Provost (military police)

Provost (military police)

Provosts are military police whose duties are policing solely within the Armed Forces, as opposed to Gendarmerie duties in the civilian population. However, many countries use their gendarmerie for provost duties.

As with all official terms, some countries have specific official terminology which differs from the exact linguistic meaning. In some countries, official terminology only uses "military police" to indicate provost units (e.g. in the USA) or even provost units only in the Army, not the Navy or Air Force (e.g. the UK). The head of the military police is commonly referred to as the Provost Marshal. This ancient title was originally given to an officer whose duty it was to ensure that the army of the king did no harm to the citizenry.

Military police are concerned with law enforcement (including criminal investigation) on military property and concerning military personnel, installation security, close personal protection of senior military officers, management of prisoners of war, management of military prisons, traffic control, route signing and resupply route management. Not all military police organizations are concerned with all of these areas, however. These personnel are generally not front-line combatants but, especially when directing military convoys, will be at or close to the front line. Some MPs, such as the US MP Corps, are used as the primary defense force in rear area operations.

In many countries, military forces have separate prisons and judicial systems, different from civilian entities. The military possibly also has its own interpretation of criminal justice.



In the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police also performs the role of a secondary communications network in the front battle zone.

Australian Army Land Rover and two Military Police motorcycles


The military police of the Austrian Bundesheer is called "Kommando Militärstreife & Militärpolizei (Austrian Military Police).


The Belgian Army's Military Police Group (Groupe Police Militaire in French, Groep Militaire Politie in Dutch) performs military police duties on behalf of all four components of the Belgian military. The group is headed by a lieutenant-colonel and numbers 188 members in five MP companies.

Military police duties in Belgium have always included enforcement of military discipline, managing road traffic and wartime handling of prisoners of war. In 2003, duties relating to refugees and deserters in wartime were transferred from the then disbanded Gendarmerie Nationale to the MPs. Members of the former 4 and 6 MP Companies were folded into the new MP Group, along with some Gendarmes previously assigned MP-related duties.

Belgian MPs are identified by black armbands with the letters MP in white block letters, worn on the left arm.


Brazil has two types of military police.

The Polícia Militar of each Brazilian state are not provost forces, but civilian preventive police.

Each of the Brazilian Armed Forces also has its own provost force: Polícia do Exército (PE) in the Army, Polícia da Marinha (SP) in the Navy, and Polícia da Aeronaútica (PA) in the Air Force.


Canadian Forces military police functions are currently carried out by the Military Police Branch. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service handles investigations.

Canadian Forces Provost Marshal is the head of the military police in Canada.

Prior to the amalgamation of Canada's Army, Navy and Air Force into the Canadian Forces in 1968, separate service branches had performed military police functions independently: the Canadian Provost Corps and the Royal Canadian Air Force Police.

The roles of the military police in Canada are separated into two main groups. The first group is Garrison Operations, which includes activities such as investigations and patrols. The second group is operational support in combat operations, such as POW convoy escorts, VIP's close protection, and route reconnaissances. The main tasks for the reserve companies are the Operational tasks, while the regular force concentrates their training on the "Garrison" tasks.

The Canadian Military police all wear a red beret regardless of their attachment to the land, sea or air command. They also wear a brassard on the left arms with bilingual writing: MILITARY POLICE MILITAIRE. When wearing ceremonial dress or DEU's (Distinct Environmental Uniform), military police in the army wear scarlet berets with the military police cap badge, Air Force MPs wear a red insert in their wedge cap and the cap badge of the military police.

China, Republic of

Unlike military police in many other countries, the Republic of China Military Police (中華民國憲兵; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó Xiànbīng) are a separate branch of the ROC Armed Forces. The ROCMP are responsible for enforcing military law, maintaining military discipline, providing backup for the civilian police force or serving as combat troops during times of emergency, providing security for certain government buildings, including the Presidential Building in Taipei City, as well as performing counter-terrorism and VIP protection operations. The ROCMP are also charged with the defense of the capital Taipei.


Finnish military police

The Sotilaspoliisi ("Soldier Police") are the military police of the Finnish Defence Forces. Their emblem is a black armband on the left shoulder with the letters 'SP' in white. SPs have no power over civilians except inside military zones and installations. However, SP's can be used as temporary manpower when the regular police are undermanned. For example during the 2005 Helsinki athletics championships military police conscripts were placed all along the running tracks through the city to prevent the large numbers of spectators from obstructing the runners. In these cases they are given a limited amount of power over civilians, as the regular police needed the extra support to handle the large influx of tourists. As military police conscripts are trained with basic police techniques they are suitable for usage in instances such as these in Finland.


The Gendarmerie Nationale acts as both the provost military police and one of the two national police forces of France. The Gendarmerie Navale (also called the Gendarmerie Maritime) polices the Navy (and also acts as a coast guard and water police force) and the Gendarmerie de l'Air polices the Air Force; both are branches of the Gendarmerie Nationale.

