Police ranks of the United Kingdom

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Most of the police forces of the United Kingdom use a standardised set of ranks, with a slight variation in the most senior ranks for the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police.[1][2] Most of the British police ranks that exist today were chosen by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police, enacted under the Metropolitan Police Act 1829. The ranks at that time were deliberately chosen so that they did not correspond with military ranking (with the exception of sergeant), because of fears of a paramilitary force.

Rank insignia[edit]

Badges of rank are usually worn on the epaulettes. However, when in their formal uniform sergeants wear their rank insignia on their upper sleeves.[1][2] When police tunics had closed collars (not open collars as worn with ties), constables and sergeants did not wear epaulettes but had their divisional call number on their collar (hence they are still often referred to as collar numbers). Sergeants wore their stripes on their upper sleeve. Inspectors and more senior ranks wore epaulettes at a much earlier stage, although they once wore their rank insignia on their collars. Most forces no longer use divisional call numbers, and retain only the collar number and rank insignia.

Great Britain[edit]

Senior officers usually wear distinguishing marks around the outer edge of the peaks of their caps (or under the capbadge for female officers, who do not wear peaked caps). Normally this is a raised black band for inspectors and chief inspectors, a silver (gold in the City of London Police) band for superintendents and chief superintendents, and a row of silver oak leaves for chief officers. Chief constables, the Commissioner of the City of London Police, and all commissioner ranks of the Metropolitan Police wear oakleaves on both the outer and inner edges of their peaks (or a double row beneath the capbadge for female officers). In Scotland, however, the mark is a silver band for inspectors and chief inspectors, a silver band and silver oakleaves on the outer and inner edges of the peak respectively for superintendents and chief superintendents, and silver oakleaves on the outer and inner edges of the peak for all chief officers.

Additionally, officers at or above the rank of commander or assistant chief constable wear gorget patches on the collars of their tunics. The gorget patches are patterned after those worn by general officers of the British Army and Royal Marines; the police versions, however, are of silver on black (gold on black in the City of London Police) rather than gold on red, in keeping with the police uniform colours.

The ranks below are used by all territorial forces in the United Kingdom, and the specialist national forces: the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, and Civil Nuclear Constabulary.[3] Other specialist forces, and those outside of the United Kingdom (including the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar) use the same general system, but often have fewer senior ranks.

Chief constable is the title of the head of each United Kingdom territorial police force except the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police, which are headed by commissioners. Ranks above chief superintendent are usually non-operational management roles, and are often referred to as "chief officer" ranks, but the longer phrase "chief police officer" or similar in legislation is specifically a commissioner or chief constable, a "senior police officer" being their immediate deputy.[4] The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is often considered to be the highest police rank within the United Kingdom,[5] although in reality every chief constable and the two commissioners are supreme over their own forces and are not answerable to any other officer.[citation needed]

Epaulettes are normally black with white sewn on or silver metal insignia, although high-visibility uniforms are often yellow with black insignia.

Epaulette insignia[edit]

Great Britain Police ranks and insignia
Rank Chief constable Deputy chief constable Assistant chief constable Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Epaulette insignia Chief Constable.svg Deputy Chief Constable.svg Assistant Chief Constable.svg CSupt Epaulette.svg Supt.svg CInsp.svg Insp.svg PS Epaulette.svg UK police constable epaulette, 2016.svg

Uniform insignia[edit]

The rank of an officer can be found in varying details of the uniform such as headgear, sleeve patches and tunic collar details.
Insignia on hats and uniforms can vary between forces within the UK and the following tables below will not accurately represent all constabularies within the UK.

