2.3 Identifying the differences and similarities of the hierarchy and police stations of the two countries
2.3.1 The US police structure regarding station hierarchy and rank graduations
The police model used in the U.S. regarding station hierarchy and rank graduations, usually are paramilitary or quasimilitary. In spite of the large number of municipal, state and federal police officers (17,985), the most common ranking model, from the highest rank to the lowest is:
Chief of Police, Police Commissioner, Police Superintendent or Sheriff; Assistant Chief of Police, Assistant Police Commissioner, Assistant Police Superintendent or Deputy Sheriff; Colonel, Inspector or Commander; Major or Assistant Inspector; Captain; Lieutenant; Sergeant; Detective, Investigator; Corporal; Soldier, Police officer, Deputy Sheriff.
The vast majority of US state police use “Colonel” as the patent name of the Police Chief’s senior executive officer (Chief of Police). Usually within the municipal or county police, Sheriff, Commissioner or Director is used. US police colonels use a gold eagle insignia and a silver oak leaf for Lieutenant Colonel, in accordance to the American armed forces model.
Majors, or Assistant Inspectors, use a golden insignia of an oak leaf, similar to those used in the armed forces. In Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia, Majors oversee and command police stations.
Captains use two gold bars and oversee a police station or a small unit responsible for areas or types of policing in criminal investigation cases or patrolling. It is usually the Police Captains who command the policing of entire regions of large cities such as New York, in the state of New York.
Lieutenants use a single gold bar and supervise two to three or more sergeants. They can oversee a Police Station for an entire shift (equivalent to an Independent Military Police Company in Brazil) or specialized crimes, such as homicide or narcotics division.
Sergeants use three chevrons and is a police officer who oversees a shift of a smaller police department and areas or neighborhoods of a larger police department. They are also responsible for criminal investigation teams and are responsible for solving crimes specific to their operation field. In some states, such as that of the state of New Jersey, there are intermediate ranks of sergeants, as occurs in the US military and in the Brazilian military police, for example, Second Sergeants, Staff Sergeant, and First Sergeant, Sergeant First Class.
Detective, Inspector or Investigator is a criminal investigation expert within the police corporation. There are no incomplete-duty police officers in the US, they all complete a full cycle, which means they patrol, are first responders, arrest, prosecute and investigate, unlike Brazil. The US police keep their own criminal and occurrence files, as well as serve arrest warrants and actively participate alongside the public prosecutor’s office and with the justice of operations of organized crime control.
A police investigation specialist wears civilian clothing. In some police, there is a unique rank within a specific post and higher salary. Meanwhile, in other police forces, such as the one in the City of New York, there is no badge or salary distinction; the police officer works undercover only while serving in the investigation division. This division has police officers from all patents working together, along the lines of communicating with the intelligence departments and covert policing of Brazilian military police. The investigative police officer has higher authority when on duty at crime scenes.
Corporals use two stripes.
Officer, Deputy Sheriff or Soldier use a badge with one stripe.
In some police, such as in New York City, officers as of lieutenant onwards, wear a white shirt instead of the blue or black worn by those in lower posts. Senior officers or senior or senior police officers, use gold oak leaf motifs on the visor, as do Brazilian military police ranked Major or above.
In order to advance from ranking Soldier, or police officer, to the rank of Captain, several tests and years of service are usually required, whereupon, a recommendation from the Commander of the police force will be determinant. For positions below ranking Captain in the event of a vacancy, promotion is usually granted solely by recommendation of a Commander, Chief of Police or Sheriff. Police in the United States are not granted promotions unless a corresponding vacancy becomes available, be it through promotion, resignation, retirement or death.
The U.S. Coast Guard has insignias and graduation ceremonies equivalent to that of the US Navy and British Royal Navy.
