In this setting, magic and the supernatural is real and acknowledged by wider society. Magic is a relatively rare ability; while it is still an issue to think about, it is too rare to expect all police forces to have a magic-using officer

The most common form of magic is inherent magic, which takes the form of specific abilities either as a natural power or as a tuned magical tool. There is also spell-casting, which is where magic is projected by the user for a wide variety of purposes. This skill must be learned, and is aided by special tools such as wands (though it does not require them)

Known magic rarely gets more powerful than a truck engine, and is usually towards the lower end of the spectrum. However, it can be used in a wide variety of ways

Magical powers, when in use, emit some energy as a form of radiation, which interacts with certain materials and can be detected by special tools. Inactive powers can also be detected, but such sensitive detectors are extremely expensive

Other than the magic, the world is much like our modern world, with similar technologies and cultures

How would the police handle magic in this world?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ how is this really different then the idea people might be concealing guns or knives. why would standard procedures of de-escalation followed by tasers or guns not be enough? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 15, 2022 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @John Knives and guns are easier to detect when concealed compared to the magic $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2022 at 22:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What sort of magic effects are being produced? Are we talking magic missiles, Charming/putting people to sleep, power word kill? Are there magics like divination and teleporting possible (robbing banks the easy way)? What is the level of danger the typical criminal caster is going to be threatening the police with? $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2022 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest to replace the words "magic users" in the title question by "magic" or "criminals using magic". $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 15, 2022 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ Anti-magic items? Rune-scribed body-armor maybe? $\endgroup$
    – pinegulf
    Mar 16, 2022 at 11:14

7 Answers 7


There are a few assumptions here, and I'll try to note them (and will update if comments point out ones I miss). Primarily, I'm going to use the perspective of a developed, relatively wealthy nation. I also assume that magic is, for the most part, legal (like personal gun ownership in many countries).


You mention that the world is otherwise "much like our modern world", so a robust government system that can test and license magic users would exist. This licensing would identify ability level and skill, much like different driver's licenses for different vehicle types. In order to gain "magical" employment, you must be licensed. Since it's a rare skill, many people born with the skill will get licensed (and take courses/testing) to open economic opportunity. Enforcement would include a requirement to produce your license in various situations, including during investigations where the police may show up at your door; failure to comply may speak for itself depending on the society. This leads us to...


If magic emits radiation, and magical skills differ, I assume there is a magical fingerprint. This may be unique to an individual, or at least not universal. This would allow associating a usage to an individual. If licensing is in place, the gov would have that fingerprint on file. If fingerprints are general, the license would identify the magic users' various skills, and allow searching by fingerprint type.

Magical societies/rights groups

Much like there is MENSA and such, I'm sure there'd be magical societies. With magic being rare, I'm sure these societies would have a vested interest in keeping magic in a positive public light, meaning they'd work with police to suss out a criminal. This can also manifest as magical rights groups that advocate for the rights and place of magic users within society.


Assuming magic can be detected, I'll make a very large assumption it can be suppressed (ie. anti-magic effects). While these would be expensive, rich governments/corps/individuals would implement the solution for highly sensitive areas. This could be remote or local (that is, area devices or worn devices). Magical prisons would also be outfitted with these devices, and located in areas with low risk of escape due to location (try swimming from Easter Island, or walking from the South Pole to civilization). Others have already mentioned SWAT (MWAT?) so I won't retread that.

Legal structure

There would definitely be laws surrounding the use of magic in general society concerning contracts, public safety, legal proceedings, intelligence, etc. As others have mentioned, these would be followed by most people. Minimum sentences, or entirely unique laws, would exist for things like "Assault with a magical act". However, just like in the real world, 3-letter gov agencies would have special carve outs exempting them from the laws, and those agencies and govs would have the best stuff (as others have mentioned). As such, magic users (criminal or otherwise) would have their own concerns for safety, with fear keeping them on the straight and narrow.