Great Britain police formal uniform
Rank Chief constable Deputy chief constable Assistant chief constable Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Commissioner Deputy commissioner Assistant commissioner Deputy assistant commissioner Commander
Uniform insignia PoliceTunic4-SeniorRanks.png PoliceTunic3-MidRanks.png PoliceTunic5-LowRanks.png PoliceTunic2-Sergeant.png PoliceTunic1-Constable.png
Note
  • The epaulettes will change between ranks with the same uniform design
Rank insignia for Great Britain Police officer headwear
Rank Chief constable Deputy chief constable Assistant chief constable Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable Police community support officer
Commissioner Deputy commissioner Assistant commissioner Deputy assistant commissioner Commander
Female patrol PoliceHeadgearFemale8-Highest.png PoliceHeadgearFemale7-Senior.png PoliceHeadgearFemale5-Mid.png PoliceHeadgearFemale3-Constable.png PoliceHeadgearFemale2-PCSOB.png
PoliceHeadgearFemale1-PCSOA.png
Female traffic officer PoliceHeadgearFemale6-MidRPU.png PoliceHeadgearFemale4-ConstableRPU.png
Male foot patrol PoliceHeadgear4-HighestPeakedCap.png PoliceHeadgear3 - PeakedCap3.png PoliceHeadgear3 - PeakedCap2.png PoliceHeadgear2 - PeakedCap1.png PoliceHeadgear1 - BrunswickHelmet.png PoliceHeadgear3 - PCSOCap2.png
PoliceHeadgear3 - PCSOCap1.png
Male mobile patrol PoliceHeadgear2 - PeakedCap1.png
Male traffic officer PoliceHeadgear4-MidRankRoadsPolicingUnit.png PoliceHeadgear3 - RoadTrafficCap.png
Notes
  • Hats worn by inspectors and chief inspectors have raised black bands along the outer edge of the peaks for male officers or black arcs below the cap badges for female officers.
  • All English and Welsh forces retain the custodian helmet and other traditional headwear for ceremonial duties.

British police variations[edit]

City of London Police[edit]
City of London Police ranks
Rank Commissioner Assistant commissioner Commander Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Insignia COLP Commissioner SQ.svg COLP Assistant Commissioner SQ.svg COLP Commander SQ.svg COLP CSupt SQ.svg COLP Supt SQ.svg COLP CInsp SQ.svg COLP Insp SQ.svg COLP PS SQ.svg COLP PC SQ.svg
Note
  • City of London Police insignia are worn on square patches on the upper arm of working dress or on the epaulettes in more formal dress.


City of London Police insignia is gold where that of other forces is silver. For example, rank insignia and collar numbers on epaulettes are gold, as are the bands and oak leaves on the caps of senior officers, and officers of or above the rank of commander wear gold-on-black gorget patches on the collars of their tunics.

The City of London Police also previously had variations for some acting ranks such as sergeant and inspector: acting sergeants wore their chevrons above their divisional letters (or later "CP" for all officers, following the abolition of the force's divisions), whereas substantive sergeants wear them below their collar number. Acting inspectors were denoted by a crown in the place of their divisional letters, whilst keeping their collar number and chevrons.

The City of London Police use a different colour scheme for their police headwear. Instead of the Black and white Sillitoe "tartan" they use Red and White.

Metropolitan Police[edit]
Metropolitan Police ranks
Rank Commissioner Deputy commissioner Assistant commissioner Deputy assistant commissioner Commander Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Epaulette insignia Met Commissioner Eppaulette.svg Met Dep Commissioner Epaulette.svg Met Assistant Commissioner Epaulette.svg Met DAC Epaulette.svg Met Commander Epaulette.svg CSupt Epaulette.svg Supt.svg CInsp.svg Insp.svg Met PS Epaulette.svg Met PC Epaulette.svg

The Metropolitan Police uses different ranks above chief superintendent. The fabric used in the crowns is blue, whereas other police forces use red.

Police Scotland[edit]

Police Scotland headwear is slightly different for the following ranks:[citation needed]

  • Inspectors and chief inspectors wear a hat with a silver band instead of a black one.
  • Superintendents and chief superintendents wear a row of oak leaves within the silver band.
  • Assistant chief constables and deputy chief constables wear two rows of oak leaves.
Merseyside Police[edit]

Merseyside Police inspectors and chief inspectors wear similar hats to superintendents in the diagram above.[citation needed]

Special constabularies insignia[edit]

Special constabulary epaulettes frequently bear the letters SC (with or without a crown above) to differentiate them from regular officers. Within the City of London Special Constabulary is the Honourable Artillery Company Specials; members of this unit wear HAC on the shoulders in addition to other insignia.[6] Senior special constables wear the same markings on their hats as equivalent regular ranks.

