So, this story takes place in the UFS fascist state, in North America. The government is extremely strict on its citizens, and everything the fallen, antiquated United States Of America held dear was erased since the revolution of the 1930s. No freedom of speech or of the press, only one religion is permitted, and everyone is under seemingly constant supervision from the government.

To enforce all the rules, the UFS police patrol the streets, looking out for anyone who looks suspicious. People who speak out go out on permanent “vacations” to Alaska.

In my story, the UFS patrols always travel in groups of 4, sometimes 6 in emergencies. The groups of 4 often stay close together, and never leave each other’s side.

It is important to my plot, but it makes little sense, as splitting the officers up would make much more land controllable. What would be a logical reason to have officers in groups of 4?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – L.Dutch Aug 21 at 19:04
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    I'm reminded of the old Soviet joke. Q: Why do policemen always patrol in threes? A: You need one who can read, one who can write, and one to report back on what those two dangerous intellectuals are doing. – alephzero Aug 22 at 3:07
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    I initially read this as "patrol on all fours", which sounded fascinatingly absurd. – NotThatGuy Aug 22 at 12:38
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    In the seventies the NYPD used to patrol in formations like that, presumably for their own protection, if I recall correctly. – Spehro Pefhany Aug 22 at 14:24

27 Answers 27

  1. Crime watch/enforcement balance. Patrol size is always a balance between the ability to see the crime (more smaller patrols is better) and deal with likely crime (large patrol group is better). Size 4 should mean that security situation in this state is worse than in most modern cities, where patrolmen usually go alone or in twos, but better than in a war- or insurgency-affected areas, where a unit less than a platoon may be targeted for an ambush.

  2. Checks and balances. The government may not even trust its police force to act unsupervised. So, even the smallest team must consist of a leader, a subordinate, an ideological guide and a random member from a different unit who couldn't have conspired with the other three.

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    I like the second one. They need to solve the problem of policing the police. – Omegastick Aug 21 at 1:04
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    With the second one, if the government doesn't trust its police force, increasing the police squad sizes would be a good way to stop them from stepping out of line, assuming you have some sort of reporting structure that removes those who do step out of line. Every officer would be on guard against the other officers and more officers means more people you need to be careful around. A conversation requires 2 people. If you add an extra person in, the 3rd is unlikely to step in since he could be removed 2v1. If you have 4, then it evens it out and stops them stepping out of line. – Shadowzee Aug 21 at 4:47
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    I think the Checks and balances answer is pretty good. I think the composition of the team might be simpler. Two regular officers and two political officers. The political officers are there to make sure the regular officers are are loyal. The reason there are two political officers is so they can keep an eye on each other. The political offers would of course be rotated frequently to avoid any two of them forming a friendship either with themselves or with the regular officers. – Readin Aug 21 at 5:12
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    If there are rebels who sabotage things and occasionally do an armed attack (and if there is to be a story, I suppose there are), the first one makes a lot of sense. – Jan Hudec Aug 21 at 7:09
  • I'm a really big fan of item 2. I recently read Rising '44 (a book on the Warsaw Uprising) and it contains a huge amount of information about how the Soviet Union war machine functioned. It essentially consisted of the frontline fighting force followed immediately after by an almost identical sized force of 'enforcers' who would mop up and 'process' the entire population of the region recently occupied. For every frontline soldier, there was someone watching him behind. This was something that Nazi Germany never mastered. The bureaucracy of fear of the Soviet Union was utterly terrifying. – Smeato Aug 21 at 8:28

To ensure loyalty

A lone policeman can be subverted, bribed, or even carry out seditious activities without any witnesses. Any civilians who do catch them in the act can be compelled into silence, if they don't just dismiss it as "official business" that they shouldn't interfere with. By forcing police to patrol together, and account for any time they spend apart from that patrol, the government can keep much closer watch on its watchers. A corrupt policeman or rebel infiltrator will have a much tougher time hiding their activities. Even if a whole patrol is corrupt and/or traitorous, it will be inherently more difficult for them to operate in a way that conceals it, because they need to be very careful to keep their stories straight - and rotating officers between different patrols will ensure that smaller groups will spend at least some of their time carefully monitored anyway.

