View Full Version : How corrupt are the Adeptus Arbites?

30-01-2015, 21:28
Like real world police forces would officers of the Adeptus Arbites be prone to corruption? Think The Shield, Rampart or LA Confidential or any number of real world police corruption cases. If so how far up the ladder would it go and what could they stand to gain for such corrupt practices? Would they police themselves internally or close ranks when the finger is pointed at them?

I just wanted to gather peoples opinion on this as a bit of research

30-01-2015, 21:32
they are the law. They are almost incorruptible. Corruption can occur. Same as with Space Marines. They aren't incorruptable, but they are the most loyal ones compared to regular humans/forces. And from logical standpoint corruption will either be dealt with internally (they take this thing very serial) or the inquisition will. They dont deal with petty crimes, they don't even talk to regular people and only leave their HQ on official missions. They are the highest executive authority on a planet. Regular Police still exists on planets. Adeptus Arbites advises/ takes charge over them if things dont run as they should, they are the Imperial Police basically. And they are usually the last loyal bastion in case of heresy.

They are basically an army of "judge dredd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itmNiTwHOsM)"'s because thats what their inspirational origin is.

30-01-2015, 21:39
Also they don't deal with police cases. Only events/plots/problems that directly affect the imperial power. So if they are corrupt then they would be consorting with chaos. They are designed and trained to be the last guard even if the rest of the planet falls so I would say they are highly resistant to corruption. Probably be sorted by an inquisitor if it even mattered or internal execution. If you get some low ranking guy aiding chaos then a simple summary execution and a crackdown by the high ups. If the top guys are corrupted then you probably need an inquisitor however at that level of corruption the world is provably going to fall to chaos soon anyway so what does it matter for an investigation of one division when the whole planet rebels.

Well they could to stand to gain everything and anything Money, power, gifts from the gods, followers.

30-01-2015, 21:40
I'm a subscriber to the belief that Astartes can be susceptible to run of the mill non-Chaos corruption. While most forms of bribes of other forms of corruption wouldn't be very effective (it's not like the Space Marines need money), the kind of incentives that a Chapter could use (war materials, access to recruits, political favors) would be more insidious due to their self-justifying nature. The Imperial Governer is offering access to supplies and prime recruits in exchange for eliminating these political opponents obvious heretics - that's a win win for the Imperium!

In those sort of situations I definitely think that the chapter would close ranks, and probably be resistant to investigation by Inquisitors or other outsiders. And corruption + defensive insularity + the rigid but brittle indoctrination of the Astartes is an easy way for big-C Corruption to spread.

It's a great background for Renegade chapters, or even just 'heel' Loyalists who cause problems for the actually righteous chapters.

30-01-2015, 22:26
Arbites, not Astartes.

30-01-2015, 22:55
Arbites, not Astartes.

...yup, just realized that. In that case I say they can be corrupted via normal methods, though perhaps the threat of punishment from internal affairs would be a bit more severe (the Imperium's style of self-flaggelatory repentance might lead to more harsh prosecutions and less departmental stonewalling).

30-01-2015, 23:26
The adeptus arbites are there to crush the imperial governor or disloyal forces of the PDF or IA if need be. They dont get "just corrupted" like everybody else. They are not petty your US cop. And Astartes are not corruptible by some petty Governor. He is not the one to decide who can recruit from his homeworld. A governor holds no leverage over Space Marines. They could just take what they want and get away with it.

31-01-2015, 00:08
Perhaps I should make clear that I mean material corruption not spiritual corruption. I don't see any reason why an Arbite wouldn't line his own pockets or abuse his power, if it meant order/loyalty were maintained. I really don't buy into the whole fluff that they're not regular cops. Yes they're above typical day to day crimes but I'd say there's a grey area of overlap in duties, like an FBI type force with a mix of KGB and Gestapo tactics thrown in. I think their remit would cover a lot of areas:


Tithe Evasion, Tithe Theft: Ensuring planetary Governors meet their targets and pay their dues. Guess this would be white collar crimes.

Ensure Productivity: Maintaining productivity is vital for planets to meet their tithes; goes hand in hand with the above.

Techno-Heresy, Cyber/High technology crimes: This could be the equivalent to hacking into the Pentagon's database or trading military grade hardware to foreign contacts/forces.