Special constabularies using the NPIA approved rank insignia
Constabulary Chief officer Deputy chief officer Special superintendent Special chief inspector Special inspector Special sergeant Special constable Notes
Durham Special Constabulary[7] NPIA SCO.svg NPIA SSupt.svg NPIA SCI.svg NPIA SInsp.svg Durham SSgt.svg Durham SC.svg
  • The Special superintendent is not currently in use.
Hampshire Special Constabulary[8] Rank insignia for Hampshire Constabulary - Special Superintendant.svg Rank insignia for Hampshire Constabulary - Special Chief Inspector.svg Rank insignia for Hampshire Constabulary - Special Inspector.svg Rank insignia for Hampshire Constabulary - Special Sergeant.svg Rank insignia for Hampshire Constabulary - Special Constable.svg
  • Collar numbers begin with a 9
Kent Special Constabulary Kent SCO.png Supt.svg CInsp.svg Wiltshire Insp.svg Kent SSergeant.png Kent SConstable.png
  • The ranks of special constable and special sergeant feature the force emblems.
Merseyside Special Constabulary[9] NPIA SCO.svg NPIA SCI.svg NPIA Special Inspector Insignia NPIA S SGT with crowns 2 prefix.svg NPIA SC.svg
Northamptonshire Special Constabulary[10] Assistant Chief Constable.svg Northamptonshire SInsp.svg Northamptonshire SSgt.svg Durham SC.svg
South Wales Special Constabulary[11] NPIA SCO.svg NPIA SSupt.svg NPIA SInsp.svg NPIA S SGT with crowns 7 prefix.svg SC with crowns 7 prefix.svg
  • South Wales Police issue special constabulary officers with the prefix of 7 for their collar numbers.
South Yorkshire Special Constabulary[12] South Yorks SCO.svg NPIA SCO.svg NPIA SCI.svg NPIA SInsp.svg NPIA S SGT with crowns 7 prefix.svg SC with crowns 7 prefix.svg
Wiltshire Special Constabulary[13] Wiltshire Supt.svg Wiltshire Insp.svg Wiltshire SSgt.svg Wiltshire SC.svg
Gloucestershire Special Constabulary[14] Gloucestershire SCO Proposed.svg Gloucestershire SCInsp Proposed.svg Gloucestershire SInsp Proposed.svg Gloucestershire SSgt Proposed.svg Gloucestershire SC Proposed.svg
  • Proposed new insignia in 2019
City of London Special Constabulary COLP Commander SQ.svg COLP SCSupt SQ.svg COLP SSupt SQ.svg COLP SCInsp SQ.svg COLP SInsp SQ.svg COLP SSGT SQ.svg COLP SC SQ.svg
  • The Honourable Artillery Company special constables wear the letters HAC in addition.
  • The deputy chief officer of the special constabulary rank is named "special chief superintendent".
  • The chief officer of the special constabulary is named "special commander".
Notes
  • Blank spaces in the table indicate that a rank is not used in a force's structure.
  • This table of constabularies is not complete.

There is a large variation in the design of epaulettes used across Great Britain for specials. This has been recognised at national level and as part of the Special Constabulary National Strategy 2018–2023 the structure and insignia is under review with the intention to standardise.[15] Other special constabularies use combinations of bars, half bars, pips, crowns, laurel wreaths, collar numbers, force crests and the SC identity (with or without a crown) to distinguish ranks (and/or role).