Most of this deals with law-abiding citizens, and that is because most laws assume lawfulness. You cannot legislate people to not be criminals; you can only define what is a criminal. In that case, look to the law enforcement trends around weapons, cults, mafias, extremist groups, and such for further inspiration of how to deal with powerful criminals.


The police can detect it, and unless all magic somehow protects the magician from bullets, nets, tear gas, etc, they will deal with the magicians like any other armed criminal. Perhaps they have their own magic protections, like police have bullet proof vests and helmets.

And in extreme circumstances, the police DO have specialist magicians with special powers to defeat other magic. Much like the military has special forces, an elite squad of the 1% that are the best, from outright assassination to disabling and capture.

Just because magicians can be criminals does not mean they always are criminals. IRL many highly intelligent people have the skills to be good criminals, but are born with empathy and don't want to be criminals. IRL the police detectives that investigate murder really do know how to get away with murder, but they don't use that knowledge because they are not the type of person emotionally capable of murder as a tool to get ahead. Same here, magicians that could be criminals choose instead to use their powers to stop the worst of the criminal magicians.

  • $\begingroup$ The magic doesn't always require specific tools, unlike real armed attacks which require a physical weapon that can be taken away. How would they deal with that issue? $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2022 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ They would deal with that issue the same way they deal with a fist fight, pull guns and threaten to shoot if the perpretrator does not surrender. And as far as the police are concerned, any illegal action by any means is an illegal threat of harm or an assault. Magic itself is the weapon, just like a black belt Kung Fu artist is a weapon. Refrain from using magic immediately and surrender or we will tase you, or shoot you, with a tranquilizer dart or bullets, depending on the case. Or multiple cops tackle them, wrestle them to the ground and restrain them. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Mar 15, 2022 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Icthys King Special magical forces. Come quietly, or you will be dealing with our specially trained sorcerers. Like SWAT teams, but trained and capable with magic not firearms. More generally, make up your own rules. Magic runes. Or the "can't magic Iron" trope and steel-plate cells.. Or +10 spells of magic suppression. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Mar 16, 2022 at 12:02

Hmm personnel shortage and lack of funds.. sounds realistic !

One, or a combination of the following options:

Option 1: Safe houses

There are magic techniques to make sure certain places are protected. Specialists take care of that. When a person is threatened by wizards, he/she is moved into such a place


A safe house can also be used to jail a wizard. Once dragged into a magic circle, the wizard will loose all magic abilities and not be able to escape.

Option 2: Police have good intent, that will weaken the wizard

Police folks are trained to perceive wizards as patients that must be helped, so they have good intent toward the wizard. Wizards need their victims to resist and be afraid, else their evil magic won't work.

Option 3: The most powerful wizards work for the police

Magic is hierarchical.. stronger magic will always prevail. When police encounters a hostile wizard, they call a specialist, who can solve the issue remotely. Wizard becomes paralyzed on the spot and can be arrested. Detection works in a similar way. When called, the specialist will use his talents to remotely sense magic danger threatening the caller.


If the Police must protect themselves, the world would at large must be prepared as well

As mentioned by @amadeus Police would need to develop tactics much like they do in reality for people with the tools to cast "long range hole poke" from their guns. Unless the magic makes them immune to bullets, then we've gotta escalate and call in the casters much like we would a swat team or helicopter.

Beyond that though, the world would have to adjust in some ways as well. Some countries may have a gun registry system today, much like a magic user registry could be enforced in some regions. There may be teams of operatives and magic sensitives who's sole duty is to patrol areas of high population to sniff these users out if they aren't registered, where some regions may be bastions of free magic use so long as it's used for good purposes.

Much like a police radar, a magic user radar can be built, either to trace a path of residual magic toward a caster's location or to identify the properties of the magic cast for forensics. We too have DNA labs etc, but typically go unused for common criminal activity, or isn't required to be used to solve the case. Higher profile magic badness would attract this sort of attention though.

What are they protecting themselves from?

