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Railroad police

Railroad police or railway police (called Bahnpolizei in Germany, Austria and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland) are persons responsible for the protection of railroad (or railway) properties, facilities and personnel as well as public rail transit systems. Their exact roles differs from country to country. In some countries railroad police are not different from that of any other police agency, while in others they are more related to a type of security police. Some are given extensive additional authority where in other jurisdictions are more restricted.

In the United States and Canada, railroad police are employed by the major Class I railroads, as well as some smaller ones. In other countries, this work is typically done by territorial police forces rather than specialized agencies. In Great Britain, railways fall under the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police, a nationwide transit police force that is responsible for policing all railways and some public transit systems.


  • Brazil 1
  • Canada 2
    • Transit Police 2.1
  • People's Republic of China 3
  • Germany 4
  • India 5
  • Italy 6
  • Switzerland 7
  • United Kingdom 8
  • United States 9
    • History 9.1
    • Jurisdiction and authority 9.2
    • Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) 9.3
    • Railroad police agencies 9.4
  • Vietnam 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12


The Brazilian's Federal Railroad Police was created in 1852, by decree of the emperor Dom Pedro II being the oldest police agency in Brazil. Was created to protect all riches that were carried on iron rails. There are some proposals in the Brazilian Senate to reactivate this police agency, as it is considered important to national security.


In Canada, the construction of railways served a similar nation-building function as it did in the U.S. and also brought new police agencies into existence. Years before Confederation, railway constables were given full police powers within one quarter mile of company property and vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway initially relied on the Dominion Police, which later became the North-West Mounted Police during construction of the transcontinental railroad, but by the latter 1880s were employing their own police.

The large numbers of navvies recruited to build the railways brought security problems for rail companies. In 1900, the CPR established its Special Service Department. It worked closely with municipal, federal, and provincial police and given a mandate to prevent and investigate pilferage, theft, vandalism, and sabotage as well as policing strikes.

The CPR police was also responsible for closely guarding Chinese workers, who were considered "detainees" and virtually treated as prisoners under the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885. The Special Service was dissolved in 1904 following a scandal involving the business practices of a CPR Labour Department agent in Montreal, but was resurrected in 1913 as the Department of Investigation.[1]

The CN Police and the Canadian Pacific Police Service are the only federal railway police services operating in Canada. Police officers for the railways are federally sworn under the Railway Safety Act.[2] This Act allows a superior court (federal) judge to appoint a person as a police constable. These officers are employed by the railway and are in place strategically within Canada's rail infrastructure with a primary focus of reducing deaths and injuries along each railway's network of operations. These officers typically work toward investigations involving criminal and provincial violations such as traffic enforcement and accident investigations and working to further educating the public about the dangers of rail operations and consequences that can result from complacency. To note Canadian National was a crown corporation until 1994 when it was transferred from government ownership to private industry. During this time CN Police officers were part of the federal government but after transitioned to working for private industry.

Additionally, in Canada these police officers are also appointed or sworn provincially to provide additional police powers as it relates to each province's interest. The primary jurisdictional police are still responsible for all law enforcement in its jurisdiction and due to reduced manpower and coverage the railway police are considered a secondary response agency. Often the primary jurisdictional police are required to deal with matters that are occurring on or in relation to railway property. However, railway police will still assume jurisdiction depending on the seriousness of the incident again due to their reduced numbers and capabilities may require local police to assume control over an incident with the railway police acting in a supporting / assisting role. Railway police also support local police at incidents not in relation to the railway.

Transit Police

Select cities have transit police employed to provide law enforcement role on their systems, but some like the TTC in Toronto are more or less by-law enforcement units.

People's Republic of China

The governing body of almost all railroad operations—the Chinese Ministry of Railways, who is also the owner of a great deal of the country's rail network, operates a massive police force that provides security service inside major railroad hubs and stations and outside along the railroads. Basically their jurisdiction extends to the limit of MoR property, yet occasionally the jurisdiction overlaps with local forces, in case it was an offence that occurred inside MoR facility,[3] or related to MoR operations.[4]

Despite that legislatively, the police force of all Mainland China should answer only to one collective central government and should be considered a single entity, their various source of funding makes them de facto local police force indeed. Therefore the railroad police of PRC can be considered as the only civil police force that under the command of an agency of central government, more precisely the MoR. Its branches distribute in parallel to the railway bureaus of MoR, and for a period of time, was considered its subsidiary, since the "railway bureau" is an entity of mixed nature: as a government agency as well as a corporation. Consequently, some railroad police agency will cover several regions of operation of provincial level. For example, the division level Tianjin railroad police force will answer to the prefecture level Beijing railroad police bureau, despite the fact that regular police force of Tianjin is collateral to its Beijing equivalence. While supervised by the Ministry of Public Security, the force was funded exclusively by MoR itself,[5] therefore often was criticized for protecting corporate interest under MoR. Since it is prevalent in PRC that local police force was conscripted as a private army of individuals, such criticism actually reflects the dispute between local and central government at some level.


Bahnpolizei was the name of the former Railway police of West Germany and fell under the jurisdiction of the Deutsche Bundesbahn federal railway company. Bahnpolizei officers investigated trespassing on rail property, assaults against passengers, terrorism threats targeting the railway, arson, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock or buildings, signal vandalism, pickpocketing, ticket fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight. They also investigated train/vehicle collisions and hazardous materials releases.

