Rank: Who’s The Boss?

Rank: Who's the Boss


How do officers know, at a glance, when they’re addressing a ranking officer from another department? Well, the answer is as clear as everything else pertaining to law enforcement – it depends. Police departments use many symbols of rank designation. Some department supervisors wear white shirts (some departments issue white shirts to all officers), while others issue gold badges to their higher-ranking officers. But the easiest way to tell an officer’s rank is to look at his collar insignia. Each pin is a representation of that officer’s rank.

Collar insignias beginning with the top ranking officer (chief).


An eagle (birds) on each collar – Colonel, or Chief (some chiefs prefer to be addressed as Colonel).


Oak leaf on each collar – Major


Two bars on each collar – Captain


One bar on each collar – Lieutenant


Three stripes – Sergeant


Two stripes – Corporal


Chevron, or single stripe – Private, or line officer

* An officer without a collar insignia is normally a private.

Other pins and medals worn by officers may include (from top to bottom):

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

– FTO pin issued by the state of Virginia.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place. The clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officers skin.


Sheriffs and chiefs may also wear a series of stars to indicate their rank.

The Bulletin Board

– The 200 word short story contest is now closed. We’ve received tons of excellent entries. In fact, the response was overwhelming. Good luck to you all!

– Police officers in New York (Suffolk) rescued a 70-year-old man from a burning building. One of those officers also saved a drowning man earlier in the month.

– Massachusetts authorities are investigating the abuse of overtime by seven police officers. How much money was involved? The dollar amount is a shocking $80,000 – $100,000 for the first six months of this year.

– Philadelphia police will be holding a memorial service today for Andy, a police dog that was accidentally shot while searching a building for bank robbery suspects.