Patrol groups also provide social pressure to keep policemen who aren't openly corrupt or traitorous, but might be lax or have rebel sympathies, on the straight and narrow. They see that everybody else is toeing the party line, and they conclude that they ought to, too.

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    When I worked in Berlin in '89 (the year the wall fell), I travelled from work in West Berlin to work in West Berlin by underground train. It did not stop in the East, but passed through several East Berlin stations. Through the window, I could see that the police always patrolled in threes. Probably for the same reason that a milking stool has three legs. I totally agree with this answer, but think that the OP should have groups of three, if possible, rather than four. – Mawg Aug 21 at 13:23
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    @Mawg Soviet-bloc doctrine extended this to fighter squadrons of three, etc. The idea is that two people can have a conversation where neither one quite says enough to convict him of betraying the State until the other has gone far enough to prove he's not a rat, and the two of them can defect together. A group of three or more makes that quite a bit more difficult to do, but being an odd number makes it difficult to perform an evasive maneuver against heat-seeking missiles that works well for pairs of jets. There could be a similar tactical advantage to a pair of pairs on foot. – Monty Harder Aug 21 at 15:04
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    “One reads, one writes, and the third keeps an eye on the two intellectuals.” – Anton Sherwood Aug 21 at 23:12
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    The groups would presumably have to be 'shuffled' periodically, to prevent the officers of a group becoming too familiar and co-conspiring. – Max Barraclough Aug 23 at 13:33
  • @MaxBarraclough: Indeed, shuffle randomly, often, and within as large a pool as possible. Transfer personnel between regions every few months. Prevent personal relationships from forming, and break those that do with transfers. It's hard to plan an appointment when you have no idea which others will be with you tomorrow; and it's hard to gauge others when you only worked with them a handful of times before. – Matthieu M. Aug 24 at 9:25

...doesn't the US Army for example work in "fireteams" of four? Two assault, one support, one leadership/overwatch/sniper?

Perhaps with your enforcement teams (and many fascist and/or authoritarian governments have built their enforcement arms in a militaristic style) you could make up roles for the team based on this - CQB (Close Quarter Battle), Riot, Communications and Coordination, Leadership/Propaganda, etc.

Assigning roles to the four might help make sense, I guess. I also love the ideas presented by other posters ie keeping an eye on each other (distrust is an inherent aspect of authoritarianism cf East Germany and it's Stasi), and four being less susceptible to take-downs by resistance (particularly if your world is populated by a resentful oppressed population, it may be more pertinent for these people to travel in packs in order to simply operate).

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    CQB is close quarter battle. – RonJohn Aug 21 at 1:16
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    It could also be for assigned zones of focus. One has eyes out for long range threats, one for close range, one for cyber/technical threats, and one for aerial threats. On the same concept, perhaps due required PPE, their field of vision is reduced and to cover 360 degrees they need 4 people. – Jammin4CO Aug 21 at 13:56
  • Fire teams are exactly where my mind went with this too. Assuming a military state, it's not at all far fetched to think the police might actually just be military, or have originated their procedures from the military. – Ryan Gibbs Aug 21 at 17:48
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    Some clarification: fireteams are usually: Team leader, Rifleman/Scout, Automatic Rifleman, and the last role depends on the organization: Assistant Automatic Rifleman/Grenadier/Sniper/etc, "Support" if you will. The UK as well as the US Marines give the grenadier role to the team leader, whereas the US Army it's the fourth role. It's purpose is to enable the use of bounding overwatch when assaulting an enemy position. – TemporalWolf Aug 21 at 19:58
  • Others have mentioned some of the reasons and tactics of fire teams but if you want a more in-depth look: the Marine Corps. Training Command has an old copy of the Rifle Squad Tactics student manual - page 12 has a great picture of movements, there are several descriptions of tactics, role responsibilities, and it even describes some of the reasons to move to buddy team pairs (two-man groups). – JGreenwell Aug 23 at 0:46

One person can be overwhelmed easily. Two can be taken down by surprise or attacked quickly enough no warning gets out. Three is harder to take down but it's still doable without much if any collateral damage.

