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Standard Police Motto

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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:

  • 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?


    Live-Action TV 
  • The Trope Maker (in the media, at any rate) is Dragnet, which was based on the Real Life LAPD. Continued in Adam-12 where a prominent shot of the motto on the squad car door was in the opening credits.
  • In Due South, when Constable Fraser is asked if the RCMP motto is We Always Get Our Man, he replies with the correct motto of Uphold the Right.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The motto of the sheriff's department of Berberg County, Montana, is "Protect and Serve," as emblazoned on the sheriff's cruiser.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

  • 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 New York City Police Department has several. "New York's Finest" is the most common verbal one, while the motto "Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect" is the one painted on marked NYPD vehicles.
  • The Chicago Police Department paints "We Serve and Protect" onto the blue side stripes of their units
  • The San Francisco Police Department uses the city's motto of "Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra (Gold in peace, iron in war)".
  • Quite a fair number of police departments use Latin mottos:
    • The Atlanta Police Department's motto is "Resurgens" (Latin for "Rising Again"), owing to Atlanta's city seal of a phoenix, itself reflecting the destruction and rebuilding after the Civil War.
    • The Baltimore Police Department motto is "Semper Paratus, Semper Fideles" ("Ever Ready, Ever Faithful, Ever on the Watch").
    • The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia has a motto of "Justitia Omnibus" ("Justice for All").
    • The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's is "Service moris Ductu et aequi Omnibus" ("Service, Integrity, Leadership, and Fair Treatment to All").
  • The San Diego Police Department's is "America's Finest".
  • The Toronto Police Service uses "To Serve and Protect".
  • The RCMP's is "Defending the Law", or "Maintiens le droit" in Frenchnote 

Subverted, parodied, lampshaded, etc., in:

  • In the Michael Bay Transformers film, the Decepticon Barricade has a police car mode with the phrase "To punish and enslave."
  • 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, 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.

    Comic Books 

  • 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 
  • 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."
    • They also decide to change it at one point, because Karen feels the standard motto is too common. Hank suggests "Mmm Mmm Good", but they eventually settle on "No Crime Too Small".
  • 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."
  • In Top Gear, when they designed police cars, James' one had "ROZZERS: Catching crims and locking 'em up... In Your Community" wirtten on the side.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: To Secure, Contain and Protect (a backronym of SCP, which comes from "Special Containment Procedures", the Tailor-Made Prison for each paranormal item). This one could plausibly go in the "played straight" column too.
  • In Sonichu the Jerkops ride patrols with the motto "To Shatter and Torture All Hearts".

    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.
  • The police force in High School USA! has the motto "Do we have to?".