Image 1: US police rank and badge hierarchySource : US police rank hierarchy
US municipal police
Local police, which include municipalities, counties and sheriff departments, are the backbone of American public security system. The average American citizen characterizes the term “police” as a police organization that serves its municipality or county of residence (DANTAS, 2008). The absolute majority of local police departments (91% of them) have less than fifty (50) police officers and 90% of these institutions oversee populations of less than 25,000 inhabitants (idem).
The State Police of the United States of America
In the United States, State Police are police corporations under the authority of each state’s governor, with legal authority to conduct ostensible policing activities as well as criminal investigations within their respective state. These police, organized in a military demeanor, whose discipline and uniform resemble the military structure more than that of the local police, carry out various assignments. The most common responsibilities include: perform policing outside the municipalities, Vermont is an exception; patrol interstates and expressways built and maintained by the state; safeguard state Capitols; protect the state governor; train new police officers in case municipal police are small and lack police academy; provide municipal police forces with technical and technological support; and coordinate task forces organized to combat criminal cases or disasters, which, due to its complexity and involvement of several municipalities, require a concentrated and coordinated effort with prompt state government response.
There are fifty (50) State Police in the USA and twenty-two (22) are called “State Police”.
The U.S. Coast Guard
This is the most military police of North America. Founded and maintained as a gendarmerie, this police corporation has maritime police and airborne rescue as its missions. Acting along the entire American coastline, the U.S. Coast Guard became notorious for its efficiency and discipline and is always honorably mentioned in books and movies in the USA as an icon of selfless heroism. For the purpose of comparison, it is as if the Military Police of the State of São Paulo (PMSP), (similar number of active troops, each with an average of one hundred thousand (100,000) men), only cared for Brazilian territorial waters, patrolling missions, police inspections of vessels and search and rescue missions at sea. The comparison is pertinent since the PMSP undertake police, rescue and fire department assignments, in all its aspects as a single corporation endowed with its own doctrine and training. The same applies to the U.S. Coast Guard, but it is organized and maintained by the federal government. The United States Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the country and is part of the Department of Homeland Security. In case of a war, as occurred during the First and Second World War, it becomes subordinate to the US Navy. Created in 1790, the Coast Guard is accountable for the patrolling and protection of rivers and seas of the United States. It is classified as a responsive military force of public safety professionals who must protect and patrol all ports, rivers, coastal seas and high seas. With these attributes, the U.S. Coast Guard has an instrumental value in terms of maritime and river safety. In 2012, it had more than 43,000 active military personnel, more than 8,000 reservists, more than 8,800 civilian employees and more than 30,000 volunteers.
U.S. Coast Guard officers in formation, marching with riflesSource : Clay Maitland
2.3.2 The Brazilian police structure regarding station hierarchy and rank graduations
The Brazilian state police
The Brazilian police structure regarding station hierarchy and rank graduations is military in its entirety.
The Brazilian preventive police model is based on the state structure, with military police force for each federative entity; Brazil has twenty-seven (27) – twenty-six (26) states and one Federal District.
Brazilian military police officers have badges that hold the same symbolism and logic of the Brazilian Army (Exército Brasileiro), since the first are reserves and auxiliary forces of the Army. For this reason, the insignia of the Colonel has three stars with four yellow tips, that of the Lieutenant Colonel are two gold stars and one silver star, Majors use one gold star and two silver stars. The group that uses gold stars is called “circle of senior police officers” (círculo de oficiais superiors) and are entrusted with command and subcommand roles, in addition to being responsible for senior corporate management.
Colonels usually work with General Command, staff and senior operational management, administrative, logistics and personnel (commanders, chiefs, directors).
Lieutenant Colonels manage battalion commander positions with Majors acting as Deputy Commanders and Head of General operational headquarters Staff. The battalions are organized in a classic military manner, whose traditions date back to the Roman Empire period, with at least three operational corporations, and a Platoon and Department Command. The battalions, depending on their sizes, have a staff of between three hundred fifty (350) and one thousand (1,000) men.