Four officers are too large to take out without a bomb or a coordinated attack. And if they are attacked by a group, three can lay down fire while the fourth calls for help, runs for backup, or moves to another position to counter-attack. Also with 4 sets of eyes, two can focus on the disturbance or people, while the other two watch the surrounding area.

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    One thing I think is worth noting is that this is set in North America. There are currently over 300 million guns in civilian possession in the US. Even with a 95% effective confiscation effort, that's still at least 15 million guns. If there were ever a fascist take-over, the police would face lots of aggressors armed with firearms. This makes your points doubly true. One, two, even three officers are simply too vulnerable. – Ryan_L Aug 21 at 1:44
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    @Ryan_L For perspective, there are currently about 200 privately owned AR-15s (10-30M by various estimates) and about 6 legally registered private machine guns (officially 630K, albeit many of them antiques) to every one combat soldier in the US military (about 100K). – TKK Aug 22 at 23:33
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    @Ryan_L Well, not if they support the take-over. Also this supposed take-over was in the 30s with fewer guns around. – liftarn Aug 23 at 8:27

From a worldbuilding point of view, there are lots of possible answers. Many people have already pointed out that a 4 man patrol will be more difficult to subvert and also provide some degree of security against the security forces themselves becoming disloyal.

I will add some slightly different approaches.

1) Full Employment. Although not stated explicitly in the OP, the 1930 time frame for the takeover implies that the "Crash of '29" and the start fo the Great Depression may have been a large factor in the overthrow of the Republican government of the United States. Dictators still need at least the passive support of the population, so rapidly building up police forces (indeed multiple and overlapping police forces for the prevention of any force becoming too powerful) will take large numbers of unemployed men off the streets and put them in positions of authority and certain prestige. Full employment can be claimed by the government as one of their achievements. How they deal with railroads is up to the writer......

2) Corruption. Sad to say, but Socialist governments of all kinds (Fascist, National Socialist, Communist) are terrible at allocating resources and running fully functional and productive economies. In the past, and even to some extent in the present, this can be glossed over by becoming a predatory economy. If there are wars going on in Canada and Mexico to seize resources I would not be surprised. Predatory trade and lending practices, would be more subtle ways of achieving similar results. Since the internal economy is likely broken, the police may have to "supplement" their wages by leaning on small businesses, petty criminals and other marks. A group of four police turning up in your shop once a month to "request" contributions to the benevolent fund (cash only, please) is going to be a bit harder to reject than just one or two. The police may also have competition in this area, so four policemen might ensure that other local gangs simply don't have enough "muscle" to interfere or poach the policeman's territory.

3) Safety in numbers. Since the setup was pretty terrible (stock market crash and a Great Depression), and the present likely sucks as well (a predatory Socialist government which makes grandiose boasts but barely feeds the population), so being a symbol of authority and oppression is dangerous. Beat cops are likely targets of rebels, criminal gangs or even shop owners driven to desperation. There may also be rival police or security forces looking for ways to expand their power and territory as well. In this dangerous environment, going out alone or in pairs is just inviting disaster. Four men fit into a squad car with relative ease, and can provide the 360 degree coverage, man and if needed firepower to deal with most threats. Two cars together can bring up the equivalent to a squad, and so on if more power is needed.

So the new government's desire to fully employ people to minimize the effects of the Depression starts the cycle, and the need to survive in a poor and dangerous environment perpetuates this.

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    I like your points, but would just like to note that a totalitarian state seems to usually stamp out small scale gangsters quite effectively. The population usually has only one thing to fear - the government. Any competition for violence would be shot in the head and still owe the State 2 centrs for the bullet. – Gnudiff Aug 21 at 6:48
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    @Gnudiff - 'stamp out small scale gangsters' might be semantics - totalitarian regimes tend to bring those individuals into the fold while institutionalizing the crime... – bukwyrm Aug 22 at 13:44
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    @bukwyrm it depends probably. While it was frequent for early Soviet Union to allow criminals into the ranks of its security forces and army, many of them were cleaned during the early purges, and while the state itself was perpetrating crimes, it was definitely not disposed to accept criminals into its forces after it had established itself. – Gnudiff Aug 22 at 14:49
  • @Gnudiff - Nazi Germany did the same thing. My point is that after the system is established, 'small crime' becomes institutionalized. The system is criminal, so the criminals may be law-abiding. I fully endorse your first comment, just wanted to nitpick on your formulation. – bukwyrm Aug 23 at 7:16

History

Once upon a time, it would be a cop and his or her partner. Two in a squad car, two walking the beat. That was before radios became available, when police had at best a whistle and some fixed call boxes.