Special constabularies using the alternative "bar style" rank insignia
Constabulary Chief officer Deputy chief officer Assistant chief officer Special chief superintendent Special superintendent Special chief inspector Special inspector Special sergeant Special constable Notes
Avon and Somerset Special Constabulary[16] CO.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg A&S SSgt.svg A&S SC.svg
Bedfordshire Special Constabulary[17] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg SSupt with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg SSGT with Crowns no prefix.svg SC with Crowns no prefix.svg
British Transport Police[18] CO.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg SSgt.svg Special Constable rank insignia
Cambridgeshire Special Constabulary[19] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg 2Bars+SC+Crowns.svg SSupt with Crown.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg Cleveland SSgt.svg Cleveland SC.svg
Cheshire Special Constabulary[20] CheshireSCCO.svg CheshireSCSupt.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg Cheshire SSgt.svg Cheshire SC.svg
Cleveland Special Constabulary[21] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg 2Bars+SC+Crowns.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg Cleveland SSgt.svg Cleveland SC.svg
Cumbria Special Constabulary[22] CO.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg A&S SSgt.svg A&S SC.svg
  • All special constable collar numbers start with a 6 or a 7
  • The deputy chief officer rank is currently vacant
  • The chief officer rank is currently vacant
Derbyshire Special Constabulary[23] Derbyshire SInsp.svg Derbyshire SSgt.svg Derbyshire SC.svg
Devon and Cornwall Special Constabulary[24] StaffsCO.svg DandC SSupt.svg StaffsInsp.svg DandC SSgt.svg DandC SC.svg
Dorset Special Constabulary[25] Dorset CO.svg Dorset DCO.svg Dorset Supt.svg Dorset SInsp.svg Dorset SSgt.svg Dorset SC.svg
Dyfed-Powys Special Constabulary[26] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg South Wales SSgt.svg SC with crowns 7 prefix.svg
Essex Special Constabulary[27] DCO.svg SSupt.svg SInsp.svg A&S SSgt.svg A&S SC.svg
Gloucestershire Special Constabulary[28] Gloucestershire SCO.svg Gloucestershire SCI.svg Gloucestershire SInsp.svg Gloucestershire SSgt.svg Gloucestershire SC.svg
Greater Manchester Special Constabulary[29] CO.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg Dorset SSgt.svg Dorset SC.svg
Gwent Special Constabulary[30] CO.svg Gwent SCInsp.svg Gwent SInsp.svg Gwent SSgt.svg Gwent SC.svg
Hertfordshire Special Constabulary[31] CO.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg West Mercia SSgt.svg West Mercia SC.svg
Constabulary Chief officer Deputy chief officer Assistant chief officer Special chief superintendent Special superintendent Special chief inspector Special inspector Special sergeant Special constable Notes
Lancashire Special Constabulary[32] PS Epaulette.svg SInsp.svg Lancashire SSGT.svg Special Constable.svg
  • Regular police sergeant acts as a chief officer
Leicestershire Special Constabulary[33] SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg Leicestershire SSgt.svg Leicestershire SC.svg
  • Special chief inspector acts as special constable lead
Lincolnshire Special Constabulary[34] DandC SSupt.svg StaffsInsp.svg SSgt no crown no prefix.svg SC no crown no prefix.svg
Metropolitan Special Constabulary[35] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg 2Bars+SC+Crowns.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg Met SSgt Epaulette.svg Met SC Epaulette.svg
Norfolk Special Constabulary[36] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg SSupt with Crown.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg South Wales SSgt.svg SC with crowns 7 prefix.svg
Northumbria
Special
Constabulary
[37]
Special Constable.svg
  • Northumbria Special Constabulary abolished its ranks in 2006. All officers hold the rank of special constable, although those who previously held a supervisory rank are entitled to continue wearing their rank insignia.
North Wales Special Constabulary[38] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg NorthWalesSSgt Epaulette.svg NorthWalesSC Epaulette.svg
Nottinghamshire Special Constabulary[39] Notts CO.svg Notts SCInsp.svg Notts SInsp.svg Notts SSgt.svg Notts SC.svg
Police Scotland[40] Special Constable rank insignia
  • Police Scotland do not currently have a rank structure for special constables.
Staffordshire Special Constabulary[41] StaffsCO.svg StaffsDCO.svg StaffsSCI.svg StaffsInsp.svg Staffs SSgt.svg Staffs SC.svg
Suffolk Special Constabulary[42] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg 3Bars+SC+Crowns.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg Suffolk SSgt.svg Suffolk SC.svg
Surrey
Special
Constabulary
CO.svg Special Inspector Surrey.png Surrey SC.svg
Thames Valley Special Constabulary[43] 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg 3Bars+SC+Crowns.svg 2Bars+SC+Crowns.svg SCI with Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg TVP SSGT.svg TVP SC.svg
  • Assistant chief officer is not currently in use
Warwickshire Special Constabulary[44] CO.svg DCO.svg Special Chief Inspector Rank Insignia Special Inspector Rank Insignia Northamptonshire SC.svg Durham SC.svg
West Mercia Special Constabulary[45] CO.svg SSupt.svg SCI.svg SInsp.svg West Mercia SSgt.svg West Mercia SC.svg
West Midlands Special Constabulary[46] West Midlands Chief Officer.svg 4Bars+SC+Crown.svg SInsp with Crown.svg West Midlands SSGT.svg West Midlands SC.svg
West Yorkshire Special Constabulary[47] CInsp.svg West Yorks Senior Section Officer.svg West Yorks Section Officer.svg West Yorks SC.svg
  • The special sergeant is known as a section officer
  • The special inspector is known as a senior section officer
  • A regular chief inspector acts as a chief officer
Constabulary Chief officer Deputy chief officer Assistant chief officer Special chief superintendent Special superintendent Special chief inspector Special inspector Special sergeant Special constable Notes
Notes
  • Blank spaces in the table indicate that a rank is not used in a force's structure.
  • This table of constabularies is not complete.