Heresy: Probably in conjunction with the -][-

Censorship: Suppressing freedom of speech and maintaining a pro-Imperial agenda.

Treason/Sedition: Acts of sedition or in sighting sedition is highly treasonous. Any persons, or groups caught promoting anti-imperial sentiment or fostering rebellion should be dealt with severely.

Counter Insurrection/Terrorism: Pretty straight forward.

Mass Surveillance: Wire taping, spying, intelligence gathering, monitoring groups or individuals for random acts of insubordination or disobedience.

Civil Obedience: Ensuring the population are kept in line. I'd say local enforcers deal with most day-to-day disturbances but large scale riots, looting and or industrial strikes would probably fall under the Arbites to defuse. The Arbites would combat the violence in the underhive or workers riots.

Narcotics Crime: Narcotics are a plague on Imperial society. It destroys communities and families and is one of the leading causes of crime. From lowly gangs to highly organised cartels, drug dealing is rife throughout the Imperium. Typically the narcotics trade is dealt with by local enforcers. The Arbites might become involved if narcotics began affecting productivity.

Organised Crime: Just like in the real world organised crime corrupts politics and business. I don’t see any reason why this wouldn't be any different in the Imperium. Again the majority of this is probably for local enforcers but if this starts affecting the running of a planet I don't see why the Arbites would sit idly by.

Debasement of Imperial Culture: This falls under several things; consorting with minions of Chaos, excessive tolerance of mutation, and dealing/communicating/trading with xenos. Anything that could corrupt Imperial citizens from being loyal followers of the Emperor.

I'm sure this list could be added too. But at the end of the day Arbites are humans too and I see no reason why their methods can't be corrupted but their loyalty remain steadfast. Would it not be possible for them to turn a blind eye on someones crimes if they turned informant?

31-01-2015, 00:55
It depends. They're still ultimately human, and if they're on some isolated world with little oversight, hey, if someone slips them a few thrones to focus their attention on 'more severe transgressors', that might eventually spiral out...this can be contrasted with places where strict discipline is maintained through a healthy precinct, but as with all things in 40k there's no one size fits all.

31-01-2015, 02:05
Because they don't care about those things. That isn't their job. Their function is to be a watchdog force for the goverment and ensure the imperial authorities stay loyal to the emperor and punish them if they were stray. It is the governments job to police the world any way they want. They wouldn't care if the governor is pocket lining, tyrant who oppresses his people any way he can with private police, violence, mass murders, and or any other tactic he can think of or if the governor is a responsible person who tries to make the world better for everyone. As log as the tithes ship every year, the churches still pray to the god emperor and no cult exist they won't interfere with the world

But the 40k setting is big. If you want your arbites to be FBI types they can be but that isn't the function described in the books. And as others have said, you may find a precinct or a lone world with only a few arbites that are open to taking a bribe or two to overlook this, but it wouldn't be common.

31-01-2015, 03:27
Mightymconeshot: the books I have read describe the Arbiters pursuing individuals, ones who break specific parts of the voluminous Lex Imperialis. Any members or facilities of the Adeptus Terra on the planet are going to be subject to crime: murder of personnel, theft from and defrauding of institutions. The population can also transgress imperial law without attacking the off-worlders, by doing things like harboring psykers for criminal or commercial use. The local government is responsible for turning over psykers to the black ships, but there are many psyker-related activities that the Lex and the arbiters have to suppress.

Keep: they are not just incorruptible by fiat. They are brought from off-world specifically because if they recruited on-planet, their officers would have social links that would be channels for corruption. Their children do not attend local schools either, got the same reason.

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31-01-2015, 03:57
Yeah, that is why they are the watchdog for those insitutions. But if a Bob the dock worker kills his wife for two timing they don't care. It isn't their jurisdiction. They focus on the grand scheme.

As for psyker it is a grey area. The government is in charge of that. They may be willing to lend assistance( and probably would willing) but their job isn't to round them up. Their job is to police the government from turning to chaos or alien influence.

At least that is the impression I have from what I have read.

31-01-2015, 04:24
See Judge Dredd, their inspiration. Corrupt Judges/Arbites can happen sometimes, but they also police themselves. Probably a lot less often than Inquisitors going over the line.