Then your bad guys came to power, and the party found it necessary to augment the two career cops with two party militia. This was an uneasy partnership, with the career cops looking down on the thugs and the party militia looking down on the remnants of the old regime.

  • It was not seen as politically expedient to break the old teams and partner each career cop with a party loyalist. Many cops had voted for the party, even if they were not in the party militia. A bad idea to "punish" them by breaking teams.
  • Those party militia were good at bashing heads, but they were not trained cops. They could not file a traffic accident report, or secure a crime scene, or tell the speed limit for a 50-passenger bus with an 1-axle trailer. They could not replace the second career cop.
  • Back then, it was a good idea to have more manpower, to counter the Communist party fighters on the streets.

These days the career cops are all indoctrinated in party values from preschool or earlier, so the party militia is no longer needed to check on them day-to-day.

  • The party militia still exists, for various reasons. So you have to find things of them to do and demonstrate their loyalty. (Do you remember Kurt Waldheim, former chancellor of Austria. He joined the SA equestrian corps.)
  • As weekend warriors, the party militia are still not effective enough to repace one professional cop in the team.

Of course this reasoning depends on numbers. I'm basically arguing that the regime can afford the "normal" number of career cops and match that with an equal number of political appointees.

  • A world where Motorola doesn't exist to be out run from, +1 – Mazura Aug 21 at 17:34
  • @Mazura, I expect they have compact handheld radios by now. The second group of bullet points explains why the 2+2 patrols remain. – o.m. Aug 21 at 20:35

In Aviation, the Finger Four is a favoured formation. In a typical military squad - there is also a popular four-man squad (or Fireteam as is called).

This is because of flexibility to enable you to counter situations which are unknown, but allow you to quickly react, group and make formation with little notice and no backup. For instance (numbers denote rank):

  • you could have 1 leader and 3 subordinates (1,2,2,2) to engage an equal force, OR
  • you could have two squads of two, each with its own leader (1,3+2,4)- useful in an engagement where you need coordination between two groups, OR
  • you could split into two independent groups, one to get backup or engage another group (1,3 / 1,4) OR
  • you could have a main group of 3, and a diversionary or flanking group of one (1,3,3 + 2)

This has been tried and tested and for patrols far from base, has been a popular choice.

A Finger Four formation

A Finger Four formation patrol.

A Fireteam A Fireteam patrol.

For your enforcement patrols, 4 not only makes sense when venturing far from base and backup, but there is plenty of advantages to doing so because of unknown threats and your flexibility to deal with them.

You don't see it too much in police patrols in the city because you are always close to backup, and resources are often better spread out, and usually they are just suppressing criminal or uncivil behaviour, so pairs is the norm for police.

Economics

In Wizard's First Rule Terry Goodkind posits the Quad as the most economical squad of assassins targeting women who can instill loyalty with a touch. She turns one and he kills one or two of his fellows, leaving the remaining survivor to kill him and the woman. Rarely he kills all three and the mission fails, but the usual outcome is a success.

A similar line of thought exists in your dystopia. If there is a high percentage (real or perceived) of traitors, then patrolling in pairs is ill-advised as the traitor can always kill his partner by ambush. Three is also a dicey proposition, because he can always kill one by ambush leaving a fight between two combat effective soldiers. Given that he'll kill the more dangerous one first the resulting fights would generally be won by traitors.

Four is the most economical unit which guarantees no traitor survives. Killing one squad mate by ambush still leaves the traitor at a 2-1 disadvantage, which is virtually impossible to overcome. In the extremely rare instance where all four members conspire together, one poisons the other three, or the traitor is a ninja and wins a melee you have to send out a larger unit to hunt him down. In every other case you've sent the minimum number of men to start with.