Northern Ireland[edit]

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), founded in June 1922, was headed by an inspector-general and had a different rank structure until 1 June 1970, when it fully adopted the rank system used elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The RUC was succeeded in November 2001 by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which uses the same ranks, but has a different version of the rank insignia, with the star from the PSNI badge replacing the crown.[48] Unusually, the star is worn below the pip by chief superintendents and by the chief constable, who wears both symbols above his tipstaves. The PSNI has retained the RUC's distinctive inverted (point-up) sergeants' chevrons, worn on the lower sleeve in formal uniform. PSNI officers do not wear the custodian helmet and female officers wear a different hat from other forces.

Epaulette insignia[edit]

The PSNI rank structure and epaulette insignia is the same as the territorial police in Great Britain, except that the crown is replaced with the design from the PSNI badge and sergeants' chevrons are point up. In addition to the epaulettes being a green colour rather than a black, this is to match their green uniforms.

Police Service of Northern Ireland ranks
Rank Chief constable Deputy chief constable Assistant chief constable Chief superintendent Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Epaulette insignia PSNICCEpaulette.png PSNIDCCEpaulette.png PSNIACCEpaulette.png PSNICSuperEpaulette.png PSNISuperEpaulette.png PSNI chief inspector PSNIInspectorEpaulette.png PSNISergeantEpaulette.png PSNIConstableEpaulette.png

Isle of Man Constabulary[edit]

Epaulette insignia[edit]

The Isle of Man police ranks follow the structure of other British police rank structures however it is notably missing the chief superintendent and assistant chief constable ranks within their own structure. The epaulettes for the constables and sergeants also have an addition of the Isle of Man Constabulary logo and motto above their collar numbers.

Isle of Man Police ranks
Rank Chief constable Deputy chief constable Superintendent Chief inspector Inspector Sergeant Constable
Epaulette insignia Isle of Man Police Chief Constable Epaulette Isle of Man Police Deputy Chief Constable Epaulette Isle of Man Police Superintendant Epaulette Isle of Man Police Chief Inspector Epaulette Isle of Man Police Inspector Epaulette Isle of Man Police Sergeant Epaulette Isle of Man Police Constable Epaulette

Miscellaneous police forces[edit]

There are, in the United Kingdom, a number of miscellaneous constabularies. These are not operated, regulated or funded by the Home Office, although they are fully authorised (by Act of Parliament) establishments. In general, they provide the policing for ports, docks, tunnels, or other particular institutions. Although these forces tend to require high standards of training and accountability, which closely mirror those of the Home Office police forces, they are usually much smaller in terms of personnel, and therefore utilise fewer of the 'standard' ranks.

History of police ranks[edit]

All police forces have used a wide variety of ranks to meet their organisational needs, especially the Metropolitan Police Service.[49] Ranks have been created, abolished, amalgamated and sometimes revived during the history of British policing.[50][51][52][53] "MET only" means they are specific for the Metropolitan Police.

Defunct rank insignia[edit]

Out of commission Metropolitan Police rank insignia
Rank Epaulette insignia Year introduced Year removed Years active
War reserve constable[50] WarReserveConstableEpaulette.png 1939 1948 9
Station sergeant[51] Station Sergeant.png 1890 1980 90
Junior station inspector Junior Station Inspector 2nd.png 1936 1949 13
Station inspector Sub Divisional Inspector.png 1880 1936 56
Station inspector Station Inspector.png 1936 1949 13
Sub-divisional inspector Sub Divisional Inspector.png 1880 1922 42
Sub-divisional inspector Uk-police-03.PNG 1922 1941 19
Sub-divisional inspector Uk-police-04.PNG 1941 1949 8
Chief inspector Uk-police-05.PNG ? 1953 ?
Superintendent Uk-police-06.PNG ? 1953 ?
Superintendent grade II Uk-police-05.PNG 1953 1974 21
Superintendent grade I Uk-police-06.PNG 1953 1974 21
Chief constable Uk-police-07.PNG 1886 1946 60
Deputy commander Uk-police-07.PNG 1946 1968 22
Commander Uk-police-08.PNG 1946 1968 22
Deputy commissioner Uk-police-09.PNG 1922 2001 79

