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in the United Kingdom
|Types of agency|
|Types of agent|
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 Greater London's Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police. 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 of 1829. The ranks at that time were deliberately chosen so that they did not correspond with military ranking (with the exception of Sergeant), due to fears of a paramilitary force.
Badges of rank are usually worn on the epaulettes. However, when in formal uniform sergeants wear their rank insignia on their upper sleeves. 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 the fact that 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.
|City of London|
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 or gold band for superintendents and chief superintendents, and a row of silver or gold oakleaves 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).
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 rather than gold on red, in keeping with the police uniform colours.
The above ranks 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. 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.
In Britain, Chief Constable is the title of the head of each British 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. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is often considered to be the highest police rank within the United Kingdom, although in reality every Chief Constable and the two Commissioners are supreme over their own forces and are not answerable to any other officer.
Epaulettes are normally black with white sewn on or silver metal insignia, although high-visibility uniforms are often yellow with black insignia.
The City of London Police has fewer ranks above Chief Superintendent:
The Commissioner of the City of London Police has the unique status of not holding the office of constable, but is classed as a justice of the peace. This was the same for the Metropolitan Police until recent years; Sir Paul Condon was the last Commissioner of that force to have this status, along with his deputies. The Commissioner has the power to attest his own officers as constables without putting them before a local magistrate to do so, as happened in the Metropolitan Police.
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 oakleaves 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 have variations for some acting ranks such as Sergeant and Inspector: acting sergeants wear their chevrons above their divisional letters (now "CP" for all officers, following the abolition of the force's divisions) (substantive sergeants wear them below their collar number), whilst acting inspectors are denoted by a crown in the place of their divisional letters, whilst keeping their collar number and chevrons.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary 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 has now been succeeded by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which uses the same ranks, but has a different version of the rank insignia, with the star from the PSNI badge replacing the crown. 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.
The Isle of Man Constabulary has fewer ranks above Superintendent:
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.
In law, every member of a police force is a Constable whatever their actual rank, in the sense that, despite being a low-ranking or high-ranking officer, all 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:
Some authorities are matters of force or national or force policy and not subject to law, such as authorising the use of tyre deflation devices, and authorising the use of safe controlled crashes of pursued vehicles, by trained traffic police officers.
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.
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 and so do not wear the corresponding rank insignia; however, they still operate within the same structure as uniformed officers.
It is a misconception often portrayed by the media that detective ranks are superior to those of uniformed officers. In the United Kingdom, this is not the case, and a detective sergeant has the same powers and authority as a uniformed sergeant. The "Detective" prefix designates that the officer has a proven investigative ability and has received suitable training and passed related examinations, to conduct all manner of criminal investigations.
Uniformed constables who are training to become detective constables sometimes bear the title "T/I" meaning Trainee Investigator or "T/DC" meaning Trainee Detective Constable.
Some police forces use the prefix "T" before the rank (e.g. T/DS, T/DI, T/CI) to denote officers who have been temporarily promoted to those ranks, but who will return to their substantive rank at some future time. Such officers are paid at the higher rank and to all intents and purposes hold that higher rank, albeit temporarily. In contrast, the prefix "A" (denoting "Acting") is used for those who are 'acting up', for example, A/PS (Acting Police Sergeant, formally denoted by two chevrons in the Metropolitan Police Service) or A/DS (Acting Detective Sergeant).
Acting and temporary ranks have the powers of that higher rank, so long as they are so designated by a senior officer. For example, a sergeant may act as an inspector as long as this is approved by a superintendent or above.
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 1 to 5 digits.
The Metropolitan Police, being a much bigger force, uses a different system:
The borough code is a two-letter code preceding collar numbers. Before the reorganisation into boroughs, each division had a different code. A few other forces still use divisional codes.
Special constables are volunteer police officers who have exactly the same powers as a regular officer, and (with minor exceptions) wear the same uniform and are issued the same equipment. The roles of "specials" can vary greatly from force to force, though normally include working with local regular officers to provide an additional and heightened police presence on the streets and in the local community. They may also be requested to police particular events such as football matches and community events.