This is simple to explain. If the facist regime is oppressive and does not trust its own people, then it would not be able to trust its own police force. The police would be people too. Even if the regime were to give them special benefits to encourage loyalty, the officer might still have family who were killed/suppressed, or fall in love with a dissident, or feel sympathy for a crying child being torn from his family.

A lone officer is a weak link. Not only are they more likely to be bribed or corrupted by their own greed/impulses, but they are more likely to be turned against their superiors as they witness the horrors inflicted on the populace first hand. Unlike regular citizens, they cant be shielded from the truth. They are the ones who actually have to do the suppression. Unless the regime exclusively recruits sadistic psychopaths, they will have to watch their police force just as closely as they watch their citizenry.

A pair of partners working together can easily bond and become trusted friends. Or, as the regime would put it, 'co-conspirators'.

But four random officers? The chances of maintaining a secret decrease exponentially with the more people who know it. Someone will question themselves. Someone will alert their superiors. None of the officers will be able to trust the others, knowing that one of their group could be a plant from high command. In this way, even if their loyalty does falter, their fear and compliance is assured.

False representation

In the interest of providing the illusion of diversity, each officer is from one of the "four groups of humanity" as defined by the state. Any complaints of discriminatory policing are countered with "How could it be? One of the officers was _____"

  • Clever idea, but you'd need a lot of officers from undesireable races. – RonJohn Aug 21 at 14:15
  • Perhaps given the advances in genetic science since the 1930s, discrimination is now more tightly focused on particular genetic markers not on race indicators. All police officers, of course, would be selected from the 'genetically pure' population. – Upir998-a14 Aug 21 at 14:21
  • I'm not so sure that fascists are that nuanced. Or scientifically aware. – RonJohn Aug 21 at 14:24

New recruits

Being in the police force with unhappy citizens has a high rate of mortality, and, as with a typical dystopian society, there are plenty of "transfers" (who all coincidentally go somewhere where they're unable to be contacted...).

Naturally this means a large portion of the force would be new recruits.

One veteran and one or two trainees would mean just one person who knows what they're doing, which is risky.

Two veterans and one trainee would mean there aren't enough veterans for all the trainees.

Thus four is the smallest reasonable team - two veterans and two trainees gives you a reasonable amount of safety and is a good mix of experience.

Other than the points mentioned above regarding 4 persons keeping an eye on each other to prevent subversion, there could be a consideration regarding the role of each in the group. It would make sense that a group of 4 would need a senior member that has been with the party the longest and is proven loyal, a person that knows every law and has had all sympathy lost over time. It could also be interesting if the group served as a court in some way. The senior member the judge, one working as prosecution, one defense (a complete joke, of course), and one to mete out punishment. The party themselves could brag about how they don't need expensive prisons.

With four officers you can cover the four points of the compass while on the move with some overlap for a comprehensive and secure coverage: front, back, left and right. That's being able to deal with extreme danger on the move.

  • How do they cover the "south", unless someone literally has eyes in the back of his head (and isn't wearing a helmet)? – RonJohn Aug 21 at 1:12
  • @RonJohn "South" can walk backward like somebody giving a college tour. – ohwilleke Aug 22 at 1:18

The government doesn't trust UFS Police so they rely on group mentality that will cause any other three police to kill or tell on any one of their number who steps out of line. The Chinese Communist Party doesn't trust its military so their officers have to do dogma indoctrination sessions every week and has them in large groups. Your fascist government wouldn't trust anyone.

There is no radio or similar communication technology. In addition -- as other answers have asserted -- it is too dangerous for one patrolman to be alone. Thus, when an incident occurs, two patrolmen stay behind to deal with the situation and two run together to get help.

Safety in numbers. No need to have any other explanation more than "a bigger group can handle bigger threats."

As a bonus, a dissenter being rounded up by four officers in swat gear looks a hell of a lot more intimidating than just two.

The number 4 is somehow significant ideologically. Perhaps the semiotics (flags etc) of the government features patterns of 4. As particular numbers are significant is the semiotics of various religions.

