British Police Ranks

The Police Rank Structure is standardised throughout the UK, with only a slight variation in the senior ranks, which can be found in the Metropolitan and City of London Police. The majority of the ranks that exist today are those that were created by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who founded the Metropolitan Police in 1829.

If you are new to the Police or interested in joining, then understanding the rank structure displayed on each officer’s shoulder is not only a good idea but could also save you future embarrassment, as some higher ranking officers may expect to be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’. Senior officers usually wear distinguishing marks on their uniform, usually found on headgear, sleeve patches and tunic collar details.

There are nine ranks in total, each level an officer is promoted to results in greater responsibility and a higher level of leadership. As a result of this, certain ranks in the Police are subject to a greater deal of security vetting than others. These higher-ranking officers have access to more sensitive material; therefore need to be screened more thoroughly.


Below are the ranks of police officers, from low to highest:

– Constable

– Sergeant

– Inspector

– Chief Inspector

– Superintendent

– Chief Superintendent

– Assistant Chief Constable

– Deputy Chief Constable

– Chief Constable


A point worth noting is that when joining the Metropolitan Police Force, every officer issued with a warrant number, which shouldn’t be confused with the number on his or her shoulder epaulette.

It is a number that remains with them throughout their career, whilst their shoulder number will change as they advance through the ranks.

In other smaller forces officers are only issued with Shoulder numbers and these will stay with them throughout their career.

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