and suspected traitors (which is pretty much anyone they or the Zabis didn't like) in typical secret police fashion. Two of the side manga even describe how Side 3 suffered from rolling "blackouts", which in reality were whole neighborhoods being cleared out and left unpopulated; in other words, there was nobody left to turn houselights on over entire city blocks.
- Notably in the novels, Ramba Ral (of all people) was a member of the Secret Service instead of being the Badass Gouf pilot we all know him for. As opposed to the Officer and a Gentleman he was in the TV/Movie series, he was more a Gihren loyalist here, such that he harbored shame over his father saving Zeon Zum Daikun's children from extermination.
- According to the narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed, Celestia has all sorts of different secret polices.
- The Lemony Narrator fears the dreaded Fallacy Police. Apparently they're watching her, waiting for her to slip up. Good thing for her, Loose Change reasons that she's had no faults in logic in her essay so far so she should be fine. But given the absurdity of the statement, it stands to reason that their existence is highly questionable.
- It is hinted that Celestia might have had a secret police during the Classical Era. But the name that the narrator gives the organization, "Celestia Watermelon Friendship Surprise", casts doubt into this validity of this claim.
- Nights Favored Child has the Imperial Overwatch, led by the Inquisitor.
- In The LEGO Movie, there are the "Super Secret Police", who have those exact words written on their vehicles◊, and are also entirely robotic.
- The Grammaton Clerics of Equilibrium. Like the Firemen, the Clerics seek out and destroy anything that the state declares "emotionally dangerous". What separates them from other political police is that they know Gun Kata, making them far deadlier and much cooler.
- In a semi-Real Life example the movie The Bank Job features MI-5 acting in a role similar to this when they blackmail a group of thieves to commit a bank robbery to steal blackmail materials against the royal family. Though the incident in the film has been alleged to be true it is entirely unproven.
- The dreaded Thought Police from George Orwell's 1984, who were inspired, of course, by the Trope Namer in the Real Life section below.
- Also, children are encouraged to listen in on their parents, friends, teachers, and other adults they see to try and catch those against the party. They are given tools to help them spy at school, and are not reprimanded for skipping class and walking off to follow "suspicious characters." At one point, a character is turned into the thought police by his own daughter, and he reports being proud of her for doing her civic duty.
- The Firemen of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, who hunt and raze houses containing uncensored materials.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch's Savage Wolves serves as the secret police. The Witch also has trees spying for her.
- Given this record, the trope is notably averted in the third of the most significant literary dystopias, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World... the people are too happy to care, so no police enforcement is needed, Though it should be noted that there is obviously a police force, as seen when John the Savage starts throwing out the soma rations.
- The "Cable Street Particulars" as seen in Terry Pratchett's Night Watch are portrayed as an English version of the Gestapo. In a chronologically later book, Commander Vimes revives them as an undercover division of the City Watch, "secret policemen for secret crimes" as he puts it. It's safe to assume that since they report to the second-most Lawful Good man in Ankh-Morpork, the modern Particulars are a total aversion (or more likely, they were a case of Early Installment Weirdness that was swept under the carpet after Night Watch since they were never mentioned again).
- That Hideous Strength has the N.I.C.E. Institutional Police, which act like any other typical secret police. Oddly enough, the NICE also have a female police auxiliary , and headed by a woman who loves to abuse female prisoners.
- A lesser extent in Pournelle's CoDominium series:
- In the Falkenberg's Legions books, the CD Intelligence Services work to prohibit any scientific research to keep the peace. They have no problems of corrupting databanks, censoring publications, and exiling scientists to deadly prison planets.
- The Kingdom of Haven's Secret Police of King David's Spaceship. Just as unscrupulous as their counterparts (they kill off an entire tavern and an landlady to preserve a secret they might have accidentally overheard) Unusual is that their goal is rather benevolent.
- The Fingermen in V for Vendetta - with the actual surveillance done by agents of the Eye and Ear, the agents of the Finger are the ones who do the black-bagging of political targets.
- In David Weber's Honorverse, the People's Republic of Haven had a number of secret agencies, such as the Mental Hygiene Police and Internal Security. Gets even worse when the Committee of Public Safety comes to power, centralizes the secret police, and creates State Sec, whose initials SS is no coincidence.
- In "Shadow of Freedom", one bit character is introduced as the leader of the Mobius Secret Police, an agency whose existence is literally a state secret. Another bit character takes a moment to muse on whether or not the former realizes that in most cases, only a Secret Police's actions are kept a secret.
- In Efrafa there is the Oswlafa, or Council Police.
- The Brocade Guards (a nod to Jinyi Wei; see Real Life below) in Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle would be this, except they are very numerous, highly public and often quite incompetent; some of the government characters have their own private intelligence services that can be much more like this, though.