  • Interesting idea – KPM Sep 17 at 7:42

The classic number, from the era of the USSR, is three:

  • one who can read
  • one who can write
  • one to keep an eye on the two suspicious individuals

You could wink at that and extend it.

They are two married pairs.

A pair can look out for each other and be a strong team but partners risk becoming committed to each other at the expense of the mission. Go ahead and let the pair be committed to each other: they are married. If there are two pairs, even if individuals in the one pair decide to go rogue the other pair will call them out.

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    Fascist states are typically very sexist. "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" and whatnot. Thus, this seems a very unlikely scenario. – RonJohn Aug 21 at 1:14
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    Dictatorship are sexist yes but have lots of females that they treat badly. North Korea and China have lots of women in military and police- it is a step up from grinding poverty to slightly better status and massive sexual harassment. – user2617804 Aug 21 at 3:38
  • @RonJohn - you do not have to have females if you don't want. You can have the married pair be whatever genders works for the story. – Willk Aug 21 at 12:03
  • @user2617804 this country is explicitly the fascist form of dictatorship. – RonJohn Aug 21 at 12:16
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    Siblings, then. 2 pairs of siblings. How are fascist states for siblings? – Willk Aug 21 at 15:31

Here's an opportunity to flesh out your fascists a bit.

If you look at fascist movements, there is always some counterfactual belief element in them, which serves as both a test of loyalty and as a non-innate distinguishing element between members and the out-group to serve as fig leaf while the "humans have different value" narrative is not yet strongly enough established. The Trump movement will, for now, accept black people as long as they believe that global warming isn't man-made (and because of that, the movement itself is very obviously not racist, and anyone suggesting otherwise is the true racist).

Your fascists seem to have already taken power though, and started purging based on whatever criteria they see fit — just point at some group, define them as subhuman and get the trains rolling. The original myths used during the establishing phase still remain, though. There is nothing to be gained by cleaning them up, because it would be admitting to have been wrong in the past, and they are still useful for social cohesion occasionally.

So, some occult belief in the early days of the fascist movement established the number four as somewhat lucky. There is a low-hanging fruit, but getting an entirely new element in here will both give your fascists a bit of an origin story, and can also serve to set up some later plot element where the fascists suddenly behave in an unexpected and "illogical" way because of their beliefs.

Local Knowledge

In a post-apocalyptic world, there will be loads of local information. Knowledge of who controls one block and who are friendly to the cops. This can be very difficult to learn and introductions may be required to bring a new cop on-board (meet the mob boss to make good relations). If you just have two people and one leaves, then the one that stays must quickly do a transfer to his new partner when she arrives in case something happens to the veteran of the area. This means the knowledge must be transferred quickly and at times will be held by one individual. Having a team of four can be a magical number that minimizes the risk that knowledge will be lost if something happens to a few members of the team.

Besides injury taking someone out of service, it might be the policy on the force to regularly rotate offices so that they don't get complacent with their team. For example, they may all secretly wish to disobey orders, but the penalties keep them "in the closet." Cycling the ranks can make it so that cops never get comfortable with their team to come out and confess they actually don't want to be doing what they are doing. This cycling can cause local knowledge/power to go down, so having teams of 4 can help the transfer.

One for each limb

Perhaps when they arrest a rebel, the standard way to do so is for each officer to grab a limb and parade them through the streets.

Takes 4 to Cover an Area

Maybe each building is a square, one person goes through the S entrance while the others guard WNE.

  • I like the local knowledge concept. – ohwilleke Aug 22 at 1:17

Honestly, groups of four or six are just about the opposite of what a fascist regime would usually want.

  • One reason to have larger groups is internal controls and preventing officer misconduct. A conspiracy of 2 is easier to form than a conspiracy of 4 or 6. So, this might make sense if the police aren't trusted by their higher ups.

  • Another reason to have groups larger than 2 is that they are outgunned. But, fascist regimes tend to be tightly controlled and never very disorderly so being outgunned shouldn't be an issue. This might make sense in an initial pacification of territory phase, but not in a scenario where control has already been achieved.

