Inspector is both a police rank and an administrative position, both used in a number of contexts. However, it is not an equivalent rank in each police force.
In Australian police forces, the rank of Inspector is generally the next senior rank from Senior Sergeant and is less senior than a superintendent (in the cases of the Queensland Police and Western Australia Police) or the rank of Chief Inspector in the other Australian police forces. Members holding the rank usually wear an epaulette featuring three silver pips, the same rank badge as a Captain in the army. In addition to the general rank of Inspector, some police forces use other ranks such as Detective Inspector and District Inspector. This is also the same for the New Zealand Police where the Ranks are Constable, Sergeant, Senior Sergeant, Inspector, Superintendent
In Austria a similar scheme was used as in Germany. At some point the police inspector was completely removed from the list of service ranks. The current police service has an inspectors service track with "Inspektor" being the entry level - it is followed by "Revierinspektor" (precinct inspector), "Gruppeninspektor" (group inspector), "Bezirksinspektor" (district inspector), "Abteilungsinspektor" (section inspector), "Kontrollinspektor" (control inspector) and "Chefinspektor" (chief inspector).
In most Canadian police services the rank of Inspector is the first above the Staff Sergeant rank. It is usually immediately below the rank of Superintendent. Senior Inspectors are higher ranking administrative rank in Canada's police forces and are considered to be the first level of senior management. Some larger police services have the Staff Inspector rank, which lies between Inspector and Superintendent.
In the French National Police, inspecteur is a former rank of members of the Command and Management Corps. There were several grades of Inspecteur, with senior detectives holding the various grades of commissaire. See French National Police for current ranks. In the French customs, inspecteur is the first rank of members of the Command and Management Corps.
In contemporary Germany, "Inspektor" is a civil service rank. It is the lowest and therefore the entry rank of the gehobener Dienst (upper service) requiring a degree from a three-year administrative college. The rank is not used in the German police services; there the equivalent of Inspektor is Kommissar. In earlier times the upper service track was called "Inspektorenlaufbahn" (inspectors service track) ranging from "Inspektor", "Oberinspektor" (senior inspector), "Amtmann", "Amtsrat" to "Oberamtsrat" (senior supervisor).
The title is used on many professional areas that require an inspection service, like "Brandinspektor" (fire inspector in the fire department), "Steuerinspektor" (tax inspector in the financial department) or "Bauinspektor" (building inspector in building control) that are in a supervision position of their department. In many administration parts a corresponding position exists like the "Regierungsinspektor" (government inspector on the federal level), "Stadtinspektor"/"Stadtverwaltungsinspektor" (city administration inspector)), "Kreisinspektor"/"Kreisverwaltungsinspektor" (county administration inspector) that serve in supervision of the department.
In some regions the "Inspektor" is a colloquial name for any police officer just like in Austria.
In the Hong Kong Police Force, inspector (including probationary inspector and senior inspector) is the rank senior to station sergeant but junior to chief inspector, leading a sub-unit in day-to-day policing. Rank badge of probationary inspector is one silver pip on his/her epaulette; 2 silver pips for inspector of police; and 2 silver pips and one bar on for senior inspector of police. The epaulettes rank badge of chief inspector is 3 silver pips. The epaulettes of all inspectors do not show their personal identification number. Plain-clothes detective inspectors have the prefix 'detective' identifying them as having been trained in criminal investigation and being part of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) or Organised Crime Triad Bureau (OCTB).
Customs and Excise Department also have inspector ranking but with bronze stars and bars rank badge instead.
In the Indonesian National Police, there are four levels of inspector, which are First Police Inspector (Inspektur Polisi Satu), Senior Police Inspector (Inspektur Polisi Dua), First Police Inspector Adjutant (Ajun Inspektur Polisi Satu), and Second Police Inspector Adjutant (Ajun Inspektur Polisi Dua). Those ranks are below the rank of Police Commissioner Adjutant (Ajun Komisaris Polisi) and above the rank of Chief Police Brigadier (Brigadir Polisi Kepala).
In the Polizia di Stato, the position of Ispettore (Inspector) replaced the rank of Maresciallo after the 1981 reorganization and demilitarization of the corps; an Ispettore is thus a Sergeant of several sorts, above the rank of Sovrintendente (Superintendent, which is somewhat equal to a Senior Corporal) and under the rank of Commissario. There are three four different Inspector ranks in the Polizia di Stato: Vice Ispettore ("Assistant Inspector"), Ispettore ("Inspector"), Ispettore Capo ("Chief Inspector") and Ispettore Superiore ("Special Inspector", or "Superior Inspector"), roughly equivalent to the ranks ranging from Junior Sergeant to Second Lieutenant. A fifth position, called Ispettore Superiore S.U.P.S., where the achronym stands for Sostituto Ufficiale di Pubblica Sicurezza ("Special Inspector - Substitute Public Safety Commissioned Officer"), is used to designate those Inspectors which can act as substitutes to Commissioners in the chain of command under certain situations, or in Police detachments that are too small to require the presence of a Commissioner; when this happens, the officer is named Ispettore Superiore - Sostituto Commissario ("Special Inspector - Substitute Commissioner"). Inspectors can serve either in uniformed patrol duties, plain-clothed patrol duties, or as detectives. The Inspector ranks are the highest that an Italian Police officer can reach without having a University degree.
