Proper Display of Law Enforcement Rank Insignia

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In general, police rank insignias mirror those of the U.S. Army. Some variations with certain police departments exist, but most use the same insignias for ranks. In the military and in police departments, the rank structure is intended to designate command, supervisory and management positions.

1 Significance

Rank insignias usually designate the ranks of corporal or detective, sergeant, lieutenant, commander, assistant chiefs and chiefs of police and captain.

2 Function

Proper display of rank insignia and the particular designations may vary somewhat according to department. For example, in Austin, Texas, the rules are that two-stripe sleeve chevrons indicating corporal rank are worn centered on sleeve five and 1/2 inches below the shoulder seam. The three-stripe sleeve chevron indicating sergeant are worn similarly. Insignias for higher ranks are worn one inch from the collar. Service bars, one bar representing four years of service, are worn on the left sleeve four inches from the end of the sleeve.

3 Considerations

While there is no universal system for police rank insignia, certain general guidelines exist. For instance, a lieutenant is indicated by a bar of either gold or silver depending on the department. If the department has both, the silver indicates higher rank. With stars, if the chief of police wears a star, then stars appear on no other uniforms. However, if the chief has four stars, other top commanders may display three stars, for instance.

Katlyn Joy has been a freelance writer since 1982. She graduated from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville with a master's degree in writing. While in school she served as graduate assistant editor of "Drumvoices Revue" magazine.