Secret Police
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Basic Information

Secret Police refers to a police or National Security agency that operates from secrecy with little or no transparency or oversight. The secrecy and lack of review lends itself to significant corruption and abuse. It's common for suspects to be taken in the middle of the night, detained indefinitely, and tortured till they confess (to crimes they may not have actually committed). Secret Police are often involved in Political Repression, False Flag Operations, and other unsavory tasks. They often infiltrate businesses and organizations, use agent provocateurs and entrapment to find enemies where there aren't any, and violate human and civil rights. Often the secret police are themselves considered above the law.

Sometimes the secret police operate under a euphemism, such as Domestic Intelligence Agency, or start out as some more benign National Police or Government Agency that then turns more sour. As they infiltrate (or undermine) various businesses and government agencies, the Secret Police gain power, until eventually they are the ones who really run the government. If the President or other political leader challenges or threatens the Secret Police, they may be replaced, compromised or assassinated. Because of this danger, it is common for a Dictator or a totalitarian state to appoint a close friend or blood relative to the position of head of the Secret Police - this isn't just nepotism, it's self-preservation.

A country that has been taken over by the Secret Police is often called a Police State or Counterintelligence State, depending on how it represses it's people.

See Also:



Game and Story Use

  • Secret Police Organizations make great adversaries for the PCs. They have tons of power and resources, operate in secrecy, and can do terrible awful things without getting in trouble. You can love to hate them, and no one doubts your morality when you kill the secret police. They are bad guys.
    • Unless they're not. You know you've found yourself in a real crapsack world when the secret police start looking like (or even being) the good guys. Possible antagonists in this scenario would include eldritch abominations, demons or devils and the undead. A choice between a repressive human state and the end of life as we know it.
      • Consider, for example Charles Stoss' Laundry universe. The Laundry themselves are fairly brutal, but are care-bears compared to their American equivalents The Black Chamber. Neither is the worst threat facing humanity, not even in their own jurisdiction.
    • Alternatively The resistance may also be really unpleasant people as well - a suitably savage insurgency may justify a brutal response, but the problem may be ensuring that the state does not employ the same powers against other things that it dislikes … powers granted for one purpose are all too frequently used for another.
  • Ironically they may also make good patrons for PCs … and a good excuse for PCs behaving like cinematic cops: they can ignore procedure and due process because as far as they are concerned it doesn't exist. Although not commonly acknowledged as such the type of Men In Black that work for the government are, effectively, secret police and may well act the part…
  • Such organizations tend to grow rapidly, spreading like a cancer throughout the host nation. It's just a matter of time before they effectively take over the whole government. See also Government Conspiracy.
    • PCs could work for an agency that is being subverted by the secret police - the beginning of the campaign being a struggle to either prevent the takeover (futile) or to prepare for the moment when they must jump ship. Remember, either course of action could involve a large number of activities that are quite legitimately illegal.
  • If the local leader is publicly calling for the formation of a secret police force, it's probably a solid clue that he's evil, or at least plans to seize more power at the people's expense. This might be what tips off the PCs that the political landscape is about to change for the worse.
    • Realistically, no-one actually calls for the formation of a secret police force - either the state is sufficiently unaccountable that it just forms one, or existing enforcement agencies accumulate additional powers in response to real or perceived threats until they have gone beyond reasonable oversight. In some crises it can be difficult to tell at what point the cure becomes worse than the disease…
  • Since they're often secret, you might be able to insert a new secret police service into any setting, without even having to point it out to the players until they cross paths with it. See also Black Ops.
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