History of the Police Badge

Perhaps the most visible and recognizable symbol of policing around the world, the police badge is seen by many as a sign of authority, sacrifice, and service. While most closely associated with public service professionals - firefighters, correctional officers and, especially, police officers - the use of badges actually long predates the modern concept of law enforcement and policing as we know it.

The History of the Police Badge

When thinking of the word "badge," one most likely pictures the metal shield, star or similar emblem worn by officers and firefighters. In fact, the term is used to describe any smaller object - such as a name tag, pin, emblem or another device - that can be displayed, often prominently, to show who a person is. It is the concept from which the badge originated and from where the modern police badge evolved.

European nobility are known for their use of heraldry, coats of arms and insignia to represent their House and history. During the Middle Ages, a time when power was not consolidated and national borders were far more fluid than in modern times, badges were worn by commoners and nobility alike to show their allegiance to a House or a group, and the wearing badges was not limited to a specific job or duty. These badges were made of various materials, including cloth, metal and even jewels.

Eventually, servants and others tied through employment or oaths to Houses often wore livery - clothing, colors, and emblems - to display who they worked for and to identify their status. Depending on the relationship or level of service to the House's Seat, badges were issued and worn. Over time, the use of badges became more and more restricted to House servants, especially those with authority.

From these livery badges, badges of service ultimately developed, and thus public servants became easily identifiable by the prominent display of their badge. It was only natural, then, that when the modern police force evolved, officers would adopt the badge to indicate their position, authority, and service.

What the Police Badge Means Today

As the profession of policing has evolved, its most visible symbol of service has taken on an almost iconic meaning. To the police officer, the badge represents the public trust, with which she has the authority to act and to which she has the duty to remain true.

From a practical standpoint, officers wear badges as a means to identify who they are and who they work for. The law enforcement badge is an easily recognizable sign of legal authority. From an altruistic perspective, though, uniformed police officers proudly wear their badges to show their allegiance to the communities they serve and pride they have in their chosen profession.

For recruits preparing to graduate from the police academy, the badge represents the final goal of their arduous training. Earning the badge on graduation day represents the culmination of a tremendous effort and achievement, and a new beginning in a new career as they enter their field training and, ultimately solo patrol.

Are You Ready to Wear the Badge?

The law enforcement profession needs good, hardworking and dedicated people to take on the mantle of public service and join the ranks. If you have the desire to serve, help and protect others and are ready to make sacrifices to make your community safer, than perhaps you should consider becoming a police officer and putting on the badge.