The Adeptus Arbites is the Imperial Adepta that serves as the galactic police force of the Imperium of Man, responsible for enforcing Imperial Law (the Lex Imperialis) on all Imperial-controlled worlds. They have been granted the right by the High Lords of Terra to serve as judge, jury and executioner to any Imperial citizen they discover having broken Imperial law and the concept of due process is not one that generally applies in the Imperium. However, in those cases where Imperial law is unclear or the law breaker has committed a truly heinous deed or is of unusually high-ranking stature, the offended will be taken back to an Arbites Precinct House for judgement by an Arbites Judge, the sentence to be carried out immediately. Imperial justice is swift and sure, but not always just.
Only through constant watch and the execution of brutal law can the Imperium survive, and it is the Adeptus Arbites who carry out this function. While the armies of the Imperial Guard struggle to hold back the aggression of alien empires and protect the worlds of Mankind from without, the Adeptus Arbites roots out rebels, recidivists, and threats to the stability of the Imperium from within. They operate as they best see fit, using their greater training and weaponry to tackle foes that might be beyond the scope of local Enforcers, or in many cases to deal with a planetary government which has itself become corrupted. Remorseless and single-minded, Arbitrators do not forgive or forget any crime, and pursue their quarry relentlessly until the Emperor’s Justice has been served.
The laws of the Imperium of Man are a complex web of tradition, obligation, and local custom. Thus, they can vary from world to world or sector to sector, with each Planetary Governor, local prefect, or headman pronouncing his own laws. Arbitrators care little for such trivialities, and enforce the serious crimes against the Imperium while leaving such petty matters to local officials. Murder or theft, for example, are considered inconsequential unless they affect the Imperium directly, are perpetrated against Imperial officials, or somehow fundamentally threaten a world’s security or safety.
Arbitrators have little pity or compassion for the transgressions of Imperial citizens. Years of dealing with the scum of the galaxy has made many of them cynical and bitter. Others have become religious zealots, seeing the Emperor’s divine hand in the letter of the law and only death is deserved for those who would break it. A few might maintain idealistic notions for bringing order to the Imperium, but the realities of endless, sometimes horrific crimes constantly erode such notions. The arrival of an Arbitrator patrol is seldom welcome, given the brutal way in which they operate during their investigations, arrests, and executions, even though it might mean an end to vicious criminal enterprises or corrupt Imperial or planetary officials.
Arbitrators must deal with ineffectual or corrupt local government agencies. These are often an Arbitrator’s greatest foes as he must clean up a local situation, taking over the Enforcers of a hive city, orbital station, or even entire planet to purge it of crime and corruption in a series of bloody and unforgiving sweeps.
On Imperial worlds the Adeptus Arbites are the last, most absolute law, answering only to their commanders and the Judges of star systems and entire sectors, and not to local authorities. It is a thankless task, for the anonymous, helmeted Arbitrator usually only receives fear and hatred for his actions. The members of the Adeptus Arbites are the final bulwark against heretical uprisings and other major threats. Their precinct-fortress is the often last bastion of Imperial rule during revolutions or invasions, holding out to the very end whilst alerting outside Imperial agencies and Adepta of the dire situation. Each member knows that should they fall, so follows the planet. To merely survive in such a hostile environment, Arbitrators must show no hesitation, regret, or compassion for those they protect, and they must consider every citizen guilty until they are proven innocent.
The Adeptus Arbites face a monumental task to enforce the law across countless Imperial worlds. Those that take the oaths, don the Carapace Armour, and take Shock Maul in hand are often obsessive and pitiless individuals, who see the law as an extension of the Emperor’s will upon His subjects, and its enforcement their sacred duty. Whether they are skilled in combat or possessed of a keen mind, an Arbitrator knows he faces an implacable and remorseless foe, one which he must counter with all the talents at his command. To be part of this Adepta is to be apart from their surroundings, for after training in the Schola Progenium, Arbitrators are never assigned to the world of their birth. They are beyond local authorities, serving none but higher Imperial law. Once a man puts on the distinctive dark armour of an Arbitrator he stops being merely a man, and is now a representative of the greater Imperium upon a world, there to ensure planetary compliance with Imperial law.