31-01-2015, 06:33
You need to read the Enforcer trilogy by Matthew Farrer. Adeptus Arbites deal with everything from petty vandalism to corruption of the governor's family, material corruption is not as big a factor because everything is provided for the officers and judges by the Arbites, it probably happens but not in the ratio of a real life police force.

31-01-2015, 09:23
See Judge Dredd, their inspiration. Corrupt Judges/Arbites can happen sometimes, but they also police themselves. Probably a lot less often than Inquisitors going over the line.

This. The Arbites are totally inspired by the Judge Dredd stories.
One of their defining characteristics is their incorruptibility.

Not saying it can't happen. You might get some corrupt individuals, just like you might get some fat Eldar, reasonable Orks, individualistic Tau, and well intentioned Daemons.

But these are very much the exceptions . . . ;)

31-01-2015, 17:01
I seem to recall rather a lot of corrupt judges in the Judge Dredd strips. There's entire storylines dealing with anti-corruption drives against particularly degenerate areas of the force, so the inspiration for the Adeptus Arbites certainly allows for it, and the necessity of a similarly robust internal affairs division (which is itself not above corrupt individuals slipping through its own recruiting net). Human nature is fallible, which is why the Imperium has so many semi-redundant organisations, with similar remits. It's a structure designed for maximum cross-checking and oversight from one body working with the same issues, data, threats, etc as another one to remove concentration of power and influence, rather than a system designed for maximal efficiency. The Adeptus Arbites overlap with the Administratum, Inquisition, and probably several more specialised departments of the Priesthood, for exactly the reason that their loyalty cannot be assured, although screening would seem to be a higher priority than in many other places.

31-01-2015, 19:57
Unlikely, but it can happen. They're as susceptible to psyker powers, mind control etc. as any other human.

31-01-2015, 20:20
They enforce imperial law, for example if they existed in this planet, they wouldn't care about serial killers or rapes unless that affected the Imperial law

31-01-2015, 23:51
You need to read the Enforcer trilogy by Matthew Farrer. Adeptus Arbites deal with everything from petty vandalism to corruption of the governor's family, material corruption is not as big a factor because everything is provided for the officers and judges by the Arbites, it probably happens but not in the ratio of a real life police force.

Seconded. I seem to recall one or two Arbites officers who get a bit burned out or worn down, start letting things slide, get used to having a close relationship with their counterparts in other organisations, but no obvious dramatic corruptions. Not that big chaotic turns are impossible but this seems more common.

01-02-2015, 00:14
I seem to recall rather a lot of corrupt judges in the Judge Dredd strips.
judges in judge dredd, but not judge dredd itself :P

01-02-2015, 09:56
I can't base my opinion on any facts, but I'd rather see them being bribable. They are special forces, sure, but it makes them far more grimdark if they aren't as loyal to "the law" as they were expected to. Just like the "bad judges" in Judge Dredd. Arbites also remind me of the forces from "The Hunger Games" - enjoying their position and power for their own cruel agenda.

01-02-2015, 10:23
I seem to recall rather a lot of corrupt judges in the Judge Dredd strips. There's entire storylines dealing with anti-corruption drives against particularly degenerate areas of the force.

They're the exceptions. :)

Dredd has been published weekly since the late 1970s. In that 40 odd years there have been some great stories dealing with corruption ranging from Judge Cal, Rico, muty the pig to the whole Democracy arcs. But these are the exceptions and are presented as such. You recall them because they are exceptional, whereas the stories where Dredd busts some perps, however good, won't stand out so much.

By the same token, there are Space Marines stories where the Marines cooperate with Xenos and don't exterminate them on sight, but to extrapolate from this that it is somehow common or normal for Space Marines to team up with Xenos would be mistake.

But I'll shut up about Dredd as I'm going off topic. I would say that Arbites follow the same patten. They may be corruption, but it is very rare and the exception.

It's also worth noting some context here; Adeptus Arbites murdering women and children and covering it up to protect the imperium would not be corruption as it is their job to do so.