A Military Police NCO from Guatemala.


During World War Two, Germany had numerous military police units. The primary units were the Feldgendarmerie, which comprised members of the Gendarmerie. Other units included the Army Patrol Service (Heerestreifendienst), the Train Station Guards (Bahnhofwache), and the Feldjägerkorps.

The Feldjäger are the current military police of the German Bundeswehr. The term Feldjäger ("field rifleman" or "field hunter") has a long tradition and dates back to the mid-17th century. They are especially notorious for hunting down deserting conscripts. Their motto is Suum Cuique ("To each his own", derived from Cicero, De Finibus, Bonorum et Malorum, liber V, 67: "(...) ut fortitudo in laboribus periculisque cernatur, (...), iustitia in suo cuique tribuendo.").


The military police of the Hellenic Army is called the Stratonomia .


The Corps of Military Police (CMP) is the military police of the Indian Army. In addition, the CMP is trained to handle prisoners of war and to regulate traffic, as well as to handle basic telecommunication equipment such as telephone exchanges. They can be identified by their red berets, white lanyards and belts, and they also wear a black brassard with the letters "MP" imprinted in red.

Internal policing duties in a regiment (or a station) are handled by the Regimental Police, who are soldiers of the unit who are assigned to policing tasks for a short period of time. They are essentially used to regulate traffic, and can be identified by a black brassard with the letters "RP" embossed in gold or white.

The Indian Air Force is policed by the Indian Air Force Police. They can be identified by their white peaked caps, white lanyards and belts (with a pistol holster). They also wear a black brassard with the letters "IAFP" imprinted in red.

The Indian Navy has the Navy Police, and they can be identified by a black brassard with the letters "NP" in gold, with the state emblem placed in between the N and the P.


The Heyl HaMishtara HaTzva'it ("Military Police Force") is the military police of the Israel Defense Forces. It also helps monitor prisons, both those containing Israeli soldiers and Palestinian detainees.


The Carabinieri is a gendarmerie force which acts as both the military police and one of the three national police forces in Italy. The Guardia di Finanza also has some military police duties.


During World War II, the Kempeitai were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Tokeitai were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Navy. They also performed intelligence and secret police functions and were active in Japan and its occupied territories.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces maintain military police units.


The Kor Polis Tentera DiRaja (Royal Military Police Corps) performs military police duties in the Malaysian Army. Apart from enforcing discipline and conduct of members of the Army, the Corps oversees security of designated Army installations, performs escort and ceremonial duties, and assists civil law enforcement authorities. The Kor Polis Tentera is also tasked with crime prevention and investigating criminal activities on Army property or by military personnel.

With its roots in the British Royal Military Police, members of the Kor Polis Tentera DiRaja also wear the distinctive red peaked cap, white lanyard and belt, as well as a black brassard with the letters "PT" imprinted.


In the Netherlands, the function of military police is performed by the Koninklijke Marechaussee ("Royal Constabulary"), a separate branch of the military independent of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Besides performing military duties, the Marechaussee is also a gendarmerie force.

The word Marechaussee seems to derive from the old French name Marecheaux given to an ancient court of justice in Paris called the "Tribunal of Constables and Marshals of France". These constables and marshals were to become members of the Gendarmerie which served as a model for the police forces of both Belgium and the Netherlands. The term Marechaussee was also used for the US Army's military police during the American Revolution.

New Zealand

In the New Zealand Army, the Corps of Royal New Zealand Military Police only recruits internally, with applications only being accepted from personnel who have served for at least two years. MPs may be either career soldiers or from the Territorial Force (part-time soldiers).

The Royal New Zealand Air Force recruits directly for Air Security Guards, who carry out military police functions and are responsible for providing security as well as ground defence training and drill/ceremonial training for other RNZAF Staff.

The Royal New Zealand Navy, like the Army, does not recruit directly into their "police" branch. Instead, personnel of a certain rank and time-in-service may apply for the Master-At-Arms trade. Security of shore bases is the responsibility of New Zealand Defence Force civilian security personnel.

At all NZDF facilities, civilian staff are used to augment military police manpower, particularly for relatively simple tasks like ID checking and security patrols. This allows the MPs to concentrate on the more complex and specialised tasks within their areas of responsibility, such as criminal investigation. Many former servicemen and women find employment as Civil Security Guards at NZDF establishments and this helps keep their expertise in-house.


In Norway, military police are service members of the Norwegian Army, Royal Norwegian Navy or Royal Norwegian Air Force. Since about 2002, all are trained at Sessvollmoen Camp.

Norwegian MPs do not have authority over civilians, except on military installations or under martial law; they also have authority to direct civilian traffic as part of military exercises. They do have authority over military personnel anywhere, including when such personnel are off duty. When the Military Police uncover serious crimes among Norwegian service members, it forwards the case to the civilian Norwegian Police Service for investigation.

