Some police departments
may use these insignias
for special recognition
such as Master Police
Officer; Police Officer First
Class; Trooper First Class,
etc.  These ranks may, or
may not, carry any
additional authority or
higher pay grade within
the structure.
The rank of corporal is not
universal throughout
police departments.  
However, the rank does
carry supervisory
authority.  The corporal
will normally act as the
squad or unit supervisor
when the sergeant is on
leave or otherwise
The three stripe sergeant
insignia is the most
common sergeant rank
among police
departments.  The
sergeant is normally the
first line of supervision.  
The lieutenant rank is
universal among police
departments.  The
majority of departments
have only one lieutenant
insignia.  Whether the bar
is gold or silver is simply a
matter of choice.  Again, a
few departments may use
both to distinguish rank
with the silver being the
higher rank.
The captain rank is usually
the highest rank earned
through a competitive civil
service process. The
captain is usually the first
line of command.  In some
departments, the captain
may be referred to by
another title such as
The rank of major and
above are all command
ranks, and they are
usually appointed by the
police chief to serve at his
or her pleasure.  Police
officers who achieve these
ranks usually have
considerable political
support from outside the
police department.
There's no standard here.  If you see a
chief of police with one star, you won't
see any other star insignias in that
department.  If the chief wears four
stars, you may see one to three stars on
the collars of some of that department's
other top commanders.
In a small department, the chief can wear
any insignia he or she wants.  In larger
police departments where tradition is
more entrenched, or where changing
insignias would simply cause too much
confusion, the chief may not have as
much latitude.

The next time you're watching the news
where there's a press conference
involving multiple police jurisdictions,
check the insignias of the police chiefs.  
You'll notice that if there's three chiefs,
there may well be three different insignias.
I've only seen the five star insignia a few
times, but I'm sure it's worn by more
than a few police chiefs.  It's almost
always a matter of choice.
I've linked you to pages at the
Department of Defense where you can
view all the officer and enlisted insignias
used by the Army; Navy, Coast Guard;
Marines, and Air Force.
The Relationship Between Police
and Military Rank Insignias
When you see a soldier with no insignia
of rank on his or her uniform, it tells you
that soldier has no authority over
anyone.  It's not that way with a police

Every sworn police officer is vested with
full authority under the law.  Just
because you see no insignia of rank, that
observation should not make you believe
his or her authority is diminished in any
way. The lowest ranking police officer has
exactly the same authority under the law
as does the highest ranking sworn
member of that police department.
"Just because you see no insignia of
rank, that observation should not
make you believe his or her authority
is diminished in any way."
~ Barry M. Baker
Police Rank
of the
You probably won't see
these sergeant insignias
that frequently.  

When you do see them,
they simply indicate
ascending rank by the
number of chevrons on
the bottom of the insignia.

Some state police
agencies, which are more
military oriented, may
utilize these multiple
sergeant ranks.
First Class
of the
First Class
The Stars
This is a really interesting article
describing rank insignias from the
beginning of the Republic to the present.
Identifying Police Rank Insignias
The best way for you to identify rank
insignias used by police departments is
to familiarize yourself with the enlisted
and officer insignias of the United States
Army.  Nearly all police departments use
the same insignias.
Private E2
Police Officer
Rank Insignias
As in the military, the police department
rank structure is designed for
supervisory; management, and command
functions.  In the military, the rank of
corporal through the ascending sergeant
ranks are supervisory functions.  Second
and first lieutenants and captains are
company grade ranks, and they can be
compared to management.  Major
through the colonel ranks are field grade
officers, and they can be compared to
Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
The colonel insignia is popular.  You'll
often see police chiefs wearing this
insignia.  In larger departments where
people are designated as chiefs of
various functions, you'll see more of

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

Search the WEB
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
Recommended reading for
those of you thinking
about becoming a Police
Accurate crime reporting is
so important on so many
levels.  It all begins with
you and your preliminary
police report.
As a police officer, you'll
be writing something
everyday of your police
career.  Everything you put
to writing, no matter how
seemingly inconsequential,
will be important.
While television police
shows and movies are not
normally the best examples
for you to apply to your
police career, they do
sometimes offer some
valuable insights.
The good news is...the
odds of you having to  use
deadly force is low.  The
bad news is...you will be
faced with that decision.