They can be incorruptible and very evil at the same time. :)

01-02-2015, 11:35
They can be incorruptible and very evil at the same time. :)
Imperial law is not particulary concerned with human rights, brutal and (to the citizen) propably very much injustice. I assume it serves only to keep the entire power system intact by whatever means necessary. So yes, in that sense adeptus arbites could count as evil (from humanitarian standpoint).

enjoying their position and power for their own cruel agenda.
Imperial law is cruel in it's own right, and they just enforce it. So it doesnt need to be their agenda, if that is what they are sworn to do anyway.

01-02-2015, 14:22
Fair enough. It has been a long time since I read that series and the story is pretty foggy. I have always just taken note of their watchdog status, but I guess they do cover a lot more areas.

02-02-2015, 04:09
Arbites can be bribed. I am sure of it. After all they are normal humans. Well selected and trained but still humans. The difference is that bribing them is not easy and they have a lot of power so any try to bribe them will easily turn against you. Think FBI or similar agencies, not city cops. They simply play a whole different ballgame from city beat.

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02-02-2015, 07:35
It's explicitly stated that they don't serve on a world anywhere near their homeworld, so the local governor or whoever can't threaten their family for leverage. They don't buy anything, or even have any dealings with the local population that would allow the opportunity for corruption or graft. I'm sure the Arbites are corruptible, but the organisation goes to great length to avoid the possibility.

The 40k Wiki seems to have lifted most of its information from Dark Heresy supplements and Black Crusade, but a couple of pertinent passages are:

Crime of Abstraction
Although extremely rare, abstractionism is considered by some to be the oldest sin those empowered to enforce Imperial law may commit. For all of the wisdom accumulated by venerable Judges, the shadow of abstraction clings to their office like a leech. Abstractionism is a term applied to a condition of criminal deviancy in Arbitrators who come to see the letter of the law inadequate to the task of executing their duties in an expedient manner. Instead, they come to rely on summary judgement over evidence and due process. The worst stray into vigilantism, meeting out punishment and death for perceived or even potential crimes rather than real ones. This creed is considered a vile heresy, a breaking of the Arbites oath, and a crime punishable by death if discovered.

Of course, those who do fall into this heresy, feel they are on the side of the righteous and that their own sense of the law and moral imperative are a guide to truth and judgement in an uncaring universe. In the worst of cases, such as the long-suppressed Cerpicia Precinct incident on the world of Hredrin, unauthorised and unmarked Arbites Kill-teams were sent to execute criminals at the behest of an illegal "star chamber" of judgement. Venerable Marshals used their subordinates to assassinate members of other Imperial agencies who they felt "must" be Heretics. In such rare and dangerous cases, the slide from persecuting the enemies of the Imperium to becoming one can be a swift journey indeed. Tragically it is often the most intelligent, faithful, and dedicated among the Judges and Marshals that fall to the sin of abstractionism in their desire to do the Emperor's work. They doom themselves to a Traitor's death if they are discovered by their fellow Arbitrators, and worse should the Ordo Hereticus claim them.

Disputes of Jurisdiction
Conflict between the Adeptus Arbites and other Imperial agencies most commonly occurs because of disputes over which of them has authority to enforce Imperial law, and which law applies in a given case. Many Judges see the letter of Imperial law not only as absolutely unbending, but also without boundary or limitation. It has been known for zealous Arbitrators to seize and execute agents of the Ministorum because they have executed Heretics without recourse to the law, or bullishly intervene on the discovery of some cult or secret agency only to later discover that they have jeopardised a covert Inquisitorial investigation. To some foolish or fanatic Judges, such distinctions as the sanctity of a Navigator's ancient privileges or an Imperial noble's rights and title are subservient to the requirements of the law. To them, the greater weight of the law outweighs other considerations in any and all cases.

So, there are cases of Arbites officers or entire precincts deviating from the true light of the Emperor's laws, or simply coming into conflict with other Imperial agencies.

02-02-2015, 07:45
They receive the same indoctrination as Comissars and Sisters of Battle. Their line of works involves them less freedom and more peer scrutiny than Comissars, but less than Sisters. So they probably fall between Sisters and Comissars in average coruptability. Easier to misled or manipulate than corrupt, anyway.

As of they way of work and comparison with RL forces, they have responsibilities close to FBI and resources close to peacetime SS.