Arbitrators are always active with investigation and enforcement, for crime never sleeps. The surrounding populace overwhelmingly outnumbers them, so it is essential to detect and crush crime before it grows too strong. On many worlds, they bring massive firepower to bear at the slightest hint of resistance, often reacting to crimes before they occur, and preemptively arresting citizens who are “at risk” of becoming criminals. Skilled Arbitrators are masters of urban conflict and crowd control, with a natural understanding of Imperial societies and the nature of places such as the packed hab-blocks of an overpopulated Hive World or the savage villages of a Feral World, each requiring their own special tactics to police.
Arbitrators often tap local Vox-networks, develop networks of spies and informants, and even infiltrate any suspect organisations to snare the lawless in surgical strikes where their superior weaponry and training can prevail over larger forces. Such investigations require long hours of dedicated detective work, patience, and cunning to root out violations of Imperial law against the myriad other offences against lesser authorities. Their lives are often at risk, and not just from their criminal quarry. During the course of an investigation all manner of things might come to light, including the secrets of powerful individuals. In these cases an Arbitrator can face more danger from supposedly loyal allies than the scum he is pursuing.
A female Arbitrator of the Adeptus Arbites wielding a Power Maul
Throughout the millions of worlds of the Imperium, crime is rife. Not just the petty crimes of individuals for personal gain, but organised crime on a scale never even considered in humanity’s past. Entire sub-sectors and planets have been in the thrall of illegal cartels and criminal organisations. There are even wayward Planetary Governors who shun the Imperium and treat the dominion as their own paltry fiefdom, claiming the planet’s natural resources, labour and riches for their own. In these dire situations it falls to the Adeptus Arbites to defend the Imperium’s rights and prevent whole sub-sectors going rogue for generations, or even permanently. The Adeptus Arbites is not a galactic police force; it has little interest in petty crimes such as theft, murder or tax evasion, for these fall under the responsibility of the local planetary forces. The Adeptus Arbites is there to keep order on a far greater scale, to root out corruption, maintain the Imperial tithe and to guard against witchery.
From the Adeptus Arbites come the fearsome Arbitrators. Also sometimes incorrectly known as Judges amongst the general populace of the Imperium (this term actually refers to a specific Arbites rank), these men and women are stoic in their duty and unquestionably loyal to the Imperium. Inquisitors often go to the Adeptes Arbites when in need of a trustworthy Acolyte who is trained to think on their feet, combat-hardened and beyond reproach in their faith. Arbitrators are infamous for their prodigious stamina and zeal, and their ability to survive all manner of wounds and punishment in the quest to catch their quarry. Arbitrators are resolute and fearless. They demand utter obedience from the citizens they come into contact with. Where civil unrest and crime threaten the stability of a world, the Arbitrators are in the field: unflinching, ordering the local enforcers, and hunting down the rabble-rousers to restore law and order.
The Judges’ methods are varied, not unlike the way Inquisitors go about their work. The means used can be different depending on their mentors, what Schola Progenium the individual attended and other such factors. However, unlike Inquisitors who have their own private agendas, all members of the Adeptes Arbites have the same goal and responsibility — to uphold the Emperor’s justice. Some Arbitrators openly investigate and make no secret who their quarry is, even if he is of noble birth or high rank. This can often lead to overt hostility between the Judge and his subject, although there is no question who off-world forces of the Imperium would side with should they be requested to attend. This is by no means the only mode of investigation; other officers of the Adeptes Arbites are quite methodical in their approach, meticulously sourcing evidence and questioning contacts and witnesses.
The relationship between the Inquisition and the Adeptes Arbites is often one of the more cordial within the Adeptus Terra. Arbitrators often see working with Inquisitors as a way of further enforcing justice. However, such arrangements have not always worked so well. It has been known for Judges to turn on the Inquisitors they have been seconded to serve if they perceive the Inquisitor to have broken sacrosanct Imperial laws. This means Inquisitors of the more Radical factions must be wary when recruiting members of the Adeptus Arbites to become their Acolytes.