In virtually all police forces, 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, recent national practice has been for most special constabularies to revert to the regular ranks (with the prefix "Special"), although only Merseyside Police and Wiltshire Police have reverted to regular rank insignia.
Special constabulary epaulettes frequently bear the letters "SC" (with or without a crown above) to differentiate them from regular officers. Senior special constables wear the same markings on their cap peaks as equivalent regular ranks.
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, only Merseyside Special Constabulary, later followed by Wiltshire Special Constabulary and the City of London Special Constabulary have reverted to regular rank insignia.
The City of London Special Constabulary uses the SC logo. It also includes an Honourable Artillery Company detachment, members of which wear "HAC" on their epaulettes (directly below the SC logo) in addition to other insignia. The force has abolished divisions, and so all constables and sergeants (both regular and special) wear the letters "CP" instead of the divisional letters which they previously wore. Specials have four-digit collar numbers beginning "11" or "12". (Special sergeants were previously assigned four-digit collar numbers beginning "10", but this practice has lapsed.)
Merseyside Special Constabulary was the first special constabulary to revert to using the rank insignia of regular officers rather than the system of bars. The SC logo incorporates a crown.
Wiltshire Police also uses a rank structure similar to their regular counterparts, the introduction was a recommendation of an NPIA review of Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Special Constabulary. The SC logo is incoporated with a crown for ranks above Sergeant. The ranks of Special Chief Inspector and Special Chief Superintendent are absent in Wiltshire due to the small nature of the organisation.
Other special constabularies use a system of bars and laurel wreaths, collar numbers and the SC identity (with or without a crown) to distinguish ranks (and/or role).
Avon and Somerset Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo.
Devon and Cornwall Police uses the SC logo. Collar numbers are 5 digits starting with a 7.
Dorset Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Collar numbers are not issued sequentially anymore.
Dyfed-Powys Special Constabulary uses the SC logo incorporating a crown. Collar numbers begin with a 7. The rank structure was changed in 2010.
Essex Police Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo.
Gloucestershire Special Constabulary uses the SC logo and 4-digit collar numbers beginning with an 8. The titles changed in April 2011 due to a restructure ("Divisional" was replaced with "Area").
Hampshire Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Collar numbers start with a prefix 9.
Lancashire Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Collar numbers are four digits starting with a 9.
The Metropolitan Special Constabulary uses the SC logo. Collar numbers have four digits and begin with a 5 (8 for Specials on Safer Transport Teams).
Northamptonshire Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Collar numbers range from 3000 to 3999. The force lead for the Special Constabulary is a regular Chief Inspector supported by a Special Superintendent.
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.
Nottinghamshire Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Collar numbers begin with a 5 (5000-5999).
South Yorkshire Special Constabulary uses the SC logo and a four digit collar number beginning with the number 7.
Staffordshire Special Constabulary uses an SC without a crown and four or five digit collar number.
Suffolk Special Constabulary uses the SC logo.
Surrey Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo.
Warwickshire Special Constabulary uses the SC logo incorporating a crown. Ranks changed at the end of 2009. Collar numbers have four digits, beginning with a 3.
West Mercia Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo as all officers under the rank of Inspector (regular and special) have the West Mercia Police crest on their epaulettes. All collar numbers have four digits, beginning with either a 4 or a 5. Ranks changed at the end of 2010.
West Yorkshire Special Constabulary does not use the SC logo. Until 2009 it used Special Constable collar number blocks. Collar numbers have four digits, beginning with an 8. There are no Special Constables above the grade of Senior Section officer. The force lead for specials is a regular Chief Inspector.
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.
Traffic wardens are administered by the police and exercise some police powers to control traffic or issue fixed penalty notices for traffic offences; their epaulettes bear their shoulder number and the words TRAFFIC WARDEN. They are not to be confused with local authority civil enforcement officers (formerly parking attendants) who, under decriminalised parking enforcement, have powers to issue fixed penalty 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.