02-02-2015, 07:55
Their role isn't really analogous to any Western law-enforcement agencies, really. The FBI don't get to depose US State Governors for not doing what the Federal Government wants them to, for one thing. :) Although, given that MI5 were apparently spying on Labour Prime Ministers in the sixties and seventies, they're not that far off. :)

They're perhaps more like the KGB (or what we think the KGB was like).

02-02-2015, 23:10
The Arbites could TOTALLY be interested in 'petty' crime, murders, drugs etc.

It's going to depend largely on the nature of the individual planet's history and relationship with the organs of the Imperium generally, however.

My guess is that, not unlike in the Dredd comics, essentially anything we currently think of as 'freedom' is 'against Imperial law', at least in its letter. And that's the thing - in the eyes of 40k law, any infraction of the law can be seen as affecting 'the sum total of the Imperium'. Thus, petty theft could be seen as stealing from the mouths of His soldiers, graffiti as terrorism, and drug-taking as damaging a cog in the Imperial machine (YOU! YOU ARE THAT COG!).

Again - it'll depend on the original treaties or whatever signing the world into the Imperium... and correspondingly WHY they are part of it, and how important/easy it is to maintain strict adherence to Imperial law among the general populace.

Of course, to us the FBI analogy - Arbites will be interested if there's ANY indication of crime committed 'across state [planet] borders'... they are the Long Arm of the Imperial Law, after all.

On a fanatically devout Shrine World, the Arbites will obviously have very little to do - just monitoring the leadership and pilgrims to ensure that no weird Chaos seeps in. On a Hive World like Necromunda, however, they'll be taking a much firmer hand because the populace is so huge and difficult to control, but the resources produced are also vital... so it makes more sense to get involved in 'real policing' to wave the flag and make sure the worst of street crime doesn't turn into global conflict and shortfalls in production.

In almost every case where an Arbites could be 'bribed', she will likely either a) already have a high enough standard of living that the bribe is worthless, b)be so devout that the she scorns/imprisons/kills the offender, c) be unable to take the bribe because Arbites HAVE no 'home life' upon which to spend extra money on expensive entertainments/comforts, d) have more to gain from 'judging' the briber, through promotion, accolades etc., or d) all of the above.

Remember, Arbites come out of the same joints that produces the Tempestus, Sororitas, and Commissars... They are entirely enculturated to the Imperial Faith, to the point that their entire lives are given over to applying its laws. Of course, zealous commitment can lead to total megalomania pretty easily, so I figure instances of 'power corrupts' could happen, but mostly in the sense of just killing lots and lots of 'offenders' because it 'feels pious'... and then with the claws and the bewbs and the purple and pink... or whatever.


The Good Doctor.

03-02-2015, 02:32
i doubt the higher arbitrators deal with petty crimes. They have better/important things to do. The lowest ranks will deal with petty crime as a from of training exercise and conditioning... because replacing a governor/cracking down on big illegal rings needs some experience first.

On a fanatically devout Shrine World, the Arbites will obviously have very little to do
Oh i'm sure there are enough parts of ecclesiarchy that dabble into illegal stuff. Excesses, possibly involvement in corrupt things and so on. The catholic church is the inspiration for it, there are enough realworld examples of them overstepping the border. Also i'm sure there is fake relic trading to unknowing pilgrims or similar nonsense.

03-02-2015, 07:07
This is how I see how Arbites could operate:

Example #1: An illegal weapons dealer gets caught selling stuff stolen from Munitorum storage unit. He offers a sizable sum of money to Arbiters to let them go. Arbiters laugh at the notion they could be bought with money alone. They confiscate the money, slap him with attempted bribery charge on top of it and kick his ass in jail anyway.

Example #2: An illegal weapons dealer gets caught selling stuff stolen from Munitorum storage unit. He offers to lead the Arbiters to another weapons dealer who is selling xenos arms in exchange for freedom. Arbiters make the deal, end the xeno weapons dealer business and keep the rat in short-leash but in business so he can squel if any other really dangerous stuff appears on the market.

Example #3: A planetary governor is caught being a part of slightly heretical cult. He offers a huge amount of money to Arbiters to look the other way. The Arbiters are slightly insulted by the fact that an Imperial Governor thinks Imperial Justice can be bought. They also think any Governor tyring to bribe Arbiters with money alone is too stupid to lead and execute him.