Powers[edit]

In law, every member of a police force is a Constable whatever their actual rank, in the sense that officers of any rank have the same powers of arrest. The basic police powers of arrest and search of an ordinary constable are identical to those of a superintendent or chief constable; however certain higher ranks are given administrative powers to authorise certain police actions. In England and Wales, these include the powers to:

  • authorise the continued detention of up to 24 hours of a person arrested for an offence and brought to a police station (granted to sergeants and above at designated police stations),
  • authorise section 18 (1) PACE house searches (granted to inspectors and above), or
  • extend the length of prisoner detention to 36 hours (granted to superintendents),
  • extend the length of bail from a police station to three months (granted to superintendents).[54]

In relation to police officers of the Home Office or territorial police forces of England and Wales, section 30 of the Police Act 1996 states that "a member of a police force shall have all the powers and privileges of a Constable throughout England and Wales and the adjacent United Kingdom waters". Police officers do not need to be on duty to exercise their powers and can act off duty if circumstances require it (technically placing themselves back on duty). Officers from the police forces of Scotland and Northern Ireland and non-territorial special police forces have different jurisdictions. See List of police forces in the United Kingdom for a fuller description of jurisdictions.

Detectives[edit]

Officers holding ranks up to and including chief superintendent who are members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) or Special Branch (and certain other units) have the prefix "detective" before their rank. Due to the nature of their duties, these officers generally wear plain clothes (except for ceremonial purposes) and so do not wear the corresponding rank insignia; however, they still operate within the same structure as their uniformed counterparts.

In the United Kingdom, detective ranks are not superior to those of uniformed officers and a detective has the same powers and authority as a uniformed officer of the same rank. The "detective" prefix designates that the officer has received suitable training and passed related examinations to conduct criminal investigations.[55]

Trainee, temporary and acting ranks[edit]

Constables who are training to become detective constables sometimes bear the title trainee investigator (T/I) or trainee detective constable (T/DC).

The prefix "temporary" before a rank (e.g. temporary detective sergeant, abbreviated T/DS) denotes an officer who has been temporarily promoted to a rank (and so who does actually hold that rank, albeit on a temporary basis), whilst the prefix "acting" (e.g. acting inspector, abbreviated A/Insp) denotes an officer who is performing the role of a higher rank than the one actually held (sometimes informally termed "acting up"). Temporary ranks are often used for set periods (e.g. a six-month appointment to a particular role), whereas acting ranks, although sometimes held for extended periods, are often used for a very short time (e.g. a single shift when additional supervisory officers are required, or to replace an officer on short-term leave).

Under section 107 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (England and Wales only), sergeants and chief inspectors may be designated (by an officer of at least the rank of superintendent) to exercise the powers of an inspector or a superintendent respectively. Such a designation will generally accompany such an officer being given an acting rank, so for most operational purposes there is no difference between substantive, temporary and acting ranks at Inspector and above (although there may be differences as to pay, pensions and insignia). However, under section 36 of that act, only substantive sergeants may be appointed custody officers.

Public order roles and rank insignia[edit]

Officers taking part in public order and public safety (POPS) events and incidents wear colour-coded rank slides to denote command and support roles. Bronze commanders can be of varying ranks and not just chief inspectors as shown below. Tactical advisers can also be of differing ranks, but are most commonly constables or sergeants. It is a requirement under the College of Policing Public Order Manual that all officers, regardless of rank, display an identifying number on their epaulettes. Therefore, ranks such as inspector have collar/warrant numbers displayed on their public order colour-coded epaulettes that they might not have as part of their normal uniform.

