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#1
Old 08-03-2013, 05:23 PM
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Police sergeants stripes: Up or down and why?

I am not of the American ilk so I apologise in advance, though I believe most in most American police forces a sergeants chevrons point up (towards the head)

Question is asked because someone asked me why in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) a Sergeants stripes point up but in English police forces they point down.

I've asked around and done some internet research but haven't found a definitive answer. Anyone know why?

Examples:

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/image..._policeman.jpg

http://standard.co.uk/news/artic...identification

(apologise for the poor quality of the pics)
#2
Old 08-03-2013, 09:56 PM
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One short but not very helpful answer is that the PSNI chevrons point up because the RUC's insignia pointed up (from what I can tell with GIS).

Interestingly, Gardaí chevrons point down. Down is more common in the Commonwealth/countries with a "history" with the UK like Ireland. Usage transfers to the military, a lot of the time, although e.g. USAF enlisted ranks point down (but are probably trying to be evocative of wings).

Interesting question.

Old, semi-related thread. Won't answer it, though.

Last edited by thelurkinghorror; 08-03-2013 at 09:58 PM.
#3
Old 08-05-2013, 11:10 AM
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The direction that sergeant's chevrons generally point in the U.S. and U.K. police services is a reflection of the way they point in the armies of those countries. (I don't know how they point in Irish services).

The U.S. Navy has a Naval History webpage on the history of Chevrons as Rank Insignia. The original use of three chevrons (with points down) to identify sergeants in the British army apparently dates to 1803:
Quote:
Chevrons were thus easily recognized symbols of honor. That might by why French soldiers started wearing cloth chevrons with the points up on their coat sleeves in 1777 as length of service and good conduct badges. Some British units also used them to show length of service. In 1803 the British began using chevrons with the points down as rank insignia. Sergeants wore three and Corporals two. Perhaps they wore them with the points down to avoid confusion with the earlier length of service chevrons worn with the points up.
In the U.S. Army, after chevrons being used to designate a variety of ranks the use of chevrons for non-commissioned officers apparently was standardized in 1851, but with the points down, with the points being flipped up in 1902:
Quote:
Starting in 1820 Army company grade officers and Sergeants wore one chevron with the point up on each arm. The officers' chevrons were of gold or silver lace, depending on the wearer's branch of service. Captains wore their chevrons above the elbow while Lieutenants wore theirs below. Sergeant Majors and Quartermaster Sergeants wore worsted braid chevrons above the elbow while other Sergeants and Senior Musicians wore theirs below. Corporals wore one chevron on the right sleeve above the elbow. By 1833 the Army and Marine company grade officers had stopped wearing chevrons and returned to epaulettes as rank insignia. Sergeants of the Army dragoons then began wearing three chevrons with points down and Corporals two. All other NCOs wore cloth epaulettes to show their rank. From 1847 to 1851 some Army NCOs wore chevrons with the points up on their fatigue uniform jackets but still used cloth epaulettes on their dress uniforms. After 1851 all Army NCOs wore chevrons with points down until 1902 when the Army turned the points up and adopted the patterns used today, two chevrons for Corporals, three for Sergeants and combinations of arcs and other devices beneath the chevrons for higher grades of Sergeants.
I have no idea why the U.S. Army flipped the direction of their chevrons in 1902, but from what I've seen, the rank insignia of almost all U.S. police services generally follow the rank insignia of the U.S. Army, with sergeants having three chevrons (point up), lieutenants having one bar (usually gold, not silver), captains two bars (also usually gold), and higher ranking officers having some combination of oak leaves, eagles and stars.
#4
Old 08-05-2013, 11:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
...Army, with sergeants having three chevrons (point up), lieutenants having one bar (usually gold, not silver), captains two bars (also usually gold), and higher ranking officers having some combination of oak leaves, eagles and stars.
Unless it's changed since my service, a 2nd Louie is one gold bar, 1st is one silver bar, and captain is 2 silver bars. (US Army)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_..._rank_insignia

Last edited by Musicat; 08-05-2013 at 11:21 AM.
#5
Old 08-05-2013, 12:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Unless it's changed since my service, a 2nd Louie is one gold bar, 1st is one silver bar, and captain is 2 silver bars. (US Army)
The Army has first and second sieutenants with silver and gold bars respectively. However, I was referring to the police ranks, where as far as I am aware, U.S. police agencies generally have only one lieutenant rank with a gold bar, with other ranking officers having gold insignia modeled after the U.S. Army insignia. For instance, in the NYPD, lieutenants have one gold bar, captains have two gold bars, deputy inspectors have a gold oak leaf, inspectors have a gold eagle and chiefs have one to four gold stars.
#6
Old 08-05-2013, 02:17 PM
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I once wore a temporary armband chevron upside down in the first week of Army basic training. I was chewed out by the cook's assistant who had two week's training. Does that count?
#7
Old 08-06-2013, 06:05 PM
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Thanks for the answers everyone!

Quote:
Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
One short but not very helpful answer is that the PSNI chevrons point up because the RUC's insignia pointed up (from what I can tell with GIS).
Old, semi-related thread. Won't answer it, though.
Yeah, one theory I was told was that the RIC was based on a mounted cavalry regiment and due to its military origins the sergeants stripes pointed up. I find that doubtful for several reasons but it would be kind of ironic because the RUC and now PSNI don't have mounted police.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
The direction that sergeant's chevrons generally point in the U.S. and U.K. police services is a reflection of the way they point in the armies of those countries. (I don't know how they point in Irish services).
That's kind of where the question comes from, Northern Ireland is part of the UK and yet unlike England, Scotland, Wales (and apparently the Republic of Ireland) sergeants stripes point the opposite way to the other police forces and military branches.

Perhaps its just one of those things which is traditional and no-one is sure where it originated.

Of course now its been pointed out I can't help but notice it...dammit!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
I once wore a temporary armband chevron upside down in the first week of Army basic training. I was chewed out by the cook's assistant who had two week's training. Does that count?
There's always a bigger fish...

And just out of interest here is the PSNI rank/epaulette structure:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Psni_ranks.png
#8
Old 08-06-2013, 08:44 PM
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You can find US departments with both right-side up and upside-down orientations. The members of those departments will probably argue about which is which.
#9
Old 08-06-2013, 08:55 PM
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Also, it seems that European PDs are more willing to put it on the forearm sleeve. To my eyes, down looks better there (pointing to hand). On the shoulders, up looks better (pointing to head). I don't think the reasons are that simple, though.
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