Example #4: A planetary governor is caught being a part of slightly heretical cult. He offers to use his influence amongst the cult to keep them from making trouble and promises to report to Arbiters if the cult starts to do something really dangerous. Arbiters think this means the Governor is smart and devious enough to actually succeed as an Imperial Governor and lets him go about his business. Besides, now that they know Governor is in the cult they can infiltrate their own agents into Governors office and follow him to find more about the cult.

03-02-2015, 12:06
I seem to remember that Adeptus Arbites function like regular law enforcement. If I'm not mistaken, I think in one of the early Inquisitor novels by Ian Watson that there were some plainclothes detectives for want of a better word investigating chaos rituals in like a hive world or something. The Adeptus Arbites are there as frontline troops to ensure, first and foremost, Imperial compliance. This is why they're better equipped than regular PDF forces (for example; they're all clad in carapace armour). One of the reasons that first grabbed my addiction with 40k in the first place was a White Dwarf magazine with the old 2nd edition Space Wolf codex cover as it's cover, and inside the magazine was an article about the Judge Dredd inspired Adeptus Arbites authored by, I think, Andy Chambers.

The Adeptus Arbites are made up from people who I believe were undergoing something like Commissar training but were siphoned off that program and into the Arbites (if memory serves). They are fiercely loyal to the Emperor but more importantly are never ever posted to their birthworld in order to cut down on any personal attachments. I'm pretty sure they live with other Arbites and Judges inside their actual Precinct buildings as well.

So, to go back to the original question in how corrupt they are I think it depends. In the face of Chaos corruption? Probably no more nor less than any other individual. Just because they are trained to be fiercely loyal to the Emperor doesn't mean that they are given the necessary knowledge on what Chaos is necessarily (although they would be trained to identify the more ostentatious chaos worship I'd wager), probably just enough to do their job. As to material corruption such as lining their own pockets, I think that might be possible depending on how long they get posted to a world. If they are cycled through every couple of years or so, I don't think any criminal gangs in the underworld would necessarily want to tempt fate, but if any degree of relationships are cultivated (such as buying tickets to the Precinct's annual Angels Feast ball or something) then possibly.

04-02-2015, 02:17
I think in one of the early Inquisitor novels by Ian Watson that there were some plainclothes detectives for want of a better word investigating chaos rituals in like a hive world or something
well chaos rituals are a little more then "just crime" in the Imperium of Man... It's a danger to the existence of their empire. A death of some worker or a pickpocket is not, in the grand scheme of things.

Askil the Undecided
04-02-2015, 08:04
I think from reading a lot of posts on this thread some posters need to grasp the difference between Imperial Law (the Lex Imperialis) and other laws that exist in the Imperium.

The Arbites are only interested in enforcing the Lex Imperialis which is mainly concerned with maintaining compliance and security of imperial worlds it covers things like: enforcing Imperial decrees, paying tithes, providing manpower for the guard, interplanetary smuggling, preventing revolution, heresy or secession and investigating crimes by or against members of the adeptus terra.

It notably does not include: anything that the Imperium at large is not concerned about i.e. rape, arson, drugs, theft, black marketeering, tax evasion, trespassing or murder (of/from/to/by non-adepts/Imperial property) these are a local matter.

Basically if it isn`t a danger to Imperial rule it`s not their problem but even a laughably small transession against the imperium like graffiti if an imperial building or swearing at an off-duty adept could see the Arbites kicking in your door.

Of course there are exceptions, governors are within their rights to ask the arbites for assistance with local matters, just as the arbites are within theirs to butt into cases they feel are their jurisdiction or refuse requests for help.

Ambience 327
04-02-2015, 17:16
One thing from the original post that hasn't been discussed much yet is the question of "do they police themselves", and the answer to this is a resounding "YES!". In the third Enforcer novel, Shira Calpurnia stands accused of several crimes against the Lex Imperialis as a result of the conclusion of the second novel. The early portions of the book deal with how she is treated prior to her trial, and mention is made about what may happen if she is convicted of her alleged crimes. The Enforcer novels really are a great read for anyone interested in the Adeptus Arbites, and my Arbites codex is heavily influenced by them.