UK Police public order roles and insignia[56]
Role PSU commander Serial Inspector Serial sergeant Evidence gathering team Medic Tactical advisor Serial constable
Epaulette Insignia CInsp Bronze Commander with numbers.svg Insp PSU Commander with numbers.svg Sgt Numbers Above.svg Evidence Gathering Team.svg Medic.svg Tactical Advisor.svg UK police constable epaulette, 2016.svg
Variants Sgt Numbers Below.svg EGT with title.svg Medic with title.svg Tactical Advisor with title.svg Tactical Advisor with title POTA.svg

Identification numbers[edit]

All officers have a unique identification number. These are usually referred to as shoulder or collar numbers, referring to the fact that they were once worn on the uniform collar and later on the epaulettes by constables and sergeants. Uniformed officers in many forces still wear them on the epaulettes, but other forces have badges or other ways of displaying their identification numbers. Kent Police, for instance, refers to its numbers as force numbers and officers wear them on a velcro tab on their stab vest or on a badge attached to their shirt or tunic. Officers in all forces of the rank of inspector or above do not usually wear their numbers.

In most forces these identification numbers are simple numbers, with one to five digits.

The Metropolitan Police and Police Scotland, as well as a few other forces, use a letter and number system:

Metropolitan Police:

  • Sergeant: Borough code and one, two or three digits
  • Constable: Borough code and three or four digits
  • Special constable: Borough code and four digits, usually beginning with the number 5 (8 for traffic/transport or 9 for specialist units)
  • PCSO: Borough code and four digits, the first digit being a 7

Police Scotland:

  • Sergeant and constable: Division letter and three or four digits
  • Special constable: Division letter and four digits, the first digit being a 7

In the Metropolitan Police, the borough code is a two-letter code which follows the digits (but displayed above them on epaulettes). Before the reorganisation into boroughs, each division had a different code, with sergeants having two-digit numbers and constables having three-digit numbers.

Special constables[edit]

There are various grades of special constable which assist in the tasking and management of the constabulary. The ranks are management grades; those holding them are not "sergeants" or "inspectors" for the purposes of the law (for example, authorisations to order the removal of disguises or to set up roadblocks). Originally, specials held the same ranks and used the same rank insignia as regular officers, but there was a general shift to distinct terms such as "area officer" and "divisional officer" in the 1980s. However, since 2000, the National Policing Improvement Agency has encouraged special constabularies to return to rank structures and epaulette insignia identical to their regular counterparts. Although most forces have now reverted to regular rank titles (with the prefix "special"), only some have reverted to regular rank insignia. Senior special constables have no authority over regular officers, but very experienced officers may occasionally be given administrative supervision of mixed units of regular and special constables for certain events where no regular supervisory officer is available.

Police community support officers (PCSO)[edit]

Police community support officers, in general, do not have a rank system: their epaulettes simply bear the words "Police community support officer" and their shoulder number, or, in the Metropolitan Police, a borough identification code and shoulder number.

South Yorkshire Police and Kent Police have PCSO supervisors. In South Yorkshire they wear a bar above the words "Police community support officer supervisor" and the shoulder number.

Police cadets[edit]

Ranks within volunteer police cadet schemes vary considerably across Great Britain. Cadets appointed "mayor's cadets" are given a special badge or epaulettes to wear.

Cadet ranks and insignia
UK
Cadets
Officers Cadet Senior NCOs Cadet Junior NCOs Cadets Recruits
CDT 8 CDT 7 CDT 6 CDT 5 CDT 4 CDT 3 CDT 2 CDT 1 CDT (R)

Metropolitan
volunteer
police
cadets
VPC Rank 4 lines.png VPC Rank 3 lines.png VPC Rank 2 lines.png VPC Rank 1 line.png VPC Rank no lines.png No Insignia
No equivalent Head Cadet No equivalent Deputy Head Cadet No equivalent Team leader
cadet
Deputy team
leader cadet
Police cadet Recruit
HCdt DHCdt TLCdt DTLCdt Cdt Rct

Hampshire
volunteer
police
cadets
Hampshire Volunteer Police Head Cadet Old.svg Hampshire Volunteer Police Deputy Head Cadet Old.svg Hampshire Volunteer Police Cadet Team Leader Old.svg Hampshire Volunteer Police Cadet Old.svg No Insignia
No equivalent Head Cadet No equivalent Deputy Head Cadet No equivalent Team leader
cadet
No equivalent Police cadet Recruit
HCdt DHCdt TLCdt Cdt Rct

Hampshire Constabulary[edit]

The Hampshire Constabulary volunteer police cadet programme is divided into units consisting of around thirty cadets with a head cadet, deputy head cadet and team leaders. The rank insignia is worn on epaulettes on the shirts for formal occasions or ironed onto polo shirts which are used for less formal occasions. In 2018, Hampshire, Thames Valley Police, Sussex and Surrey standardised on uniforms and rank slides, although proliferation of the new uniform has been limited within Hampshire.

