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Generic Cop Badges

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Badges in many cop shows are generic. Even if the work is set in a real place, the badges and emblems used will often not accurately reflect those worn by the real-life force in the given jurisdiction. There could be several reasons for this. For one thing, police badges are often custom-made to a force's specifications, which may be expensive and labor-intensive to reproduce faithfully. Paying that much attention to detail may be too much of a hassle, especially in a series that has a low budget and episodes set in different places. In some localities applying this trope is actually a legal requirement to prevent props or vehicles being misused. A further reason could concern Canadian shows more or less explicitly set in local cities, where this might just be done in part to downplay the Canadian setting for the benefit of American viewers/networks, by means of giving the local cops a badge based on some typical American model.


An aspect of this trope relating to British TV concerns London Bobbies' epaulette numbers, which will have a letter "O" in their two letter code — e.g. SO 171 (Reg Hollis in The Bill). There are no divisions with "O" in their two letter code in the Real Life Metropolitan Police.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Transformers (2007 Movie): In a clever usage and in keeping with series tradition, the department emblem on Barricade's police car form is actually a Decepticon crest. Also, the motto on his side reads "To punish and enslave".
  • In Blue Thunder, the squad cars have a huge "Metropolitan Police" decal on the front doors.
  • In S.W.A.T., the cops wear the generic "Metropolitan Police" badge.
  • Karla: A variety of badges are seen on law enforcement officers that tend to look rather prop-like and may not necessarily reflect what was worn by the relevant Canadian agencies at the time the true events on which the film was based occurred. For that matter, the courtroom in the trial scene at the end of the film looks rather American and features a very generic-looking seal logo bearing a scale of justice. A Canadian courtroom should have a coat of arms on the wall above the judge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The British Cop Show Mersey Beat, despite its being set near Liverpool, is under an area called "North West County Police".
  • Degrassi Junior High: In at least one episode, the two-parter "Taking Off", officers are shown in more or less correct Metropolitan Toronto Police uniforms, but with altered emblems (in this case a six-pointed star on their chest - worn on the wrong side, an American-style cap badge, odd shoulder flashes, and the logo on their car based on the real one but modified. note  This may have been done to mask the fact that the show was filmed and (at least in the version shown to Canadian audiences) set in Toronto, Canada.
  • Carl Winslow is a Sergeant (and later a Lieutenant) with the Chicago Police Department on Family Matters. His uniform uses generic "Police Dept." shoulder patches and a generic oval badge rather than the CPD's distinct five-pointed star.
  • In the episode "Ua Hopu" in Hawaii Five-0, the uniforms of Japanese police officers have vest patches that say "Special police officer" in Japanese (kanji). Actual vest patches have (kanji) writing which means "National Police Agency".
  • The Littlest Hobo: In the episode "Rookie", a police dog training academy is shown; the officers are wearing uniforms with shoulder flashes that are almost identical to those of the Metropolitan Toronto Police. However, they are also wearing breast badges shaped like six-pointed stars and a different kind of cap badge. Toronto may not be the actual setting of the episode. note 
  • In 19-2, actual uniforms/gear used by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal are depicted, except for the patches/logos. While the SPVM did assist to help get the English/French versions filmed, a standard practice for anyone filming a TV show/movie in Quebec is to use fictional versions. This also extends to patches/logos of the Surete du Quebec.
  • Today's Special: This series, set in Toronto, plays the trope straight in the Christmas special, where the officer apprehending Sam for wanting to enter the store on Christmas Eve wears a generic shield-shaped cap badge and an inauthentic shoulder flash. Wholly averted in the episode "Police", which has a vignette where Sam and Jodie visit the actual Metropolitan Toronto Police 52 Division and are shown around by real-life Officer Cathy McCormack. Even the actor playing Officer Hardy flashes an authentic-looking Metro Toronto Police badge.
  • Starsky & Hutch, anyone?
  • The Shield, after its first episode, not only uses fake badges, but places them on the wrong side of the uniform, at the request of the LAPD (due to the portrayal of the cops as...less than upstanding).
    • In one of the episodes, Shane is mugged in Mexico and loses his badge. For the next several episodes until he is discovered, he uses a counterfeit one. A fake of a fake.
  • Hill Street Blues uses "METRO POLICE" on shoulder patches and the logos on the Department's vehicles. The story goes that the network approached the Chicago Police Department for permission to use their badge and uniform colours, but the CPD were still embarrassed and annoyed about their less-than-flattering depiction the last time they let someone do that, which is why the show ended up being set in a city that is obviously meant to be Chicago but is never named on-screen.
  • Deadly Women: Some pretty generic-looking emblems are seen on law enforcement officers in different stories. Could be brought down to the show's low budget and the fact that the cases shown occur in various places so would take a great effort to always be accurate.
  • In the episode "Ekitai Rashku" in S.W.A.T. (2017), the uniforms of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are correct, but the emblems on their peaked caps don't show the MPD's Asahikage seal. Which is ironic since the episode was filmed on location in Tokyo.
  • Exceptions:
    • Joe Friday's badge in Dragnet is a real LAPD badge, and its badge number (714) is officially assigned to the fictional detective. The badge number was retired when his actor, Jack Webb died, and he was buried with a replica of it.
      • A minor law enforcement officer character in one episode has generic "POLICE DEPT." patches on his arms.
    • The badges used on Adam-12 were also real — the series' police consultant would bring the badges to the set every day, and then take them back to LAPD Headquarters after filming was done.
  • The Bill is another exception, and is allowed to use real London Metropolitan Police decals and badges. This is a relatively recent development, however; in the early days the series was rather less sympathetic in its portrayal of the Met, and relations between them and the showrunners rather less cordial.
  • Life On Mars tried to avert this - then realised too late that Greater Manchester Police are not the Metropolitan Police. As a result, Sam Tyler's badge is digitally genericised on the DVD release.
  • The crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000 call attention to this when the "Desert Patrol" shows up in Eegah!.
  • Lampshaded in Police Squad!; marked police cruisers are seen only in the background; they are highly official-looking black-and-white full-size sedans, very authentic except that the door decals read "POLICE CAR".
  • When MythBusters tested a story of a police badge stopping a bullet, they got test badges from the company that makes the real thing, but genericised (and personalized with the show's name).
  • This trope is how the title character of Furuhata Ninzaburou catches on that the supposed police officer he is talking to is an imposter—the other man doesn't notice that the badge Furuhata shows him is a prop (long story).
  • In the Saturday Night Live episode "The Shooting", the two police officers who show up near the end have the same generic "POLICE DEPT." patches on their arms as the Dragnet example above, as well as what can be assumed to be generic badges.

    Web Comics 
  • Axe Cop has his own badge with a picture of an axe and some handcuffs. The motto is, of course, "I'll chop your head off!"


Video Example(s):


That's not the actual badge

Ito shows Akiko his official police ID and badge. The Lieutenant rank does not exist in Japanese law enforcement. The actual rank would have been Inspector. The emblem in the middle is not the official Asahikage emblem.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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Main / GenericCopBadges

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