What sort of magical limits exist? Does Divination magic exist to remotely locate people and objects? Could a construct be built to alter a persons ability to use magic?

In public buildings like banks, courthouses, and schools, there are signs to remove weapons before entering. Is it possible that places such as the white house would have a consistent Anti-Magic field cast over it to prevent magic assassinations or possessions from afar?

Can a caster remotely kill a person, or multiple if they were powerful enough? If a caster could see the Ethereal plane and pluck a police member's soul from their body without danger of being seen, or a fair number of other scenarios, specific an specialty equipment may need to be developed to protect the common non-magic user from such magic harm.

  • A magic jammer to stop divination intrusions.
  • Daily Protection spells given throughout the day by police casters.
  • Concentration breakers during conflicts to make it harder to cast spells.
  • Materials for armor that don't conduct heat or electricity. Innately magic resistant materials would be valuable for this.
  • Specific gags or handcuffs to prevent captives from casting.
  • Protocols for police magic usage, standard loadouts of spells etc.
  • Casters may have specific magic auras or fingerprints that can be tracked.

While there are a lot more good people than bad, there are plenty of bad

Some areas may become outlaw havens that don't mind the expense of life for power. Magical super weapons may be developed if left unchecked. Specialist teams made of multiple organizations may need to work together to keep this possibility from becoming inevitable.

On the streets, people are mugged, just like magic could be used to intimidate, even if only a false threat that a supposed caster could put you to sleep or injure you.

Would Vigilante casters form guilds to help protect their cities perhaps? If magic could be taught, it may become a typical school subject as computer use is now to us. You wouldn't want to be the only one unable to protect yourself or build a profitable skill set from magic. This could help level the field somewhat but it sounds cost prohibitive currently.


If magic is as flexible as you're indicating, along with being such a rare gift, then it is probably possible for anyone with the gift to get a rather high-paying job at any number of places that has uses for it. That means that there is a low chance of magic being used for petty crimes, as the risk-reward just isn't worth it. On the other hand, it will probably be used for big crimes fairly regularly. No point in using teleportation spells to steal bills out of wallets (since you can get paid more just getting a job), but stealing stacks of them out of bank vaults would still be attractive to some. Not to mention smuggling drugs past border guards.

It is very rare for someone to commit crimes for the sake of commiting crimes (the exception being certain violent crimes). The majority of crime is about obtaining money, and are commited because the crimes pay a lot more than work (it's like stock markets; high risk means high payout if you win). As long as anyone with the gift of magic can get rich in a legal manner, most will choose to do so simply to avoid the risk. And those that don't, they are those that want to go "big or nothing" and they will try to rob a bank or something on that scale, not petty crimes.


Common sense, police tactics.

Police have to deal with every kind of stuff. Weapons. Wild animals. People acting up. People trying to get away with things. Buildings trying to fall down. Toxins. Fires. Fires with toxins. Accidents with dangerous machines. Sick animals. Drunk people. Big holes that open in the ground. And stuff that is not dangerous but people think it might be, or are not sure because it is weird.

So add magic to the list. The police will ease into things and keep eyes open. They will keep themselves safe and keep people safe. They will assess threats and deal appropriately, most of the time, more or less. It is what police do.

I must say that along the way I hope for some demon summoning magic malefactor with starry robes and tall pointy hat to get a taser to the junk and then some pepper spray. Maybe he will accidentally summon the demon "WOOOAAAGGGGHHH! cough cough ".


Magic triggered guns

The police can’t recognize when someone has magic, but they can recognize when someone uses magic. You can attach to your gun a highly directional sensor that when tripped the specific radiation of a certain intensity only found by using magic at under 10 meters will fire the gun in “magic mode”. You would still have fire and safety, but magic users will be a lot less likely to try and get the drop on you if they know using magic means you get off the first shot. The gun would pose no harm to civilians, since they don’t emit that radiation, and the sensor is directional. This is a bit of an extreme example but if your goal is escalation, not de-escalation, then this works.


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