Provosts (usually pronounced "provo" in this context) are military police whose duties are policing solely within the armed forces of a country, 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. The head of the military police is commonly referred to as the provost marshal, an ancient title originally given to an officer whose duty was to ensure that an army 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.
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.
Despite the name, Brazil's Military Police, or Polícia Militar (PM) units in each Brazilian state are not provost forces, but gendarmerie-like law enforcement units responsible for preventive police and public security.
Each branch of the Brazilian Armed Forces, however, has its own provost force: Polícia do Exército (PE) in the Army, Polícia da Marinha (SP) in the Navy, and Polícia da Aeronáutica (PA) in the Air Force.
The Canadian Forces Military Police (CFMP) contribute to the effectiveness and readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) through the provision of professional police, security and operational support services worldwide.
CFMP are classified as peace officers in the Canadian Criminal Code, which gives them the same powers as civilian law enforcement personnel to enforce Acts of Parliament on or in relation to DND property or assets anywhere in the world. They have the power to arrest anyone who is subject to the Code of Service Discipline (CSD), regardless of position or rank under the National Defence Act (NDA). CFMP have the power to arrest and charge non-CSD-bound civilians only in cases where a crime is committed on or in relation to DND property or assets, or at the request of the Minister of Public Safety, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada or Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Although CFMP jurisdiction is only on DND property across Canada and throughout the world, any civilian accessing these areas falls under MP jurisdiction and is dealt with in the same manner as by a civilian policing agency. If a crime is committed on or in relation to DND property or assets, CFMP have the power to arrest and charge the offender, military or civilian, under the Criminal Code. The purpose of the CFMP is not to replace civilian police officers but rather to support the Canadian Forces through security and policing services. CFMP also have the power to enforce the Provincial Highway Traffic Act on all military bases in Canada contrary to the Government Property Traffic Regulations (GPTR).
Unlike military police in many other countries, the Republic of China Military Police () is a separate branch of the ROC Armed Forces. The ROCMP is responsible for enforcing military law, maintaining military discipline, providing backup for the civilian police force and serving as combat troops during times of emergency, providing security for certain government buildings, including the Presidential Office Building in Taipei City, as well as performing counter-terrorism and VIP-protection operations. The ROCMP is also charged with the defense of Taipei, the capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
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, SPs 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. La prévôté, or gendarmerie prévôtale, is a Gendarmerie Nationale unit based out of France during war operations or when large units of the French armed forces are stationed overseas.
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. As the current German constitution explicitly forbids the employment of troops on German territory (except for technical assistance as part of disaster relief), Feldjäger jurisdiction applies only to military facilities and military personnel. Their motto is Suum Cuique, ("to each his own"), the motto of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle.
During World War II, Nazi 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 (Heeresstreifendienst), the Train Station Guards (Bahnhofwache), and the Feldjägerkorps.
Each branch of the Hellenic Armed Forces used to maintain its own police service. i.e. Stratonomia as the military police of the Hellenic Army, Naftonomia of the Hellenic Navy and Aeronomia of the Hellenic Air Force. As of 2014, all three military police entities merged to create a single 'Armed Forces Police' (Astynomia Enoplon Dynameon).
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 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 regimental discipline, 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 badge over their right sleeve over which "Indian Air Force Police" is imprinted in golden thread.
In Indonesia, the institution which solely has the responsibility and authority concerning the maintenance of discipline and law enforcement towards members of the Indonesian National Armed Forces is the Military Police Command (Indonesian: Pusat Polisi Militer TNI abbreviated "Puspom TNI"), an institution directly under the auspices of the Indonesian National Armed Forces Headquarters ("Mabes TNI") which heads the three Military Police corps which are the:
which are responsible for enforcing law and order in the scope of the military. Other than enforcing discipline and maintaining law and order for/in the Indonesian National Armed Forces, they also conduct escort and Honour guard duties for the head of state, high-ranking military officials, and VVIPs. The military police are also tasked for supervising prisoners of war (POWs), controlling military prisoners, arresting deserters, managing military traffic, conducting access-control for military installations, issuing military driving licenses and conducting joint law enforcement operations with the civilian police, such as implementing traffic checkpoints and crime investigation to take action towards military personnel caught red-handed in violations.
In Indonesia, the term "Provost" is attributed only to the Regimental police which are soldiers assigned to enforce internal law, discipline, and order of a military base (usually a Battalion or Regiment), while the Military Police are known locally as Polisi Militer sometimes shortened "PM" or "POM" which have bigger authority and can arrest "Provosts" involved in crime and violations. Military Policemen are identifiable by their white belts, white Aiguillette, white helmets, and brassard worn on their upper left sleeve imprinted the word "PM".
The Heyl HaMishtara HaTzva'it ("Military Police Corps") 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 limited military police duties.
During World War II, the Kempeitai were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Tokkeitai 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 "MP" 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.
The three services, Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force still maintain their own identity but operate under a single Provost Marshall and investigate offences against the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971.
The NZDF Military Police operates outside of the normal Navy, Army and Air Force command chain. The Provost Marshal currently holds the rank of a Group Captain and he reports directly to the Vice Chief of the NZDF.
All complex and serious investigations are handled by the New Zealand Defence Force Military Police Special Investigations Branch (SIB). It has a similar role to the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS).
All New Zealand Defence Force Military Police are identifieable by the blue and white "MP" patch they wear on their uniform and the blue beret as head dress.
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.
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. There is also the Republican National Guard (Portugal), a gendarmerie type police force, responsible for law enforcement in the countryside and small towns.
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 regiment or corps.
The military police carry out the following missions:
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 Singapore Civil Defence Force has a provost unit which handles the force's security and regimental disciplinary matters. The unit is made up of full-time national servicemen and regular officers, some being seconded from the Singapore Police Force. A 3-week provost course is conducted after completing basic rescue training at the SCDF Detention Barracks. Trainees are taught basic control and restraint techniques, baton use, handcuffs and other security equipment. The provost uniform is similar to the SAF Military Police with the exception of the lanyard which is worn on the left instead and the uniform colour which is dark blue.
In Thailand, each branch of the armed forces has its own military police force (). The Royal Thai Navy has the Naval Military Police (), the Royal Thai Army has the Army Military Police (?), and the Royal Thai Air force has the Air Force Military Police (?).
The larger Turkish Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanl), 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.
Each of the British Armed Forces has its own military police branch.
The Royal Navy is policed by the Royal Navy Police (formerly the Royal Navy Regulating Branch). The Royal Marines maintains a platoon-sized Police Troop, formerly the Royal Marines Police, which has been part of the Royal Navy Police since 2009.
Each of the three Services has its own Special Investigation Branch (SIB) to undertake investigations of a serious or complex nature. SIB investigators normally wear plain-clothes and operate in a similar to manner to civilian police CID.
All British military police are correctly named as 'Service Police' and conform to the Service Police Codes of Practice (SPCoP). Powers for all arms of the British Service Police come from Armed Forces Act 2006, which came into force in 2008.
The Military Corrective Training Centre--for all three services--at Colchester is operated by the Military Provost Staff Corps (MPS), an all-senior NCO corps which recruits only from serving personnel (but will liaise with other military and government sources where appropriate). MPS are not police and serve the same function as a prison officer. This role is additionally carried out by them on operations when handling foreign detainees at a main operating base such as Camp Bastion/Kandahar.
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 United States Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division (USMCCID). The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is a civilian agency that answers directly to the DOD.