The Department

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The Metropolitan Special Police Department (MSPD) is a private law enforcement agency - also known as company police - authorized by the District of Columbia's Municipal Regulations (DCMR) Title 6A, Chapter 11 to provide police, security, and protective services within our jurisdiction. MSPD is comprised of sixteen (16) full-time personnel and four (4) non-paid/reserve volunteers who are dedicated to protecting and serving their communities. MSPD special police officers (SPOs) are commissioned police officers by the Mayor of the District of Columbia and they have full arrest powers on the property or within the area that they are assigned to protect.

The mission of MSPD is to provide efficient and effective private policing, security, and protective services that foster a safe and secure environment, while ensuring the protection of all persons, properties and buildings, as well as the enforcement of applicable District of Columbia Codes and Municipal Regulations within our jurisdiction.  In carrying out our mission, MSPD has developed several positive working professional relationships with various local municipal and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as other emergency management services. This multi-agency professional working relationship allows us to share information that results in preventing and deterring crime within our jurisdiction and in the surrounding communities. As a result, we are able to respond more efficiently and effectively to incidents in our jurisdiction that may arise. Through the utilization of SPOs that are highly educated, skilled, and trained - coupled along with the positive support from the community, strategic partnerships, and evidence based best practices - MSPD is successful in achieving and maintaining its mission.   

MSPD SPOs receive mandated training in accordance with District of Columbia law, yearly in-service training, and continuing education. This emphasis on training allows MSPD to make positive impacts in our communities, implement strategies that reduce stigma and fear of police-citizen contacts, and re-build and re-strengthen citizen's trust of police in minority neighborhoods through strategic partnerships.    


The motto of our department is "Taking Pride in Professionalism".     


Private law enforcement officers and agencies have been around for a very long time in the United States, specifically the District of Columbia. Since 1899, the Mayor of the District of Columbia has been empowered by law to appoint any number of "special privates" for duty in connection with any emergency, such as riot or pestilence, or during any day or days of public election, ceremony, or celebration. Special police officers (SPOs) may also be appointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia for duty in connection with the property of or under the charge of a corporation or individual(s) requesting the appointment(s), too.  As referenced in DCMR Title 6A, Chapter 11, SPOs are privately commissioned police officers with full arrest powers within an area or premises in which the officer is employed to protect. SPOs are not security officers (SOs), but citizens confuse them because they are commonly employed by private corporations such as a security agency.


The District of Columbia is not the only form of government to have special police. North Carolina is one example. Under Chapter 47E of the North Carolina General Statutes, the Attorney General is given the authority to certify an agency as a company police agency and to commission an individual as a company police officer. A second example is Maryland. Under Title 3, Subtitle 3, Section 3-302, the Governor of Maryland may appoint and deputize as a special police officer each individual that the Governor considers qualified for a commission. A third example is Kentucky. Under KRS 61.900 , the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council may commission a special law enforcement officer who is eligible. A fourth example is New York. Under New York State Criminal Procedure 2.10 Subsection 40, a qualified individual may be appointed a special officer with limited authority as a New York state peace officer. A fifth example is Virginia. Under Virginia code 6VAC20-230, a qualified individual may be appointed by a circuit court judge as a special conservator of the peace.


When we think of law enforcement we associate them with being government employees and not privatized. The differences between the government and a private corporation is that a private corporation does not have the power to levy and collect taxes. A government can levy and collect taxes, and its employees are paid through taxpayer dollars. A private corporation relies on selling a product, a good, or a service in order to generate revenue (dollars). For example, most colleges and universities are not run by the government. They are private corporations that sell a product (academic degrees) to consumers (students), and a majority of them have a campus police department. The tuition paid by students on a private college or university will fund the budget of the campus police department. A second example of a private corporation with a police department is airports. Airports (unless they are a municipal or military airport) are private corporations that sell a product (plane tickets) to consumers (people that want to fly to a destination instead of driving), and a majority of them have an airport police department. A third example of a private corporation with a police department is a hospital. Most hospitals are private corporations that sell a product (medical services) to consumers (patients), and a majority of them have a hospital police department.


Why is there a need for private law enforcement officers in the United States? The answer is simple. As long as there is crime, there will always be a need for law enforcement. Unfortunately, law enforcement cannot be every where all of the time. A large portion of law enforcement's time is spent being re-active to crime, compared to being pro-active. When you need help in an emergency you dial 911.  In a large metropolitan city like the District of Columbia, the average response time for law enforcement to get to your location could be between 7 and 45 minutes. The response times are going to vary based off of factors like: 1) the priority of the call (shoplifting versus murder); 2) how many officers are on duty at the time (manpower); and 3) how much traffic is on the road (rush hour versus non-rush hour traffic). 


This is where private police become an asset to the community and local law enforcement. Private law enforcement agencies are a vital part of the criminal justice system because they can help respond to calls for emergency assistance quicker if in the area and free up resources so that public law enforcement officers can focus their time and attention to more important matters. For example, campus and company police help enforce laws on private and public school property,  at public hospitals, at shopping centers, sporting events, apartment complexes and office buildings, and even on parks, golf courses, and recreational lakes. These agencies and their officers may by law provide the same police services within their territorial jurisdiction as do municipal law enforcement officers. 


MSPD SPOs are regulated by the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department (DCMPD) to ensure compliance with applicable laws pertaining to special police, and to address any citizen complaints involving special police. Our SPOs receive mandated training in accordance with District of Columbia law, yearly in-service training, and continuing education. This regulatory oversight by DCMPD for our SPOs, coupled with yearly in-service training and continuing education, ensures that we are maintaining the highest level of professional police services to the citizens of the District of Columbia, and remaining a positive asset to the Mayor and DCMPD in reducing crime.