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In the United States, state police are a police body unique to each U.S. state, having statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. In general, they perform functions outside the normal or the county sheriff, such as enforcing traffic laws on state highways and interstate expressways, overseeing the security of the state capitol complex, protecting the governor, training new officers for local police forces too small to operate an academy, providing technological and scientific support services, and helping to coordinate multi-jurisdictional task force activity in serious or complicated cases in those states that grant full police powers statewide.

Twenty-three U.S. states actually call their state police by the term "State Police." In this case state police are general-power law enforcement officers with statewide jurisdiction, who conduct patrols and respond to calls for service and perform all the other aforementioned duties. These states are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In other states the state police are limited function and limited jurisdiction agencies known by any of the following: State Highway Patrol (Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio); Highway Patrol (California, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming), State Patrol (Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Washington, Wisconsin); State Bureaus of Investigation or Department of Public Safety (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Texas). Exceptions are Alaska whose state police agency is referred to as Alaska State Troopers and Hawaii where the State of Hawaii Sheriff's Office acts as the state-wide law enforcement agency. All of these agencies tend to be brought together under a state Department of Public Safety or may be under several agencies, such as the Highway Patrol being under the state Department of Transportation. Generally speaking, limited jurisdiction-highway patrol agencies also have little or no criminal investigation functions except on state-owned property, state-operated corrections facilities, or state hospitals.

They have emerged at various times in the history of each particular state, alternately evolving from corps of mounted rangers (the term trooper coming from cavalry parlance) or being newly established as a fully motorized highway patrol.

Territorial police forces include:

* Territory of Guam Police Department
* American Samoa Department of Public Safety
* Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Safety
* United States Virgin Islands Police Department
* Puerto Rico Commonwealth Police