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Generic Cop Badges

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Badges in many cop shows are generic in the sense that they are poor in detail and tend to have similar layouts and a few standard shapes. At their most basic, badges will have the word "police" slapped somewhere, a non-descript emblem, and possibly the Standard Police Motto. Even if the work is set in a specific location from our world, 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, 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 are set in different places. In some localities, applying this trope is actually a legal requirement to prevent props or vehicles from being misused. Some departments also have a blanket ban on productions accurately replicating their uniforms, badges, and insignia to try and avoid being painted in a negative light, as the Chicago Police Department had for several decades after seeing how it was protrayed in Blues Brothers.

Tropes Are Flexible, so other law-enforcement agencies or equipment is included. For example, London Bobbies' epaulette numbers. In fiction, they all feature the letter "O" in their two-letter code —e.g. SO 171. There are no real-life Metropolitan Police divisions with an "O" in their code.

It often overlaps with Hollywood Cop Uniform, when it's the whole uniform being misrepresented in media. Related to Chest Insignia, which is a notable icon/emblem on a character's chest. Might get displayed in a Flashed-Badge Hijack.


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    Fan Works 
  • The 2b2t Chronicles: Being a character in a Minecraft machinima series, Sheriff_Motch has the most generic cop badge possible in the form of a handful of yellow pixels.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blue Thunder: The squad cars have a huge "Metropolitan Police" decal on the front doors.
  • Desktop Desperadoes: At the Yorkshire Barracks, this is an Exaggerated Trope. None of the soldiers' outfits display any insignia and even the Sergeant’s rank is only identified by reference. Subverted with Detective Sergeant Walters who is referred to by a highly formalized rank.
  • 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 an extremely generic-looking seal logo bearing a scale of justice. A Canadian courtroom should have a coat of arms on the wall above the judge.
  • Kindergarten Cop: When Kimble arrests Cullen in the beauty salon, he is not wearing a uniform. It's a total win for reality that the security guards call his badge in to verify its authenticity. Considering that Kimble looks like a scruffy, insane vigilante, any guard worth their salt would.
  • The Little Things: The patches/emblems of the KCSD and the LASD are different from the actual ones used in real life. The only difference is that they don't have the bear in the middle of the patch/emblem.
  • Police Academy: The saga features both generic badges and uniforms with "Metropolitan PD" insignia to cover for the fact that most of the movies were filmed in Toronto. They give themselves a little extra leeway by refusing to name the city their precinct operates in; it's always just "The City" located in the great state of "The State".
  • S.W.A.T. (2003): The cops wear the generic "Metropolitan Police" badge.
  • Transformers (2007): 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".

    Live-Action TV 
  • 19-2: Actual uniforms and 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.
  • Adam-12: Averted. The characters' badges are authentic, and the series' police consultant brought them to the set from LAPD headquarters at the start of each filming day and returned them at its end.
  • The Bill: Averted since it's 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.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "Suicide Squad", the Vulture wears a detective badge despite being a captain.
  • 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 it would take a great effort to always be accurate.
  • Degrassi Junior High: In 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.
  • Dragnet:
    • Averted. Joe Friday carried a real LAPD badge, and its number (714) was officially assigned to that character. After Jack Webb (the actor who portrayed Friday) died, the department retired that number and allowed him to be buried with a replica of the badge.
    • A minor law enforcement officer character in one episode has generic "POLICE DEPT." patches on his arms.
  • Family Matters: Carl Winslow is a Sergeant, and later a Lieutenant, in the Chicago Police Department. His uniform uses generic "Police Dept." shoulder patches and a generic oval badge rather than the CPD's distinct five-pointed star.
  • Furuhata Ninzaburou: Furuhata Ninzaburō catches on that a police officer he's talking to is an imposter thanks to this trope. He's wearing an In-Universe prop that Furuhata recognizes.
  • The Good Cop: TJ and Loomis usually wear NYPD detective badges —medallion with a number— instead of the badges appropriate to their respective ranks of lieutenant —medallion without number— and sergeant —golden shield with an eagle.
  • Hawaii Five-0: In 'Ua Hopu', 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".
  • Hill Street Blues: Cops use "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 was still embarrassed and annoyed about their less-than-flattering depiction the last time they let someone do that. As a result, the show ended up being set in a city that is obviously meant to be Chicago but never named on-screen.
  • Life on Mars (2006): The producers tried to avert this and then realised too late that Greater Manchester Police aren't the Metropolitan Police. As a result, Sam Tyler's badge is digitally genericised on the DVD release.
  • The Littlest Hobo: In "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 
  • Mersey Beat: Despite being set near Liverpool, this British Cop Show's badges are under an area called "North West County Police".
  • Monk: In "Hundredth Case", we briefly see a badge with the number 8396 on it. While it does look like an authentic SFPD badge, there's nothing to indicate that it was ever Monk's actual badge, nor is it necessarily the badge that a cop like Monk would have had in real life back then.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In "Eegah", the crew calls attention to this when the "Desert Patrol" shows up in Eegah!.
  • MythBusters: Invoked. When the Busters set out to test a story about 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.
  • Police Squad!: Lampshaded. 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".
  • Power Rangers S.P.D.: While the show is Sci-Fi, it's understandable that the badges are different from what we are accustomed to. The thing is that they are way simplistic, with a bulldog logo and an "S.P.D." on top of it.
  • Saturday Night Live: In "The Shooting", the two police officers who show up near the end have the same generic "POLICE DEPT." patches on their arms as well as what can be assumed to be nondescript badges.
  • 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 being less than upstanding.
    • 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.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017): In "Ekitai Rashku", 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.
  • Today's Special:
    • 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.
    • Averted in "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.
  • Unforgotten

    Video Games 
  • Dark Tales: Dupin starts off the game by presenting you with one of these. Its only distinguishing feature is the inscription at the top, "Dark Tales Detective Agency." Your character has a quiet moment of Squee, privately admitting to having always wanted one.
  • Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne: Downplayed. Detectives do sport NYPD badges, but they carry the same ones as patrol officers, who used the NYPD's famous gold shield in real life.

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

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Donut Cop's attire includes a blank sheriff star badge pinned on his face and a shield-shaped, black patch with a star on his cap. It doesn't specify that he's an officer from Elmore.
  • Hit-Monkey: 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.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Lieutenant Roger Raincomprix wears for a badge a patch with France's flag on his right arm and that's about it. If it wasn't for his cap having "POLICE" emblazoned on it, you'd never know he's an officer from looks alone. The background cops don't share that privilege, seeing that they don't sport any badges.
  • Winx Club: Whenever the girls visit Earth, policemen are depicted wearing blue uniforms with yellow or gold shield-shaped badges that have no inscription whatsoever.


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 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / GenericCopBadges

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