The captain’s insignia has three silver stars. This circle refers to intermediate officers. Such policemen command police corporations and battalions. Usually the directions obey the Roman logic, from which the position of captain descends directly from “centurion” or the one that commands a hundred (100) men. For this reason, battalions usually have three or more corporations, each with one hundred (100) police officers under the command of a captain.
The first lieutenant wears a badge with two silver stars, while the second lieutenant, one. They are in the so-called circle of non-commissioned officers. They work directly with commanding troops inspecting and supervising operational service. The first lieutenant occupies the position of Deputy commander of the corporation, Captain’s subordinate, and has a second lieutenant with his aid and replacement. In a corporation, there are two or more lieutenants. The lieutenant is responsible for the supervision and coordination of operational service and training of the troops while complying with a work timetable for the field and perform administrative tasks in the organization. The other lieutenants of the police unit command a platoon, having the sergeant as his aid. The platoon may have staff ranging between 19 and 33 military police.
The aspirant insignia has a five-pointed gold star. Golden patents can only be used by those within the circle of officers in the first and last career post. Due to the fact that aspirant is a probationary stage, where he “does not take up place in space”, (military police jargon), which means that an aspirant cannot answer for the unit or carry out other acts exclusive to officers, but may act as assistant or aide to lieutenants. Usually the length of stay is of only six months.
Even though the cadet is considered a patent of the military police hierarchy, it is in fact, a student of Officer Training Course (Curso de Formação de Oficiais – CFO) and, as a such, has duties linked to school activities specific to the training course. In some states, the CFO is titled as Bachelor of Public Safety or Police Science, as is the case of the PMDF.
The Second Lieutenant is rank that represents the pinnacle of a police career . This position is usually granted after more than 25 years of service. The Second Lieutenant commands the subsections within the military police units, such as the supply or reserve arsenal warehouses. This rank’s badge is a golden triangle.
The First Sergeant uses five stripes and their responsibilities usually include assisting in the administrative department of the units. Within the corporations, they are called acting Sergeant (Sargenteante) and are responsible for the duty roster, absenteeism control, medical certificates, vacations, etc. They are responsible, with supervision of the Commander, for the books of effective personnel fillings and management within corporations and their allocation maps, documents that must be sent every week to headquarters. These are then assessed to determine the difference between expecting, existing, availability and readiness of personnel and funds, for immediate usage.
The Second Sergeant uses four stripes and their duties normally include assisting the Officer, the Commander of Headquarters’ Guards, and the First Sergeant in the corporations, sections and subsections. He may hold the position of First Sergeant in the absence or non-existence of one in the unit.
The Third Sergeant uses three stripes and within the operational units, is the radio patrol, police station, and dispatch commander, among others. Their activities are linked to operational road activities with direct contact with the troops and Officer on duty.
The Police Guard wears two stripes and is responsible for operational police duties, such as radio patrol commandant, working in the administrative sections and subsections and corporations as a typist, driver, guard, radio-operator, etc.
The Soldier has one stripe and is the first position of the law enforcement career. Their mission is policing the streets with roles directly linked to benefit the end of such operations. They may be radio patrol drivers, patrolmen, headquarter guards or conduct policing activities in general.
The Police Recruit does not wear a badge, but will hold a military police rank after graduating into the corporation through the Training Course of Pre-Police (Curso de Formação de Praças – CFP). Such rank lasts only as long as the program, where he will then be promoted to Soldier at the end of this phase.
Badges and ranks , and its respective symbols, are the same in all Brazilian military police. Brazilian military police hierarchy, ranks and graduations.
2.4. Enumerating and describing the prerequisites to become a police officer in Brazil and in the US
Source: Hierarchy within military police and firemen
2.4.1 Requirements to be a police officer in the USA
The American ostensible police officers, who execute services equivalent to that of the Brazilian military police, prioritize the admission of war veterans to become police men, since it is assumed that if the individual wants to become a police officer, he has already been trained by the armed forces whose ethos has already made him acquire desirable characteristics, such as honesty, dedication, abnegation, sense of honor and morality.
