A police state describes a state where its government institutions exercise an extreme level of control over civil society and liberties. There is typically little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive, and the deployment of internal security and police forces play a heightened role in governance. A police state is a characteristic of authoritarian, totalitarian or illiberal regimes (contrary to a liberal democratic regime). Such governments are typically one-party states, but police-state-level control may emerge in multi-party systems as well.
Originally, a police state was a state regulated by a civil administration, but since the beginning of the 20th century it has "taken on an emotional and derogatory meaning" by describing an undesirable state of living characterized by the overbearing presence of civil authorities. The inhabitants of a police state may experience restrictions on their mobility, or on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force that operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state. Robert von Mohl, who first introduced the rule of law to German jurisprudence, contrasted the Rechtsstaat ("legal" or "constitutional" state) with the anti-aristocratic Polizeistaat ("police state").
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase "police state" back to 1851, when it was used in reference to the use of a national police force to maintain order in the Austrian Empire. The German term Polizeistaat came into English usage in the 1930s with reference to totalitarian governments that had begun to emerge in Europe.
Because there are different political perspectives as to what an appropriate balance is between individual freedom and national security, there are no objective standards defining a police state. This concept can be viewed as a balance or scale. Along this spectrum, any law that has the effect of removing liberty is seen as moving towards a police state while any law that limits government oversight of the populace is seen as moving towards a free state.
An electronic police state is one in which the government aggressively uses electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.
Oprichnina was originally a band of faithful servants organized by Ivan IV into a police force; they were used by the tsar to crush not only all boyars (Russian nobility) under suspicion, but also the Russian princes [...]. Oprichnina enabled the tsars to build the first police state in modem history.
[Ivan IV] established a political security force to run the Oprichina[sic], whose task was to spy on his enemies and destroy them; hence Ivan may be regarded as the inventor of the police state.