In Malaysia's police force, the rank Inspector is one step above the Sub-Inspector and one step under Assistant Superintendent. There are three stages: probation inspector (three years probation), inspector and chief inspector. Inspectors are recruited differently from the normal police constable. Their training is also longer. The minimum requirement to join police inspector is a degree.
In the Sri Lanka Police Service, Inspector of Police (IP) is a gazetted officer rank senior to Sub-Inspector and junior to Chief Inspector. In many towns, Inspectors would be the Officer in Charge (OIC) at most police stations. The rank insignia for a Police Inspector is two stars.
Within the British police, inspector is the second supervisory rank. It is senior to that of sergeant, but junior to that of chief inspector. The rank is mostly operational, meaning that inspectors are directly concerned with day-to-day policing. Uniformed inspectors are often responsible for supervising a duty shift made up of constables and sergeants, or act in specialist roles such as supervising road traffic policing.
The rank of inspector has existed since the foundation of the Metropolitan Police, formed in 1829, when it was used to designate the rank immediately below that of superintendent, and many Commonwealth police forces also use the term.
Plain-clothes detective inspectors are equal in rank to their uniformed counterparts, the prefix "detective" identifying them as having been trained in criminal investigation and being part of or attached to their force's Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
The epaulettes of uniformed inspectors, unlike those of constables and sergeants, do not show a divisional or personal identification number. Instead they feature Order of the Bath stars, informally known as "pips", being the same insignia as those of a lieutenant in the British Army.
Newly promoted inspectors currently receive a salary of £46,788 (£48,840 London) rising to £50,751 (£52,818 London).
In the Metropolitan Police, the rank was formerly officially known as Station Inspector to distinguish it from the more senior rank of Sub-Divisional Inspector (abolished in 1949). A Station Inspector wore a single star on his epaulettes until 1936, when this changed to a star over two bars to accommodate the new rank of Junior Station Inspector (wearing a star over one bar).
In the United States, the term inspector can have very different meanings depending on the law enforcement agency.
In terms of specific role, an inspector in a US municipal police department may be analogous to a detective or junior administrative officer, or may be a senior executive officer analogous to a Commonwealth police superintendent or chief superintendent.
In the New York City Police Department, an inspector is a high-ranking executive position, two grades above a Captain, one grade above a Deputy Inspector, and immediately below a Deputy Chief. Inspectors in the NYPD wear the eagle insignia worn by colonels in both the military and the New York State Police, and their rank may be thought of in those terms. In the LAPD, the rank of inspector, one grade above captain, was changed to commander in 1974, because LAPD senior officers preferred the more military-sounding title.
In the San Francisco Police Department, inspector is the normal title for a detective, and the investigative branch of the SFPD is called the Bureau of Inspectors, renamed from the Investigations Bureau.
In the Berkeley, California, Police Department, inspector was once the title used for an investigative supervisor who commanded a specific specialized detail, like Homicide, Robbery, or Property Crimes, within the department's Detective Division. They ranked between sergeants and lieutenants and, on the comparatively rare occasions when they wore uniforms, their rank insignia was identical to that worn by warrant officers in the US Armed Forces. The title has since been phased out, and the duties once performed by inspectors are now performed by detective sergeants.
In the Hayward, California Police Department, the rank of inspector is a civil service rank above a detective and below that of a sergeant.
In the Detroit Police Department, an inspector is the equivalent of a captain in most police forces.
In the Wisconsin State Patrol, and others, inspectors are state troopers assigned to the motor carrier safety inspection unit where they enforce trucking laws and regulations.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation's Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau uses the title of inspector for its sworn state law enforcement agents/investigators. The inspectors of this agency investigate motor vehicle theft, title and odometer frauds, state issued identification and driver's license frauds, as well as regulate and inspect motor vehicle dealerships, repair shops, tow and storage facilities, and emissions and safety inspection centers. The NC DMV License and Theft Bureau is the state's oldest law enforcement agency and was formed in 1921 to combat vehicle theft with the rising sales of Ford's Model T. The agency has kept the title designation of inspector for traditional purposes.
In the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), an inspector is a special agent whose main duty is inspecting local field offices and resident agencies to make sure they are operating efficiently. Since FBI inspectors are not tied to any particular field office, they have, in the past, also been used as trouble-shooting investigators on major cases. Joseph Sullivan was perhaps the best-known of the Bureau's Major Case Inspectors and served as the model for Inspector Lew Erskine, the fictional character played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in the 1965-1974 ABC TV series The FBI. Samuel P. Cowley was an FBI inspector in the late 1920s and 1930s who assisted in bringing down notorious gangsters such as John Dillinger and Lester Gillis (AKA Baby Face Nelson) in the 1930s. Cowley was gunned down in the line of duty during the furious gun battle known as The Battle of Barrington, in which Lester Gillis was also killed.
The United States Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration employ similar positions, but they primarily serve as internal affairs investigators. In the Postal Inspection Service, inspector is the name given to 1811 criminal investigators, better known as special agents in most other federal law enforcement agencies.
In American administrative law, an inspector is an official charged with the duty to issue permits, such as a building inspector or sanitation inspector, and to enforce the relevant regulations and laws. These positions are commonly known as the Fire Inspector or Building Inspector. The duty it act is based on the adopted building or fire code in the municipality. A government agency may also have an Inspector General responsible for preventing internal fraud, waste, abuse and other agency deficiencies.
- "New Police Badges", The Times, 27 June 1936