- Likewise the Caretaker Service in Yulia Latynina's Inhuman, but so much more efficient (also, they can double as special forces).
- Barrayar had the Ministry of Political Education in Emperor Ezar's time, and though things have improved by Miles' time ImpSec still enjoys a bit of a reputation, which they do little to discourage.
- The Stars My Destination has a Secret Police which even has its own code language ("the Secret Speech"). They have a reputation for Cold-Blooded Torture and disappearing people, although one of their members asserts that they made up stories of atrocities themselves so as to scare people. They are all descended from Chinese tongs.
- In The Island of Crimea, OSVAG is the alternate Crimean-White Russian cloak-and-dagger outfit.
- The Crisis of Empire series by David Drake and other authors had the Kona Tatsu, whose authority included rearranging a marriage — as in, "You're now divorced so we can have your wife make a political marriage to someone else" — to support their agenda.
- Also a partial subversion/aversion, in that the KT are not, as a whole, as horribly bad as they pretend to be. They're certainly ruthless and sometimes sociopathic, but as a whole they are one of the few forces keeping civilization intact, and they know it, and some of their people try to behave decently when they can keep it from being obvious to their victims.
The true issue was that the Kona Tatsu had caused this disaster, and honor required the Kona Tatsu to set things to rights. For the KT cleaned up its own messes.
There was no mistaking it, even behind the threats and the cold, hard language. This nameless secret policeman was a kindly, decent man.
- In M. K. Wren's The Phoenix Legacy trilogy, there was the SSB, the Special Services Branch of the Concord Police. SSB personnel always wore electronic masks that hid their faces in apparent shadow. Their interrogation division was known as Psychocontrol.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathon Stroud has the Night Police. This trope, and they're werewolves to boot.
- Tom Sharpe's black farces of life in apartheid South Africa, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, centre on the criminally inefficient, incompetent, thuggish and racist Piemburg Police Force. This comes across as a version of Terry Pratchett's City Watch but lacking its redeeming virtues. A memorable character is the certifiably insane Lieutenant Verkramp, the Piemburg sector head of the dreaded Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the old South African secret police. Verkramp is a hysterical paranoid maniac who believes Communist subversion is everywhere, and that every despised black is ultimately plotting rebellion and the bloody downfall of white (Afrikaaner) power in South Africa. Verkramp is obsessed with miscegenation and racial purity, and with the aid of a Nazi-inclined German psychiatrist, is forever devising tests and measurements to precisely define the degree of black contamination in otherwise white people. He is also interested in aversion therapy to prevent white men from desiring black women, and vice-versa. In this he shares character traits with Terry Pratchett's Captain Findthee Swing and may well have been an inspiration for the character, who appears in Pratchett's Night Watch.
- In the Troy Rising series, the Kazi fills this slot for the Rangoran Empire.
- The Seekers from The Heritage of Shannara are somewhere between this and State Sec. With their Black Cloaks and wolf's head pins, they are among the most feared people in the entire Federation.
- The main antagonists in Eric Frank Russell's novel The Wasp. The Kaimina Tempiti, or Kaitempi, serve this role for the Nazi-like Sirian Empire. The name is an obvious allusion to the Japanese Kempeitai during World War II. In the novel, the Kaitempi censor all media and use violence and intimidation to quell any opposition to the Imperial government. The protagonist, James Mowry, is sent to a remote Sirian colony in order to foment rebellion and sow chaos as preparation for the Terran invasion. To this effect, he creates (an officially registers) an anti-government (read: terrorist) organization called Dirac Angestun Gesept (Sirian Freedom Party). He also proceeds to hire contract killers to take out Kaitampi officials.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers used his position as Master of Whisperers to establish the paramilitary Raven's Teeth, which he led in the suppression of Daemon Blackfyre's rebellion. As Hand of the King, Bloodraven was accused of running the kingdom with spies and spells.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a few;
- Imperial Intelligence (military) and the Imperial Security Bureau (political) are the Empire's two main secret police organs, often at each other's throats.
- The Emperor's Hands are a more informal version, Force-sensitive assassins who report directly to the Emperor, don't exist on any record, and serve as judge, jury and executioner.
- The Espos (Security Police) of the Corporate Sector Authority straddle the line between this and Dirty Cop.
- The Galactic Alliance Guard in the Legacy of the Force books, initially the Galactic Alliance's response to Corellian secessionist movements, quickly develops into this trope.
- A few smaller scale examples at the planetary level, like Corellia's Public Safety Service, which is the secret police of the local Imperial government and its successor state after it goes independent.
- In the later Garrett, P.I. novels, Deal Relway's Unpublished Committee for Royal Security becomes a covert law-enforcement force to be reckoned with in post-war TunFaire. Still marginally an agency of good, but likely to turn toxic if Relway ever runs out of genuine malefactors to target or gets replaced by someone less righteous.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets we have the I.B.I. (not stated but probably Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation) which is the Federation's secret police. Their agents are Don Harvey's main antagonist.