MPs in the Army are assigned to the Military Police Battalion, located at Bardufoss, Troms county. The current battalion commander is Lieutenant Colonel Vidar Gade. The battalion consists of approximately 50 officers and NCOs, and 150 privates and corporals. Norwegian MPs first go through a six-month selection/educational period, before being assigned to the battalion or to regimental duties with other units for the remainder of their twelve-month service.

The Heimevernet ("Home Guard") also has MPs in its ranks. Usually each District (regiment) has one or two platoons, consisting exclusively of former regular or conscript military police personnel.

Norwegian MPs wear a red beret and a red lanyard around the left shoulder extending to the left front pocket. Only personnel currently serving as MPs are allowed to wear this. When on official duty, they also wear the MP armband, which is black with "MP" in red letters. It was previously worn on the right shoulder, but is now worn on the left shoulder, following NATO practice. They can also wear white webbing, or a number of items for special duties, like high visibility vests for traffic duty etc.

Army canine units are also assigned to the MP battalion, but the personnel in such units are not necessarily MPs. Such personnel do not hold military police authority, and do not wear the MP insignia.


In Portugal, each branch of the armed forces has its own military police force. The Portuguese Navy has the Polícia Naval (Naval Police), the Portuguese Army has the Polícia do Exército (Army Police), and the Portuguese Air Force has the Polícia Aérea (Air Police). The Air Police is an Arm of its own inside the Air Force, but the Army Police is only a speciality of the Cavalry Arm and the Naval Police is a speciality of the Marines Arm. There is also the Republican National Guard (Portugal), a gendarmerie type police force, responsible for law enforcement in the countryside and small towns.

Sri Lanka

Each of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces has its own military police/Provost branch. The Sri Lanka Army is policed by the Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police and by Regimental Police, who belong to each individual regiments or corps.

The Military Police force carries out the following missions:

  • Maintenance of order and discipline: Consists of monitoring, maintaining and, if necessary, re-establishing discipline and military order. This also involves controlling stragglers and refugees in times of war and guarding and escorting prisoners of war.
  • Security missions: Prevents and deters any threat to or attack against the personnel and property of the armed forces. MPs also provide VIP motorcycle escorts and honour guards, perform close protection missions, and escort classified documents and money transports.

The Sri Lanka Navy is policed by the Provost Branch. The Sri Lanka Air Force is policed by the Air Force Police (AFP).


The SAFMPU providing security coverage at the Padang in Singapore during the National Day Parade in 2000.

In Singapore, the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command serves as the military police unit of the Singapore Armed Forces, and supports the Singapore Police Force by way of collaborations, such as in the co-location of dog-training facilities for policing duties. The Unit is sub-divided into the Active Provost Company (including the ceremonial and drill squad), the Zone Provost Company (responsible for apprehending AWOL personnel) , the Detention Barracks, The Special Investigations Branch, the Security Branch, the Military Security Department, and the Canine Unit. The Singapore Civil Defence Force has a Provost unit which handles the force's security and regimental disciplinary matters.


In Thailand, each branch of the armed forces has its own military police force. The Royal Thai Navy has the สารวัตรทหารเรือ (Naval Military Police) , the Royal Thai Army has the สารวัตรทหาร (Army Military Police), and the Royal Thai Air force has the สารวัตรทหารอากาศ (Air Force Military Police).


In Turkey, the Military Police (Askeri İnzibat) is a very small force that handles military security and military crimes.

The larger Turkish Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı), one of the five branches of the Turkish Armed Forces, is responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas which do not fall under the jurisdiction of regular police forces.

United Kingdom

Each of the British Armed Forces has its own military police branch. The British Army is policed by the Royal Military Police (RMP) (often known as "Redcaps"). The Royal Air Force is policed by the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP). The Royal Navy is policed by the Royal Navy Police. The Royal Marines previously maintained a platoon-sized Police Troop, the Royal Marines Police but this was subsumed into the Royal Navy Police in 2009.

Each of the four agencies has its own Special Investigation Branch (SIB) to undertake investigation of more serious crime and plain-clothes investigations. All British military police are classed as Service Police and conform to the Service Police Codes of Practice. The British military prison at Colchester is operated by the Military Provost Staff Corps, an all-senior NCO corps which only recruits from serving personnel.

United States

The Military Police Corps maintains discipline and enforces the law in the United States Army. The Marine Corps version is referred to as the Provost Marshal's Office, while personnel assigned to the Master-at-Arms branch fill the same role in the United States Navy, (aided by temporary members of the Shore Patrol). The United States Air Force is policed by the Air Force Security Forces, formerly called the Air Police and then Security Police.

Criminal investigation in the United States Armed Forces is carried out by separate agencies: The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) (a civilian agency), the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA), the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), and the Marine Corps Military Police Investigations (MPI). The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is a civilian agency that answers directly to the DOD.

The United States Constabulary was a gendarmerie force used to secure and patrol the American Zone of West Germany immediately after World War II.

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