Have you ever watched crime dramas and wondered what agencies were handling the investigation? Have you thought about the difference between the FBI, CIA, Police, and Military? 

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It seems like there's always a jumble of letters with no explanation of what the agency actually does.

United States Military

The military has 6 branches that protect the country's borders and interests.

  • Defends against land, sea, space, air, and water based threats

  • Headquarters in the US, with many bases stationed around the world

  • Collects data to support national defense missions

  • Does not investigate or make arrests

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

An intelligence agency that focuses on collecting, analyzing, evaluating data and information

  • Passes information on to the appropriate parties such as the FBI or military

  • Collects information from international sources regarding matters of national security

  • Does nothave the authority to makearrests

  • Collects information to aid agencies who make arrests

Federal Bureau Of Investigations (FBI)

A security and intelligence service that aims to protect the USA from domestic threats.

  • Has the authority to make arrests and press charges against individuals

  • Investigates crimes committed on the federal level

  • Sometimes works with local police to help solves crimes together

FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military: The Ultimate Comparison


Law enforcement officers that protect and defend, usually at the local level.

  • Can only work within their specified county

  • Able to make arrests

  • Have jurisdictions (or borders) that they are allowed to work within

  • State troopers are allowed to work within an entire state's borders

FBI vs Police vs CIA vs Military: The differences compared


Allen is a uniformed officer. He routinely patrols the counties of Ballard and Colleton. Is Allen a county police officer or a State Trooper?

A Quick Guide: FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military

 FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military: Comparison Chart


Marianne works for the federal government. She helps collect data and information to investigate criminals who have committed federal offences. She does not make arrests. Who does Marianne work for?

Take Action

The next time you're watching a crime movie or TV show - challenge yourself to identify which agencies you are seeing on screen.

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This Byte has been authored by


Sharnice Yates

Instructional Designer | Special Educator