Transit police are a specialized police agency or unit employed by a common carrier, which could be a transit district, railroad, bus line, other transport carrier, or the state. Their mandate is to prevent and investigate crimes committed against the carrier or by or against passengers or other customers of the carrier, or those committed on the carrier's property.
A transit police force may consist of officers employed directly by a transit system, such as the Amtrak Police, or it may exist as a specialized unit of a local police force, such as the Transit Police Services Bureau of the Orange County, California Sheriff's Department, which serves the Orange County Transportation Authority or South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service which serves the transit system of southern British Columbia, Canada.
Where the term "transit police" is used for the police working for a railroad/railway, it usually refers to a railroad providing urban mass transit (such as a city elevated system or subway) as opposed to long-distance rail carriage. Police who work either for a private non-passenger railroad or long-haul rail carrier are usually referred to as "railroad police" or "railway police". In Britain, most of the rail system, including the London Underground, is policed by a national transport police agency, the British Transport Police. Some transit police forces have full policing powers, such as BART Police, SEPTA Transit Police, Metro Transit Police Department, Utah Transit Authority Police Department or MBTA Transit Police, while in other areas, they have limited powers and are classed as special police or special constables with limited powers.
Some of the crimes transit police and railroad police investigate include trespassing on the right-of-way of a railroad, assaults against passengers, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock and buses or bus stops, pickpocketing, ticket fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight, and drug dealing at transit stations. They may also engage in random ticket checking hoping to catch and fine ticketless travelers. These controls are usually more frequent in transit systems using an honor-based fare collecting approach.
In federal states like the United States, Canada, or Australia, federal and state statutes determine the jurisdiction and authority of all police departments, including transit police. Most transit police services have the same police authority as any other national, state and local police agencies, such as the British Transport Police, New Jersey Transit Police Department, BART Police, Maryland Transit Administration Police, DART Police, SEPTA Transit Police, Utah Transit Authority Police Department, and the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service have rather extensive jurisdictions, including traffic enforcement, with arrest powers on and off property. Transit and railroad police tend to have better results in finding perpetrators of crimes they investigate than public police forces, possibly due to specialization and smaller case loads.
List of specialised transit/transport police agencies and departments
New South Wales
- Transit Services Branch, South Australia Police (all public transport in Adelaide). Private security also maintain a presence, especially during peak hours or events.
- Transit Safety Division, Victoria Police members and Protective Services Officers (predominantly operate in Melbourne)
- Authorised Officers employed by Public Transport operator companies and by Public Transport Victoria (PTV).
The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (commonly known as the Metro Vancouver Transit Police) is the only full transit police force in Canada, a necessity since Metro Vancouver's TransLink public transit system spans 22 separate municipalities and 16 police jurisdictions.
Most other large Canadian cities use security officers appointed as special constables or peace officers. These officers assist local jurisdiction's police officers in investigations of illegal activity on the transit system. Some transit security forces using special constables include:
Cities in China which have rapid transit systems all have their transit police force associated to the local public security bureau. There are no non-governmental police forces, or police institutes under transit authority. National Rail used to have a police force under the Ministry of Railways, but such authority is transferred to local police now.
However, the structure of institutions can be vary from city to city. For example, cities like Tianjin and Chengdu might have a joint public transportation force of division level, operates on all the taxis, bus routes, coaches, rapid transit and ferry lines as well as transportation hubs inside city limit; while Chongqing and Xi'an have tighter transit cop brigades focused exclusively on protecting the mass transit lines. Again, all these agencies are supervised by the PSBs of higher level.
