Standards of Police Rank Insignia

Written by lisa huston
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Standards of Police Rank Insignia
Three stripes on a patch are commonly worn by police sergeants. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Police agencies across the country follow the ranking structure of the United States military. In police departments, supervisors wear similar military insignias to identify their level of authority. This standard for rank is almost universal among law enforcement agencies, yet the colours and types of insignia worn can vary for each agency under its approved directive order.

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Silver or Gold Stars

One to five silver or gold stars may be worn on the shirt collar. These stars signal ranks ranging from police chief to commanders, such as a deputy chief or assistant chief. The number of stars for rank depends on the department. Larger police departments use up to a four-star insignia. A deputy or assistant chief typically wears two or three stars, always less stars than a chief. However, a five-star insignia rarely is used.

Silver or Gold Eagle

The military colonel insignia of an eagle is used in some police and sheriff's departments. Top commanders, such as sheriff's deputies, who perform various functions within a department might wear an eagle on the shirt collar. The department's directive dictates whether an eagle worn is silver or gold.

Gold or Silver Leaf

A gold or silver leaf worn on the collar by majors in the military also is worn by some top police commanders and executive officers depending on the department's directive and structure.

Silver and Gold Bars

Bars on a shirt collar are worn by lieutenants and captains in police departments. A department's directives outline the approved colour and number of bars worn. Typically, one or two are worn. In police departments where the captain is first in the line of command, two bars are worn.


Stripes on the uniform sleeve also appear throughout law enforcment agencies. Three chevron stripes are worn by police sergeants. Agencies with more ranks than sergeant sport variations such as a rocker, or chevron stripes on the bottom of the insignia. Two chevron stripes are worn by police corporals and master officers who have a higher level of law enforcement training and experience. One chevron stripe with the letters "FTO" in the rocker are worn by field training officers.

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