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Inside the PPD: Ranks of the Philadelphia Police Department


by Frank Domizio

The Philadelphia Police Department gets many questions about our rank structure, so here is a refresher on the various ranks throughout the Department and a short description of their functions.

Police Officer – Police Officers are the backbone of the Police Department. Nearly every unit in every police facility across the city has someone at the rank of Police Officer doing the “J.O.B.”

Detective – Police Detectives perform investigative functions throughout the Police

Department. Most are assigned to one of the six Detective Divisions (Southwest, South, Central, East, Northwest, and Northeast). There are also detectives assigned to specialized units such as Homicide, Special Victims, Homeland Security, and many others. Detectives are the only rank that do not have a uniform, they wear business attire.

Corporal – Corporals are the entry level supervisors in the Police Department. They are typically assigned to supervise a small group of administrative workers in the Operations Room and cell block of a district. Corporals wear blue shirts with two chevrons, or stripes on the sleeve.

Sergeant – Sergeants are the first-line supervisors in a district, unit, or detective division. They are typically responsible for the supervision of a squad of Police Officers or Detectives. A sergeant’s uniform consists of a white uniform shirt with three chevrons on the sleeve and usually drive police vehicles with a letter after the district number, i.e. 1A is a 1st District Sergeant’s car.

Lieutenant – Lieutenants are usually assigned to command a platoon of Police Officers and subordinate supervisors. Lieutenants assigned to patrol districts are also responsible for a Police Service Area, or P.S.A. Their uniform is very similar to the sergeant’s uniform except that Lieutenant’s uniform pants do not have a blue stripe down the seam. Their rank insignia is one gold bar, worn on the collar and shoulder tab of the shirt. Their vehicles are designated  with the letters ‘DC’ after their assigned district, i.e. the 1st District lieutenant’s car will be numbered 1DC and their call sign would be “1 Command.”

Captain – Captains are the commanding officers of district and units throughout the Philadelphia Police Department. Each one of the 21 numbered police districts have a Captain assigned as the commanding officer. Captains wear two gold bars on their collars and shoulder. Their radio call signs are ‘CO’, for commanding officer, and the district number. Using the 1st District again, their captain’s call sign would be CO1.

Staff Inspector – Staff Inspectors are in charge of large units as deemed necessary by the Police Commissioner. Interestingly, the Department currently has just two employees that hold the rank of Staff Inspector. They wear gold oak-leaf clusters on their uniforms.

Inspector – Inspectors command a group of districts or units called a division. In patrol, divisions are made up of three or four districts and also contain one of the previously mentioned detective divisions. Inspectors wear a silver oak leaf cluster to denote their rank and their radio call signs begin with an I, such as I5.

Chief Inspector – Chief Inspectors are typically in command of large groups of units called a bureau. As the Department is currently organized, there are Chiefs in charge of Special Operations, Training and Education, a several other units. Chief Inspector’s rank is designated by a gold eagle.

Deputy Commissioner – Deputy Commissioners are in command of large sections of the Philadelphia Police Department. There are currently nine Deputy Commissioners that wear from one to three stars on their uniforms.

Commissioner – The Police Commissioner is the CEO of the Police Department. The Commissioner points the direction by which we all follow. The Commissioner wears four gold stars.