I was reading this article from CNN about protests in Portland, OR. It rather blithely references a "federal police". Something that I was under the impression did not actually exist but these policemen have "POLICE DHS" on their uniforms.

When did the Department of Homeland Security become a police force? Isn't this traditionally the what the National Guard gets called in for?


2 Answers 2


No, it's not; it's a federal agency under the DHS.

The article mentioned "federal police agencies", meaning that it's an agency under the Department of Homeland Security.

The policemen pictured in the photos are from the Federal Protective Service as seen from the patch on their uniforms. The Federal Protective Service is the police division under the Department of Homeland Security which is why they have "DHS" on their uniforms.


Patch of the Federal Protective Service, from Wikipedia

This is what the Federal Protective Service does:

The Federal Protective Service provides integrated security and law enforcement services to more than 9,500 federal facilities nationwide. These services include: conducting facility security assessments; responding to crimes and other incidents to protect life and property; and detecting, investigating, and mitigating threats. This site provides a snapshot of how FPS carries out its mission to protect federal buildings, federal employees and contractors, and visitors to federal facilities.

Portland Police mentioned in a press release that the FPS is assisting them in ensuring public safety and that the Terry Schrunk Plaza is a federal property.

Terry Schrunk Plaza is a federal property where both state and federal laws apply to users. The Federal Protective Service is the lead enforcement agency for this property. Specific rules and regulations governing federal property can be found here: https://www.gsa.gov/graphics/ogp/Fed_Rules_Regs8_5x11_Final2005_R27-s10_0Z5RDZ-i34K-pR.pdf

[ ... ]

"The Federal Protective Service stands with it partners within the Portland community to ensure the peaceful exercise of individual freedoms of demonstration and speech, while preserving and protecting the safety of all individuals on federal property," said Robert Sperling, Director of Communications and Engagement for the Federal Protective Service.

  • Good answer, I'd still like to know why it is them and not the National Guard, but I've got a feeling from your answer that it has something to do with the facility being a federally owned location Jun 5, 2017 at 5:46
  • 1
    @PeterTurner Thanks, yea it's mostly because of that as the FPS's the "protector of federal facilities nationwide".
    – Panda
    Jun 5, 2017 at 5:48
  • DHS includes a few other police agencies, though i suppose their jackets are more likely to say POLICE ICE or POLICE CBP.
    – phoog
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:00
  • 1
    @PeterTurner The Portland police cited that Terry Schrunk Plaza's a federal property, thus the FPS's on hand. I've included that in my answer.
    – Panda
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:40
  • 2
    @PeterTurner - technically, the National Guard are state militias, and while called into active service as part of the federal armed forces, they are actually technically considered state-controlled military. Unless they are called into active duty, they wouldn't be under federal control for a situation like this. I think the federal state of emergency allows other, neighboring states to also send their National Guard and for regional resources to be tapped (if the local guard base is under water, for instance, not much good in an emergency). Jun 5, 2017 at 20:45

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the primary federal law enforcement agency.

The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.

FBI Mission Statement

Serving under the Justice Department, the FBI is more akin to policing than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The DHS is more limited in their scope, primarily focused on preventing terrorism.

The vision of homeland security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.

DHS.gov Mission statement

Though their missions seem to both include terrorism within their scope, FBI is a broader federal investigative branch, whose function is more comparable to roles of local police.

I am not sure how to parse out the size of these organizations (or more accurately the number of agents that serve as federal policing agents) because the DHS includes organizations like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other agencies that - I think it is fair to say - are differentiate from policing. However the DHS has agents that function in a law enforcement capacity including the FPS as panda points out - though it should be noted that the FPS is specifically allocated to protecting government facilities and wouldn't be available for more general policing. Like the TSA and FPS,the agencies of DHS seem to specifically designed to provide policing coverage where jurisdictions issues may have complicated the involvement of local police and FBI responsibility.

I believe the National Guard (as a division of the US military) requires the president, an appointee, or a governor to declare a state of emergence to deploy them. In issues of security without an active threat, this may fall outside of their need, and would not be an appropriate situation to call upon the National Guard. You may be comparing this event, to events like the riots that occurred over the summer of 2016 or the LA riots in 1992. Those cases were examples of escalated incidents where a state of emergency is declared. Charlotte Protest Turns Violent, Governor Declares State of Emergency and Deploys National Guard

  • DHS and other departments have other police agencies. It's more precise to say that the FBI is a federal law enforcement agency or that it is the most generalized one. DHS includes a few law enforcement agencies, and while most TSA officers are not law enforcement officers, as you note, some are, namely the air marshals.
    – phoog
    Jun 5, 2017 at 14:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .