Special Branch

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For the television series Special Branch, see Special Branch (TV series).

Special Branch is the arm of the British, Irish and many Commonwealth police forces that deals with national security matters. They acquire and develop intelligence to help protect the public (and the state) from national security threats, including terrorism, separatism, and subversive and other extremist activity.

The original was called the Special Irish Branch, part of London's Metropolitan Police, and was formed in March 1883 to counter the Irish Republican Brotherhood . The "Irish" soubriquet was later dropped as the department remit was extended to cover other threats.


[edit] United Kingdom

Each British police force has its own Special Branch (not to be confused with its Special Constabulary), the largest by far being that of the Specialist Operations department of the Metropolitan Police (SO12). These departments work closely with one another and with MI5, the Security Service. The officers work in plain clothes and are occasionally armed. Although they are not part of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), they are entitled to use the prefix 'Detective' in front of their ranks.

Special Branch has responsibility for, amongst other things, personal protection of (non-royal) VIPs and performing the role of examining officer at designated ports and airports, as prescribed by the Terrorism Act 2000.

The intelligence work of Special Branch is overlooked in some circles. This is because its role sits somewhere between that of the more enigmatic Security Service and that of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13).

It was announced, in September 2005, that the Metropolitan Police Special Branch would be merging with the Anti-Terrorism Branch of the Metropolitan Police to form a new department called Counter Terrorism Command. [1]

[edit] Republic of Ireland

The Special Branch of the Garda Síochána is now called the Special Detective Unit (SDU). The unit is responsible for:

  • State protection
  • Monitoring the activities of subversive and extremist groups
  • Investigation of subversion and terrorism
  • Protection of VIPs
  • Protection of cash in transit
  • Provision of armed response
  • Operation of the Witness Security Programme

The Emergency Response Unit, the Garda's equivalent of United States SWAT units, is also part of the SDU.

[edit] Hong Kong

The Special Branch of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (now Hong Kong Police Force) was disbanded in 1995, prior to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China in 1997.

[edit] India

The Special Branch is a separate wing in the state police forces in India. Like their counterparts in the United Kingdom, they deal with matters of state security. However more serious espionage detection etc, are done by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), India's internal security agency.

There have been many allegations that the Special Branch is used by the ruling government (and the political party) for setting up surveillance on their political opponents. The special branch wing is exactly in the hierarchy as that of the law and order police. The special branch has its own detective constables, head constables, inspector rankings and superior police officer rankings. Every police station is to have a special branch head constable (working plain clothes or Mufti), he would be observing the society in general, and also taking reports from the uniformed police constables walking the beat.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Special Branch

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