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The Secret Police is an option only the ruler of a realm has. It can be used against suspected rebels within the realm, or other "shadow creatures".
The advantage of the secret police is that it is reliable, in the sense that contrary to player characters you can be sure your agents do not intentionally lie to you. The secret police are NOT infallible--they may mistake a book club for a gathering of conspirators. The disadvantage is the very limited set of options available. A few trustworthy infiltrators, diplomats or generally players have more available means.