Where the Police Badge Originated From & History of The Badge

The iconic police badge. It’s the universal symbol of the protector, the leader and the service that is known the world over. With the badge comes respect but where did it originate?

Nowadays, we associate a badge with those in civil service like police officers and firefighters. Prior to the law enforcement system that we know today badges were used quite differently and for many means of identification. 

Though we may assume badges are all silver stars or shields that adorn the chest of police officers, they cover a much broader spectrum. The name “badge” can define anything that is used with prominence to identify someone, including name tags, emblems or pins.

The idea of being identified by a well-placed accessory was the idea that sparked the concept of the present-day badge the is worn by our law enforcement. 

In the Beginning

The concept of identifying someone’s status using clothing or accessories is not a new one. The nobility in Europe have long represented their houses with coats of arms, heraldry or insignias. They were each unique to the house so that others would know which one they belonged to. When power was split between houses in the Middle Ages and not under one sole ruler, badges were worn by everyone. The borders fluctuated continuously, and thus even commoners would wear badges so that it was known which house they were loyal to. 

There was no limitation at this time as to who could and could not wear a badge. Everyone was allowed to represent their faithfulness to a house by proudly donning their insignia. During this part of history, badges could be made of anything that you could find, depending on what you could afford. Some of the materials uses were metal, cloth and for those with the money, jewels. 

Soon after, anyone associated with specific houses were made to wear uniforms. This included those employed by the house or anyone who was in oath of service. This also included servants of the houses. These uniforms would include clothing featuring the house colors and coat of arms. Their purpose was to ensure that everyone knew exactly which house they served. Their attire would also represent what their status was within the house. If you were of higher status, had a better relationship or served a higher purpose with the head of the house than you may be given a badge to wear. 

As time went on, there were more limitations put on who could wear badges. Members of the house who served in authoritative positions became among the few that were allowed badges. Service specific badges evolved from there and became a universal means of identification for those in civil service. They were largely displayed so those in service were instantly recognized. 

As law enforcement was shaped into what we know it as today, it makes sense that the same system would be used as a means of identification. Different badges can be used to designate different statuses within the unit. This can include different levels of authority, years of service and which position they are in. Badges have even been used for dogs within the K9 units as well. 

The Relevance of The Badge Now

Those who carry a badge now carry with them responsibility and trust of the public to adhere to ethical standards and to serve and protect the community. The badge brings with it authority, honor and respect from all those who display it. 

Realistically, though it stands for all the above, its main purpose is identification. Anyone wearing the badge is trusted as a legitimate police officer. Since the badge has become such a universal symbol of authority it can be recognized quickly by anyone, regardless of where they are from or what language they speak. This can be extremely beneficial as police officers deal with many people from all over the world. 

Police officers also take pride in their work and their service to their communities. They are honored to wear their badge prominently and exhibit their position of leadership.  

The police badge is not easy to obtain and serves as a beacon of light at the end of a long hiring process and intense training. Those who have made it through the hiring process then have to attend the police academy. It is tough them physically and mentally so getting to the end of the road is a great moment for all those who make it. The effort is rewarded by issuing them with their police badge. Once the training at the academy is done it is time for on the job training and eventually patrolling on their own. 

Where the Badge Is Worn

There is no general location where a police badge is to be worn. Each individual department will have different rules and regulations as to how the badge is to be used and where on the body it should be worn. Some departments may not have any stipulations at all and therefore it can be worn wherever the officer wants. It may even be seen hanging off the officers’ belt in areas where no location is specified. 

Law enforcement agencies will often reinforce the pockets that are being used to hold the badge, which will typically be on the front, left side of the uniforms. This is because the badge is to sit on top of the police officers’ heart. The placement isn’t random and may actually have some historical significance. In the days of the knights, they would carry their shields, bearing their houses coat of arms, in their left hands. 

Would You Like to Wear a Badge?

Police departments are always looking for devoted, passionate and reliable people to join the force. It takes hard work and dedication and there will be some personal sacrifice involved. But if you truly want to make a difference in peoples lives and are willing to put in the time than a career in law enforcement could be just up your alley.