- In China Méiville's Perdido Street Station combines this with They Look Just Like Everyone Else to the point of Paranoia Fuel. The city state that serves as the setting makes uses of its "militia" which has agents that can be anyone.
- The Obsidian Order and Section 31 in Star Trek. Section 31 is notable because it (an amoral, covert agency) operates within The Federation (who typically acts in the open and does the right choice). However, Section 31 is more of a Secret Society than a Secret Police.
- Section 31 is even more notable in that while all other said governments at least tacitly acknowledge their prospective organization's existence, even Section 31's name means little to nothing, as it could more technically be called Article XIV, Section 31...that is, of the original United Earth Starfleet Charter, that ambiguously allows an unspecified "investigative agency" to take "extraordinary measures" in cases of "extraordinary circumstances" which threaten Earth, and later on the Federation as a whole. As Luther Sloane makes clear in the Deep Space Nine finale about them...there are no centralized offices for Section 31, anywhere. Some admirals and other high-ranking officials seem to know of its existence, but Section 31 is held accountable to absolutely no one.
- The Cardassian Opsidian Order is so powerful, that they are effectively The Omniscient Council of Vagueness that runs the whole empire. Civilian politicians and military commanders do exist, but eventually all major descisions are made by them.
- The Tal Shiar behaves as both secret police and political officers aboard Romulan ships.
- The Tripods from BBC, has a group of soldiers called the Black Guard who are portrayed as the Tripods' emissaries in the outside world. (though they aren't present in the books)
- Played for Laughs in 'Allo 'Allo!, where the local Gestapo operatives are the incompetent bumblers Herr Flick and Von Smallhausen.
- The Alliance Operatives in Firefly (and the Big Damn Movie Serenity).
- On one episode of WKRP In Cincinnati, Johnny is convinced that the phone company has their own secret police force - AND they're after him for destroying a phone earlier in the episode.
- The Inquisition of Warhammer 40,000, with three major branches, each specializing in fighting either heretics, aliens, or the forces of chaos. Also overlaps with State Sec.
- For more mundane dangers, there's the Adeptus Arbites. The Arbites deal with organised crime, sedition, rebellion, and everything else outside the jurisdiction or ability of the local police forces. Essentially, they are the MVD to the Inquisition's KGB.
- And most shadowy of all is the Officio Assassinorum. While Inquisitors have ultimate authority and their job is to investigate internal threats to the Imperium, the 'secret' aspect of their policing is up for debate, given how the Inquisition have quite a public face and some Inquisitors even become famous to a degree. The Arbites also have a public presence. But the Officio Assassinorum deals with internal threats such as rogue planetary governors and the forte of most of their temples is stealth and secrecy. It is due to this that Space Marines have conspiracy theories against them.
- Of course, that last part might have something to do with the fact that the Officio's leader, the Master of Assassins, can, and in one case did assassinate every other member of the Senatorum Imperialis after he fell to Chaos, and was only defeated by the combined efforts of an army of space marines, only one of which survived to put a bolt in the Master of Assassin's head.
- The Gnome nation of Zilargo, from the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting Eberron, all aspects of national security and law enforcement is handled by an order of spies, diviners and assassins known as The Trust. The Gnomes of Zilargo are mostly happy with this arrangement, since their nation has the lowest crime rate on the continent and their national pastime, intrigue, is not generally interfered with.
- This, combined with the fact that they're actually rather democratic (Zilargo has the most lax censorship laws in Eberron) means that they actually seem like a mostly normal police force who just happen to be run by a culture where elaborate schemes are looked upon as a fun diversion.
- To put it another way: in Zilargo, a gnome becomes paranoid if he thinks no one is watching him.
- Kislev, being a Fantasy Culture Counterpart of Tzarist Russia, has them. They are not nice.
- In Traveller the Zhodani Consulate enforced behaviour with their Guardians of Morality. Given that the Zhodani embraced telepathy and psionics in their society, they were real Thought Police.
- As commented upon in BattleTech by players regarding the Draconis Combine's Internal Security Force and the Capellan Confederation's Maskirovka: "One in five people in your circle of friends is an ISF/Mask agent. If four people say they're not, you're it!" It should be noted that while the majority of the Successor State intelligence apparatus do operate within national boundaries, only the ISF has really made a name from it. The Lyran Alliance/Commonwealth's Loki on the other hand verge straight into State Sec
- Internal Security or IntSec from Paranoia
- For a while, Hantei XVI instated the Steel Chrysanthemums, which were meant to root out the many (mostly imaginary) conspiracies he thought were arrayed against him. This was seen after the fact as one of the many pieces of evidence that he was completely insane, and led to the sages striking most of the records of his reign from history.