Leicestershire Police[edit]

Head police cadet is the highest rank, typically assisted by two deputies.

Leicestershire Police head police cadet epaulette

Thames Valley Police[edit]

In Thames Valley Police, the ranks are as follows: cadet, team leader, deputy head cadet, and head cadet.

Traffic wardens[edit]

Traffic wardens were administered by the police and exercised some police powers to control traffic or issue fixed penalty notices for traffic offences. Very few police Traffic Wardens now exist with a legacy of only 10 police traffic wardens remaining in England & Wales.[57] Section 46 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 has in effect abolished police traffic wardens allowing police to focus on their core duties.[58] The duties of traffic wardens have been passed to local authority civil enforcement officers (formerly parking attendants) who, under decriminalised parking enforcement, have powers to issue penalty charge notices for breaches of parking laws on highways or in local authority car parks and compel the production of a disabled parking permit (blue badge) for inspection.

A similar situation has developed in Scotland with the functions of traffic wardens been taken over by local councils. In many areas parking legislation has been decriminalised and is enforced solely by council-employed parking attendants.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Badges of Rank". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on July 18, 2006. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Thames Valley Police: Uniformed police ranks Archived 2007-11-22 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ CNC ranks listed here Archived 2011-08-05 at the Wayback Machine on their website.
  4. ^ Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
  5. ^ Stephenson is named new Met Police chief, The Independent
  6. ^ https://www.hac.org.uk/home/special-constabulary/
  7. ^ Durham Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  8. ^ Hampshire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  9. ^ Merseyside Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  10. ^ Northamptonshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  11. ^ South Wales Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  12. ^ South Yorkshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  13. ^ Wiltshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  14. ^ Gloucestershire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  15. ^ ACC Richard Debicki (2018). "Special Constabulary National Strategy 2018-2023" (PDF). NPCC. p. 13. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  16. ^ Avon and Somerset Constabulary"Avon and Somerset Constabulary Website - Police Ranks", Viewed 21 January 2019
  17. ^ Bedfordshire Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  18. ^ British Transport Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  19. ^ Cambridgeshire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  20. ^ British Transport Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  21. ^ Cleveland Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  22. ^ Cumbria Constabulary"Special Constable Ranks FOI Request 2019
  23. ^ Derbyshire Constabulary"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  24. ^ Devon and Cornwall Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  25. ^ Dorset Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  26. ^ Dyfed-Powys Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  27. ^ Essex Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  28. ^ Gloucestershire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  29. ^ Lancashire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  30. ^ Gwent Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  31. ^ Hertfordshire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  32. ^ Lancashire Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  33. ^ Leicestershire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  34. ^ Lincolnshire Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  35. ^ Metropolitan Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  36. ^ Norfolk Contabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  37. ^ North Wales Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  38. ^ North Wales Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  39. ^ Nottinghamshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  40. ^ Police Scotland "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  41. ^ Staffordshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  42. ^ Suffolk Constabulary "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  43. ^ Thames Valley Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  44. ^ Warwickshire Police"Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  45. ^ West Mercia Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  46. ^ West Midlands Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  47. ^ West Yorkshire Police "Special Constabulary Ranks FOI Request 2019", January 2019
  48. ^ Police Service of Northern Ireland: Badges of Rank
  49. ^ ""Met police to modernise its rank structure", MPS website". Archived from the original on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  50. ^ a b Emsley, Clive; Waterfield, Terry. "Police at War: Second World War". The Open University. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  51. ^ a b "Period 1829 - 1899". www.metpolicehistory.co.uk. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  52. ^ "Nottinghamshire Police - Our history". Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  53. ^ "History of Police Office Pay Framework" (PDF). Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  54. ^ "28 day pre-charge bail limit comes into force". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  55. ^ Mental Health Cop—Police Ranks and Roles Explained Archived 13 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  56. ^ West Midlands Police. "Epaulette Guide - Rank & Roles". West Midlands Police. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  57. ^ "Police workforce, England and Wales: 30 September 2017". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  58. ^ "Policing and Crime Act 2017". www.legislation.gov.uk. Expert Participation. Retrieved 2018-06-17.CS1 maint: others (link)