Each of the Imperium's worlds have their own government, laws, and their own local police forces to enforce those laws. The Arbites concern themselves only with the enforcement of the broader laws to which the entire Imperium is subject.
Utterly dedicated and without mercy, the Arbites are feared throughout the galaxy, for they are the agents of a harsh law, where failure and incompetence are crimes, and the only punishment is death. Arbites are empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner – citizens have no rights, and only members of the Priesthood of Terra or the Inquisition could claim anything so elaborate as a trial.
The overall leader of the Adeptus Arbites is the Grand Provost Marshal, who represents the organization on the Senatorum Imperialis. Below him are the Marshals of the Court which oversee galaxy-spanning precincts. Below the Marshals of the Court, the Arbites are internally divided into two subgroups; Judges, who deal with legal matters and the application of ten thousand years of case law and its precedents, and Arbitrators, the militant arm of the Arbites who perform the work necessary to apprehend and punish those who break the Emperor's laws.[Needs Citation]
The Adeptus Arbites maintains a presence on almost every Imperial world, headquartered in fortified precinct courthouses. The courthouses are equipped to be self-sufficient and to support a complete Arbites army. They consist of armouries, dungeons, barracks, firing ranges, scriptories, archives, warehouses, kitchens, gymnasia and garages. Courthouses are sometimes a world's only connection with the rest of the Imperium.
Senior Arbites fulfill both roles, with Judges getting their hands dirty, and Arbitrators learning to preside over lengthy court trials.[Needs Citation]
The men and women of the Adeptus Arbites are utterly devoted to their task and without mercy to those who break the Lex Imperialis. Arbites are usually recruited through the Schola Progenium, often those who have displayed great force of will and brute strength.
The Adeptus Arbites are equipped to fight a minor war, but their main role is maintaining order. A single precinct courthouse functions as a base for a complete and fully-equipped army, capable of fielding vehicles. In combat Arbitrators wear carapace armour. Heavy gloves and boots protect the hands and feet, while the head is encased within an all-enclosing helmet equipped with a rebreather.[Needs Citation]
Standard personal weaponry is the Arbites combat shotgun, boltgun, grenade launcher, suppression shield and the power maul. Several types of grenades are used, both lethal and incapacitating. Some Patrol groups and Enforcers may use Cyber-Mastiffs to hunt down and catch criminal fugitives who attempt to escape. The Arbites also make use of a wide range of vehicles, such as Rhinos[6a], Repressors[6b], and Chimeras.[6c] They also make use of Tarantula automated turrets for crowd control, riot suppression, and defending their precincts.
The Arbites also maintain a small fleet of patrol craft and counter-insurgency vessels, most notably among these the Punisher Class Strike Cruiser. The Arbites fleet also operates logistical vessels, transports, and other support craft.
Adeptus Arbites in Warhammer 40,000
The Adeptus Arbites are one of the original components of the Warhammer 40,000 universe (although undoubtedly inspired by Judge Dredd). In the Ordo Malleus/Grey Knights army list in Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness Arbites squads could be used as an auxiliary force. In the basic Codex army lists included with Second Edition, taken as allies from the "Imperial Agents" army list, they could be used as part of Space Marine and Imperial Guard armies. In Third Edition the Adeptus Arbites had an official army list (Citadel Journal 29). In Fourth Edition they appear only in Witch Hunter armies, represented by Inquisition Storm Troopers using the option of replacing their Hellguns with shotguns. In Fifth Edition the best way to represent them remained the Witch Hunter army, until it was rewritten as Codex: Sisters of Battle. At the tail end of 5th and in Sixth Edition Codex: Grey Knights could be use Inquisitorial Henchman warbands, using Warrior Acolytes. The release of the Inquisitorial forces seperately meant that Codex: Inquisition could also be used. In Seventh Edition, Inquisitors were removed from the Grey Knights and so the only way remains to use Inquisition.
- 1: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987), pg. 139
- 2: Codex Imperialis (1993), pgs. 12, 34-35
- 3: Chaos Child (Novel), by Ian Watson, [Needs Citation]
- 4: Dark Heresy: The Inquisitor's Handbook, pg. 143
- 5: Fanatic Magazine #01, pg. 5
- 6: Imperial Armour Volume Two - Space Marines and Forces of the Inquisition
- 7: Black Crusade: Hand of Corruption, pg. 128
- 8: Inquisitor Rulebook, pgs. 6-7
- 9: Imperial Armour Volume One, pg. 104
- 10: Battlefleet Gothic Magazine #10, pgs. 22-23
- 11: Nemesis (Novel) by James Swallow, [Needs Citation], pg. 33
- 12: Dark Heresy Rulebook
- 12a: pg. 50
- 12b: pg. 246