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Standard Police Motto

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Um, that's not quite how it goes, Barricade...

Die Polizei - Dein Freund und Helfer! note 
Germany's traditional police motto, a rare non-English variantnote 

The Los Angeles Police Department's famous motto, "To Protect and to Serve" (coined in 1955), has been adopted by many other police departments across the English-speaking world, sometimes in its alternate form "to serve and protect." It's been adopted by so many police departments, in fact, that it's practically a Stock Phrase in the English-speaking world. Unsurprisingly, it shows up a lot in fiction as well. Played straight in most Police Procedurals and Cop Shows, it's routinely subverted, lampshaded, and/or otherwise played with in other media.



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Played straight in:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • RoboCop (1987)
    Bob Morton: What are your Prime Directives?
    RoboCop: Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.
  • In The Gumball Rally, the fake cop team loses the race when they stop to help a pregnant woman who's stalled on an L.A. freeway and going into labor.
    Kandinsky: Oh, no. Avila, no way. I don't wanna hear it, Avila.
    Avila: "To serve and to protect", huh?
  • The San Angeles cops in Demolition Man use it as a sort of short-hand, telling units on the scene to, "Protect-serve."
  • The sheriff from Blood Harvest has "To Protect and to Serve" on the side of his car.


    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Paradigm Shift uses this trope to Show Their Work: "We Serve and Protect," the motto of the Chicago Police Department, can be clearly read on the side of a Chicago police cruiser on this page.
  • This is Trenton's motto in Dead Winter. He's the last good cop in a corrupt police force.

    Western Animation 
  • In the "Sleeping Beauty" episode of the ALF Tales cartoon, it is said of the Three Nice Wizards (led by wizard Joe Froday) by the King: "They protect and serve."
  • ReBoot: "My format: Guardian - To mend and defend."
  • The motto comes up as a point of discussion between Goliath and Eliza during the Gargoyles pilot, during their first meeting. Probably goes a long way towards building the trust between them.

    Real Life 
  • The Toronto Police Service uses "To Serve and Protect".
  • The National Police of France uses "Pro Patria Vigilant" = Vigilance for the Homeland.
  • Northern Constabulary, the police force of the Scottish Highlands prior to the creation of Police Scotland in 2013, had the motto "Dion is Cuidich", which is "Protect and Serve" in Gaelic.
  • The Icelandic Lögreglan (Police) uses "Með lögum skal land byggja" ("With the law, the land shall rise."), the Arc Words from Njal's Saga.

Subverted, parodied, lampshaded, etc., in:

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • In the Michael Bay Transformers film, the Decepticon Barricade has a police car mode with the phrase "To punish and enslave."
    • In Transformers: The Last Knight, Barricade retains this motto while also gaining an alternate "Keep calm and hail Megatron."
  • In the film The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss tries to get a policeman guarding him to help Tina (who's being chased by Mooks) by telling him "Serve and protect!"
  • In The Terminator, the motto on LAPD cars is shown as "To Care and to Protect" at least twice. But after the Terminator crashes and abandons a car whose motto we've already seen as the preceding, the empty car's motto has inexplicably changed to "Dedicated to Serve."
  • In the low-budget sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R., the motto of the robotic law-enforcement project is "To Judge and Execute." Guess what happens to the prototype?
  • In Wrongfully Accused, at least one police car has "To Swerve and Protect" on the side.
  • In The Untouchables (1987), when Ness and Malone interview police cadets to add to the team, both trainees give stock mottoes when asked why they want to join the force. The first even stammers out "To protect and serve" verbatim.

  • In 1992, Los Angeles erupted into riots after the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King, by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. This lead to a joke about the department:
Q: What's the new slogan for the LAPD?
A: We'll treat you like a King!
  • In 2011, the owner of a Zanesville, Ohio exotic animal refuge released all his animals - including tigers, lions, bears and wolves - before committing suicide. The police didn't have much of a choice but to issue a shoot-to-kill order. The story made major headlines as 49 animals were shot by the end of it all. This lead to a joke:
Q: What's the new slogan for the Zanesville police department?
A: It's a jungle out there!

  • Shows up several times in the Discworld series:
    • The Ankh Morpork Watch has the motto "Fabricati Diem, Pvnc", which is Dog Latin for "Make My Day, Punk". In-story, Fred Colon claims that it translates as "To Protect and Serve". The full motto is in fact "Fabricati Diem, Pvncti Agvnt Celeriter," but has been rendered partially unreadable over time. This supposedly means "Make the Day, the Moments Pass Quickly."
    • Pratchett also uses it in Guards! Guards! with the prophecy that Carrot fulfills: "Yea, the king will come ... and Protect and Serve the People with his Sword."
    • In Feet of Clay, the motto on the Vimes family arms (defunct since Old Stoneface killed the last king) is "Protego Et Servio". The Vimeses have been watchmen for a long time.
    • The same book has the golem watchman give his own spin on the RoboCop (1987) example above: "To Serve The Public Trust, Protect The Innocent, And Seriously Prod Buttock".
  • In the Myth Adventures, Asprin uses this for one of his chapter-beginning quotes: "To Serve and Protect. Traditional motto of protection rackets."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Square One TV: Mathnet's motto is "To cogitate and to solve."
  • In Corner Gas, Karen and Davis have a long, drawn-out argument over whether or not their cop car says "To Protect and Serve" or "To Serve and Protect."
  • When Carl fears Mike might not pass the upcoming police fitness exam on Mike & Molly, he asks Mike if he's prepared to spend the rest of his career behind a desk, where he can "protect and file."

    Video Games 
  • A police officer in Destroy All Humans! can sometimes be heard constantly repeating this to themselves if their mind is read. Until they get it wrong: "swerve and defect...dammit, I lost it!"
  • In The Longest Journey, the same cop that gave us Move Along, Nothing to See Here and Sorry, I'm Gay lines, also finished his conversation with "We are here to protect and to serve", right after proving as useless and outright obstructive to the heroine as he possibly could.
  • Grand Theft Auto: The motto of the Los Santos Police Department appears to be "Obey & Survive".
  • Fallout: Protectrons say "protect and serve". It's somewhere between playing it straight and subverting it, given that while not particularly powerful or competent, they do actually attempt to maintain law and order, except for in 3 where they're just haywire robots. Parodied more directly in 76, where the reprogrammed scavneger collectrons say "collect and store".

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon shows shows Scratchy entering a police car that turns out to be driven by Itchy. The motto is "To Protect and Sever." Bloody carnage ensues.
  • South Park: The side of Officer Barbrady's patrol car has "To Patronize and Annoy" on it.
  • The tagline of Science Court was "To Serve and Observe", even though it wasn't about a police department.