Our History

For more than 125 years, special police have played an integral role in deterring and preventing crime and providing protection to the citizens of North Carolina.


A Distinguished Legacy

Just before the turn of the 20th Century, the legislature created new law enforcement agencies with the express purpose of helping existing local officers (usually just a sheriff and constables) with situations they were either unprepared for or too understaffed to handle. Called “special policemen,” the officers of these agencies were primarily dispatched to deal with keeping the peace in particular trades and industries, including railroads, electric and water companies, construction companies and manufacturing companies. In many small towns, the “special police” were the only ones available to assist the town’s sheriff or deputies.

Accredited by the Attorney General

Until 1971, special police were appointed or commissioned by the governor. At that time, the State Government Reorganization Act transferred that responsibility to the Department of Justice to be overseen by the Attorney General. In 1992, the agencies were placed under the Special Police Act, which further defined the parameters and scope of their work and brought the state’s special police into modern times.

Held to a Higher Standard

For both agencies and officers, the attorney general has the power to establish minimum standards for education, experience and training as well as officer testing, record keeping, and report filing. These minimum standards are more stringent and in every way equal to or greater than the standards established for other law-keeping entities, as they are mandated unilaterally by the attorney general instead of at the local or municipal levels, which are under individualized jurisdiction.

The attorney general also maintains for special police many of the records that a state, municipal or county police agency legally or customarily maintains itself. This essentially makes the Attorney General the “chief” of each special police agency.

For more information on the history, role and standards of special police, please visit www.ncdoj.gov.