  • A big disadvantage of groups of 4 or 6 is that the average distance to the nearest cop is larger because units can only be in half or a third as many places. But, this might make sense if most of the territory is pacified and doesn't need patrolling at all, while other parts of the territory are untamed and need heavy displays of force.

They have different skillsets/responsibilities

The patrol of 4 people isn't just any 4 patrolmen, but instead 1 coordinator, 1 who is responsible for weaponry and 2 volunteers. Or some other mix of roles that require different skills or experience.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

You need two people to patrol, and one minder to ensure that they stay loyal. But how can you be sure the minder stays loyal? With another minder, of course. Needless to say, they watch each other and no one knows who is who.

Compare this picture of the North Korean border. Three North Korean soldiers stand guard: two watching each other, the third looking inward to any North Koreans who might try to escape over the border to South Korea.

North Korean border, as seen from inside

Picture from David Eerdmans~commonswiki. Published under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

Another idea with a historical justification; If the UFS is itself a gestalt, formed from an amalgamation of 4 (military?) powers, then each of the may want a member on each patrol. Something very like this occurred with the international patrol in post war Vienna, as (fictionally) immortalised in the film "The Third Man".

To all said before I would like add other aspects:

Being dystopian, facist and restrictive state, nearly everyone hate the goverment (more or less) but is afraid to say so, as not only him, but all his relatives and friends could suffer for that. Economy is bad (and could not be good, whatever propaganda says).

Crime is officially hard punished and nearly nonexistent, but really "small fries" are usually left to live, as they can be usefull (obtaining prohibited or normally "out of stock" goods and services - from drugs, prostitution and such to foreing magazines, music, electronics, money ... - not only for "elites" but for potentially everyone) and could be forced to bring info to police and incriminate anyone needed (be it true or false accusation). (Goverment knows, that it cannot have all people totally clean and agreeing from heart, so it wants to have everybody "just a little quilty" and agreeing from fear - and also cooperating in "inteligence/big brother" activities incriminating other to avoid being acused personally - "we know, that you are quilty and you know it too, but prove us, that you are loayal, and we may close eye on you just for today..." - or, if he is not wanted "big criminal was found guilty under paragraph ... and ... and is sentenced to ... and our police have another big victory" )

Police is govermental force and is feared and hated, so there must be a lot of police to have power to suppress visible unrest. And being hated and uderfunded, police can have lot of under-average man/women (where just food and power over civil is sufficient to keep them) but just few above-average (who usually have else better choise or are too individually strong to be reliable and usable - except psychopats, ofc.) And goverment also does not trust police-persons, while it needs big police anyway.

So typical policeman is undertrained, not much educated and politically untrustable, but in big armor and with big batton/gun to be feared as long, as there is with police, in group, but simply crushable, when it goes away. (No Rambo, because it he leaves police and turn sides, he must be destroed fast, by other untrained policeman and could not be self-reliable, nor helped by public).

And so there is need "big group" of policemen to be able overpower say two manually working drunks with muscles and little pub-fighting experience.

(Two drunks are not "mass resistence" so police patrol should be able take them down. Four can be called "organized crime group" or so and more patrols can be called without looking too weak).

So as two drunks are just too few to make group, they could be real risc to only two or three underaverage policeman and it is not acceptable, as police MUST look as strong. So there must be at least four in patroll, in big bad-ass black armor and helmets and such.

And ofc. four can be rotated and kept from conspirating as mentioned all around.

(Goverment have trained squads of real professionals but they are expensive to maintain and keep loyal so it is not street patrol material. There is few uninits in each city and they fight the real crime. And they are also not trusted and so there are few really elite units in each state, even more expensive and even more rare to see and more feared - mostly talked about as matter of urban legends, then as pure mortals)

A response of fours allows actually for a lower grade of force to be used to make effective any action, such as observation, arrest, detention. If one person must make an arrest and the person being arrested resists then the arresting officer must use much force, if there are four they each only exert a small amount of force. Use of appropriate force is usually covered under law which usually defines that the smallest amount of force necessary to make the action effective (whether it is an arrest, detainment, removal, etc.) is lawful.

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