- Police Régionale des Transports (Police Nationale) (Operates on Suburban trains, and Paris Métro)
- Service National de Police Ferroviaire (Police Nationale-Direction Centrale de la Police aux Frontières) (Operates on main lines trains)
- Service Interdépartemental de Sécurité dans les Transports en Commun (SISTC)(Police Nationale- Direction Centrale de la Sécurité Publique)
- Surveillance Générale (Suge, operates on SNCF railways. This private service, which dépends to SNCF, has restricted police powers)
- Groupe de Protection et de Sécurisation des Réseaux (GPSR, operates on RATP railways. This private service, which dépends to RATP, has restricted police powers)
- Police des Transports de l'Agglo Orléans Val de Loire (Bus, Tramway, SNCF)
- Port Police (Ostas Policija)
- In The Netherlands, all public transport companies providing public service have their own enforcement officers, these officers often have the BOA status (special investigation officer)and limited police powers (use of force, arrest and use of handcuffs) the main task of these officers is fare enforcement and securing the safety of the public and employees within the transport vehicles.
- The city of Amsterdam, is the only municipality in the Netherlands which operates its own transit enforcement department. The "Veiligheidsteam openbaar vervoer" (Safety team public transport) cooperates with the Amsterdam police in maintaining public order within the public transport, stations an hubs within the city limits, prevent or stop crimes, public assistance, issuing transit information and spotting suspicious behavior. Their uniforms are similar to that of police officers (police style hat, yellow high-visibility jacket and trousers with side striping; the only difference with the uniform of a police officer is that the trouser and hat color are dark grey whereas the police uses navy blue. These enforcement officers are employed by the city, whereas the police officers are employed by the national police. Enforcement officers are equipped with handcuffs and a short police baton and have limited police powers like the use of force, making arrests, detaining people and issuing fines. The city of Amsterdam is currently looking into the possibility to equip the officers with a can of pepperspray; this will probably be in mid 2014.
Main Directorate of the Transport of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. (Главное Управление на Транспорте Министерства Внутренних Дел.)
- National Police Agency, Railway Police: Railway Police Bureau, MRT Police Taipei City Police Department Rapid Transit Division, Kaohsiung City Police Department Rapid Transit Division
- British Transport Police (national railways in Great Britain, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, Midland Metro, Tramlink, Tyne and Wear Metro - Sunderland extension, Glasgow Subway)
- Belfast Harbour Police — Belfast Harbour, Belfast: HDPCA incorporated by section 5 of the Belfast Harbour Act 1847.
- Larne Harbour Police — Larne Harbour Ltd, Larne.
- Port of Bristol Police — Port of Bristol, Bristol. Includes Avonmouth Dock, Bristol, Royal Portbury Dock, North Somerset, and 3 islands in the Bristol Channel: Denny Island, Flat Holme, Steep Holme.
- Port of Felixstowe Police — Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk: HDPCA incorporated by section 3(1)(e) of the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Act 1956.
- Port of Portland Police — Portland Harbour, Isle of Portland: HDPCA incorporated by section 3 of the Portland Harbour Revision Order 1997.
- Falmouth Docks Police — Falmouth Docks, Falmouth, Cornwall: HDPCA incorporated by section 3 of the Falmouth Docks Act 1959.
- Port of Dover Police — Port of Dover, Dover: HDPCA incorporated by section 3 of the Dover Harbour Consolidation Act 1954, and incorporation amended by part 4 of the Dover Harbour Revision Order 2006. Given the large amount of property owned by the port, their jurisdiction effectively extends to all of Dover and now throughout Kent in order to be able to take arrested persons to Custody Suites.
- Port of Liverpool Police — Port of Liverpool, Liverpool: current authority derives from article 3 of the Mersey Docks and Harbour (Police) Order 1975. Port of Liverpool police officers are Crown police officers and not special constables.
- Port of Tilbury Police (formerly the Port of London Authority Police) — Port of Tilbury, Essex: current authority derives from section 154 of the Port of London Act 1968
- Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Harbour Police — Tees and Hartlepool: current authority derives from section 103 of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Act 1966
- Metro Unit, Northumbria Police
- Metrolink Unit, Greater Manchester Police
- Transport Operational Command Unit, Metropolitan Police (buses and taxis in London)
- Belfast International Airport Constabulary – attested under article 19(3) of the Airports (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 as constables for the airport, which employs them.
- Mersey Tunnels Police – attested under section 105 of the County of Merseyside Act 1980 as constables in and around the tunnels.