In 1992 the railway security mission was transferred to the Bundesgrenzschutz which resulted in the merger of the Bahnpolizei into the Federal Border Guard Force. The BGS had already taken on these duties in 1990 for the territory of the former East Germany, replacing the former East German Transportpolizei. The Bundesgrenzschutz was then renamed the Bundespolizei (Federal Police) on July 1, 2005, and this force is currently responsible for security and passenger checks on the German railway system.


The protection of Indian Railways is carried out by the RPF (Railway Protection Force). The Mission of the Railway Protection Force includes to protect and safeguard railway passengers, passenger area and railway property and also to ensure the safety, security and boost the confidence of the traveling public in the Indian Railways.


Policing of Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato) is carried out by the Polizia Ferroviaria.


Switzerland never had a separate transport police because all rail employees had limited police authority. However, due to the introduction of trains with no conductors in the late 1990s, crime in trains increased and the Swiss Federal Railways rail company trained Bahnpolizei officers for its driver-only commuter trains.

In 2002 the SBB-CFF-FFS merged its Bahnpolizei force with the private security company Securitas AG and the resulting Securitrans is now the force that protects Switzerland's trains, passengers, rail property and rail workers. Beginning in 2011, the rail police of Switzerland are public employees, with all officers attending two years of police academy training with final certification.

Bahnpolizei officers don't carry firearms on board but they are armed with Monadnock PR-24 batons and pepper sprays as weapons, along with handcuffs for restrain options.

United Kingdom

The British Transport Police protects the rail system in Great Britain, due to the nationalisation of the Railways in 1948. Prior to this, individual railways had their own police forces.

United States


Allan Pinkerton (left) began the first railroad police in the U.S. at the urging of Abraham Lincoln (center) when the future president was a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad.

The history of railroad police in the United States traces back to the beginnings of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. In the mid nineteenth century, the number of U.S. Marshals was insufficient to police the railway lines sprawling across the vast frontier.

Passing through areas far removed from the protective measures available in populated centers left railroad lines and their passengers and freight vulnerable to banditry. Through his detective business, Ohio and Mississippi Railroad and Illinois Central Railroad, as well as its attorney, Abraham Lincoln. With Lincoln's encouragement, Pinkerton began supplying detectives for the railroad.

Railroad contracts were subsequently a mainstay of Pinkerton's until railroad companies gradually developed their own police departments in the years following the Civil War.[6][7] After the founding of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1863, Pinkerton's and the new railroad police agencies became instrumental in crushing strikes of rail workers.[8]

Another major concern was pilferage by employees, especially the passenger conductor, who had the greatest authority and freedom on passenger trains and collected ticket fees. Pinkerton began this work for the South Michigan Line in 1854, and on 1 February 1855, he created the North West Police Agency with $10,000 given for the cause by six anxious Midwestern railroads.[9]

Jurisdiction and authority

Some railroad police officers are certified law enforcement officers and may carry full police and arrest powers. The appointment, commissioning and regulation of railroad police under Section 1704 of the U.S. Crime Control Act of 1990, provides that: "A railroad police officer who is certified or commissioned as a police officer under the laws of any one state shall, in accordance with the regulations issued by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, be authorized to enforce the laws of any other state in which the rail carrier owns property."

It is important to note that Section 1704 also states that this police authority is to "the extent of the authority of a police officer certified or commissioned under the laws of that jurisdiction". While a railroad police officer may have general peace officer authority in some states such as California, they are limited to the railroad's property in other states.

The status of railroad police officers varies by state, in that they are commissioned by the Governor of the state in which they reside and/or work in and they may carry both state level arrest powers and some interstate arrest powers as allowed by 49 USC 28101. Although railroad police primarily enforce laws on or near the railroad right-of-way, their police officers can enforce other laws and make arrests off of railroad property depending on the state in which they are working.

Depending upon the state or jurisdiction, railroad police officers may be considered certified police officers, deputized peace officers, or company special agents. In Virginia, for example, any railroad may file an application with the Circuit Court of any county where it operates to allow the President of the railroad to appoint members of its own police force.

Some of the crimes railroad police investigate include trespassing on the right-of-way of a railroad, assaults against passengers, terrorism threats targeting the railroad, arson, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock or buildings, signal vandalism, pickpocketing, ticket fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight. Other incidents railroad police investigate include derailments, train/vehicle collisions, vehicle accidents on the right of way, and hazardous materials releases.

Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)

Most railroad police agencies are participants in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).[10]

Railroad police agencies

An Amtrak Police SUV


Department of Traffic Police, part of

  1. ^ Marquis, Greg (1993). Policing Canada's Century: A History of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 134–135.  
  2. ^ Railway Safety Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.))
  3. ^ "重慶鐵路公安摧毀一特大制販假車票團夥" [The Railroad Police from Chongqing Cracked an Underworld of Ticket Fraudulent]. Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  4. ^ "长铁警方77小时破特大杀人碎尸案" [Changsha Railroad Police Solved Dismemberment Case in 77 hrs]. China National Radio. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  5. ^ "留公安去法院检察院 铁老大改制低调推进" [Railroad Justice System Reformed in Low Profile]. New Century Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  6. ^ "Railroad Police History". Carrizo Gorge Railway Police. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  7. ^ "Saving Mr. Lincoln, 1861-1865".  
  8. ^ Pinkerton, Allen (1878). Strikers, Communists, Tramps and Detectives. New York: G.W. Carleton & Co. p. 96. 
  9. ^ Morn, Frank (1982). The Eye that Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 25.  
  10. ^
  11. ^


See also


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