- They're all over the place in Deus Ex.
- Very practical to have one in Tropico 3. Stupid rebel bombings.
- In Tropico 4, the secret police are formed by edict of the Ministry of the Interior. You assign it to an existing service building and they monitor dissent on the island, allowing you to discreetly head off subversive activities and assassinate undesired civilians. They are more effective if they are allowed to tap the island's telecommunications.
- In Tropico 5, the secret police cannot be formed until the Cold War. They monitor the island's inhabitants to discover faction leaders and rebels.
- Appears to be a large part of the job of the Turks in the FFVII setting, although it's not their official job and they combine it with CIA-type external functions. And dress like Men in Black. Another variant of theirs on the archetype is having only first names and a great variety in appearance and fighting style.
- They pulled at least one of their members out of an orphanage and trained her from childhood. This is not standard Secret Police fare; there's a certain ninja vibe to the whole thing and they apparently take lead in most covert ops, even if SOLDIERs are assigned as supplementary muscle.
- The Before Crisis game winds up being largely about being a rebel Turk faction trying to Screw The Rules And Do The Right Thing. Interestingly, the ringleader of this little caper, the stoic softy Tseng, is still head Turk during Advent Children, when Shinra has lost most of its control, and is one of Rufus Shinra's personal guards.
- He managed this by staging the assassination of his mentor for whom he had betrayed the company, and then apparently doing some politics to get Rufus in his corner.
- And please everyone note that these are the secret police not of a country, but of a power company. Though said company is the government.
- The Blades in The Elder Scrolls serve as both this and as The Emperor's bodyguards. By the time of Skyrim, the Pentius Oculatus have replaced them in this regard.
- One of the roles of the Thalmor. One of the reasons everyone hates them so much is because they have a nasty habit of dragging off dissenters and making them disappear.
- The Dominion from WildStar has the Imperial Corps of Intelligence (ICI), run mostly by the Mechari. This has the effect of making them terrifyingly effective and extremely cool.
- The Federation's Bureau of Internal Investigation in Escape Velocity Nova was founded as this (with a special focus on counter-intelligence). By the time the game actually starts, they've not only (at least de-facto) absorbed all intelligence functions (Federation Intelligence is only mentioned in the past tense), or even just went full-blown State Sec with elements of the Federation Navy answering directly to them: they've gone so far as to to all practical purposes have taken over the Federation.
- Tower of God: The the Royal Enforcement Division is an Internal Affairs Agency that overlooks the loyalty of Zahard's followers from the shadows, especially his princesses. Ren, the youngest member, is strong enough two wipe the floor with the two strongest fighters of Baam's clout.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Dai Li of Ba Sing Se. They have an official charge: to preserve the city's cultural heritage. They have an unofficial charge: to keep order within the city walls. Their three modes of operation are through establishing a Panopticon effect where you are always being watched and know it, deploying terrifyingly consistent brainwashed PR operatives, and physically assaulting any remaining problems with intensely trained earthbenders, who apparently also are the main intelligence officers, since they're only supposed to fight when the system has sprung a leak.
- They return for Book 3 of The Legend of Korra, now serving as a more generic secret police for the Earth Queen, who unlike her father is a powerhungry despot.
- Open Blue has two, with Sirene's's Kolpo, and Avelia's Office of Counter Intelligence, which is basically a Secret Police exclusively for its (bloated) military.
- The United Federation of People's Republics in the Gemini Galaxy of Imperium Nova has the State Security Commissariat, and in particular the Domestic Intelligence Bureau.
- The Protectors of the Plot Continuum have the Department of Internal Security, possibly influenced by the Cable Street Particulars, who started out benign but eventually shifted to the Mysterious Somebody's secret police and began a reign of terror until they were thrown out in a Civil War. Their existence was obviously public knowledge, but their corruption and methods weren't, with even most Guards not seeming to know just how rotten the department had become. The later Department of Internal Operations is a more literal example, as in theory only the DIO itself and the Board of Department Heads know they even exist; their role is to root out Suvian infiltrators of HQ and dispose of them, and anyone who encounters them is promptly neuralysed. In practise, there are rumours of their existence, but nobody knows for sure; according to one of the DIO's agents, the department's discovery would be disastrous, resulting in the deaths of the DIO's members at best and a full-scale rebellion against the Board of Department Heads at worst.
- Cecil mentions The Sheriff's Secret Police in nearly every broadcast of Welcome to Night Vale and they, for their part, seem to be completely unconcerned about their public visibility, even going so far as to host an exhibition baseball game against the Night Vale Fire Department (during which the fire department relief pitchers were found mysteriously dead by blow dart). Indeed, it seems that the Sheriff's Secret Police is Night Vale's only form of law enforcement.