A sheriff or Constable/Marshal Badge has a long history in american policing.
But where did it start and what did it mean?
In early societies the star was believed to have magical powers and anyone who wore it could protect others and ward off evil forces. This continued after the rise of Christianity and the use of the star was given high importance. In most armies we see the use of the star for generals which signifies power.
The earliest uses were found in the east coast based on British members of the Chivalric Order of Justice. This group was akin to a Knight and members were to defend the Christian faith and care for the suffering.
In the early colonies Chief Constables and High Court Judges wore these badges. Colonist adopted these star shaped badges as a symbol of justice. They were used in the eastern states at first with no requirement to wear them.
After America became a country the star shaped badges were adopted by only large departments that could afford them. In the smaller departments everyone knew each other so there was no need to wear a special uniform or badge. This changed as immigrants increased and social migration occurred.
Out west officers began to use metal from tin cans and made badges. Star badges were easier to make than circles or shields. Over time municipal departments starting using the shield as they could afford it and wanted to adopt a symbol of protection. Badges started including the name of the department in the center of the badge but this was expensive.
In Texas, Rangers adopted their flag with one star and made a badge with it including a circle around the star. Most sheriff’s departments and town constables continued to use the star badge including the U.S. Marshals.
Today star badges are either 5, 6, or 7 points.
Dr. Kuch has a PhD, MA, and MS in Criminal Justice. He is a former Deputy Sheriff and has taught for over twenty years. He is on the adjunct faculty at Galatasaray University.