Virtually every American police follows a law  which regulates the minimum requirements for individual candidates who apply to become a police officer. In addition to such minimum requirements, physical and driving examinations are required. After a series of tests and background check into the officer’s life prior to admission into the police force, he then presents himself to the police academy to begin the Officer Training Course.
Minimum requirements for admission to a police academy:
- Be a US citizen or have a permanent resident visa;
- Hold a High School degree. For some institutions, a University degree in criminal justice is necessary. Candidates who served in the Armed Forces and had regular termination, may use their certifications during the evidence qualification phase; no dishonorable discharged from the military will be accepted;
- Be in physical, medical and psychological fit conditions;
- Not have been convicted by the justice system;
- Have a driver’s license and no history of serious fines or have already lost the right to drive for any reason;
- Be considered a person of high character and moral;
- Have no history of criminal record, not be a user of illegal drugs or be an alcoholic;
- No history of violence or mental illness;
- Not be considered, for any reason, a risk to the police and to society;
- Be legally able to possess and handle firearms;
- In some police corporations, especially state corporations, a lie detector is required.
To be admitted to the US Coast Guard you must be 18 years old or 17 years old with proper parental consent.
2.4.2 Requirements to become a police officer in Brazil
According to the Federal Constitution of 1988, to occupy a position within the public police of Brazil, a governmental examination is mandatory. As a result, all requirements for participation is the exam and its selection criteria stem from specific infra-constitutional legislation published in the Official Gazette.
In general, a written exam is required for the first phase; in the second stage, a physical fitness test; in the third, a series of medical exams; and the fourth phase, a series of psychological exams. In addition to these minimum requirements, a conduction of background check prior to one’s approval into the police force and submission of educational certificates are required as well.
Minimum requirements to be admitted for the PMDF:
- Be a Brazilian citizen;
- Hold a higher education degree in any area;
- No criminal record or be a user of illicit drugs.
Upon meeting the requirements described above, the approved candidate is incorporated into the police, however, in order to be promoted to the first level of the career, successfully completion of the CFO or the CFP is necessary.
Author of the Research:
Olavo Freitas Mendonça
Captain of the Military Police of the Federal District (PMDF) with eighteen (18) years of service in the fields of ostensive policing, information technology, transit and media. Bachelor of Political Sciences from the Instituto Superior de Ciências Policiais (ISCP), 2000. Criminology Lecturer at ISCP.
Advisor of the Research:
George Felipe Lima Dantas
Master and Doctor of Education from George Washington University (GWU), in Washington, D.C. (USA). Public security Consultant, having already acted as post-graduate coordinator in the field, research adviser, professor, lecturer and author.
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 Patentes são as insígnias dos oficiais policiais militares e graduações as das praças policiais militares.
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The article was published on the following websites:
FENEME (Federação Nacional dos Militares Estaduais) no link:
FENEME (Federação Nacional dos Militares Estaduais) no link:
FENAPEF (Federação Nacional dos Policiais Federais) no link:
SINDIPOL DF (Sindicato dos Policiais Federais do Distrito Federal) no link:
SINDIPOL Bahia (Sindicato dos Policiais Federais do Estado da Bahia) no link:
SINPOL Piauí (Sindicato dos Policiais Civis do Estado do Piauí) no link:
Olavo Mendonça. Representante Institucional de SECINDEF en Brasil (Security, Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism. Mayor of Policía Militar / Brasilia, Distrito Federal, Brasil. Secretaría de Estado de Seguridad Pública y Defesa Social, Policía Militar del Distrito Federal. Policía especialista en táctica, armamento, políticas de tráfico, tecnología de la información. Profesor en el Instituto Superior de Ciencias de la policía. Creador y editor de la revista electrónica BlitzDigital y conductor del programa de radio BlitzDigital Federal en Brasilia. Analista de OCATRY (Observatorio contra la Amenaza Terrorista y la Radicalización Yihadista) de SECINDEF e INISEG