A collar number, also known as a shoulder number, force identification number (FIN) or occasionally as force number (although this can also refer to the ID number of a force itself), identifies police officers, police community support officers (PCSO), special constables (SC or SPC) and some police staff in UK police forces - other law enforcement agencies, such as HM Prison Service, have also adopted identification numbers. Although now displayed on epaulettes (i.e. on the shoulder), it is still commonly referred to as a collar number. Although most forces issue a collar number to all warranted officers regardless of role, only uniformed officers of the ranks constable and sergeant actually display the numbers.
In most forces it is simply a one- to five-digit number, but in larger forces a letter code (also known as a division call sign) may be added to indicate the officer's base area or unit. In some forces different types of staff (paid ('regular') police officers, special constables, PCSOs and other police staff) are assigned different ranges of numbers, so a person's role can be deduced from the number, but these systems are force specific and there is no national standard.
City of London
Until recently, collar numbers consisted of a number followed by a single letter to indicate the division (e.g. "PC 123A").
In 1914, the force was reorganised into four divisions, each named after its police station:
Divisional letter Division A Moor Lane B Snow Hill C Bishopsgate D Cloak Lane
Moor Lane Police Station was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940, and A Division was abolished and distributed amongst the three remaining divisions. Cloak Lane Police Station was closed down in 1946, and D Division was transferred to the new Wood Street Police Station. The divisions after 1946 therefore stood at:
Divisional letter Division B Snow Hill C Bishopsgate D Wood Street
In 1984, the force was reduced to two territorial divisions, based at Snow Hill Police Station and Bishopsgate Police Station (still B and C Divisions), together with support divisions, and the divisions subsequently stood at:
Divisional letter Division A Anti-Terrorism & Public Order B Snow Hill C Bishopsgate D Specialist Crime Operations E Professional Development Unit F Economic Crime Department
In February 2009, all the divisions were abolished and the force was divided into directorates (with all patrol officers falling within the new Territorial Policing Directorate, subsequently incorporating certain specialist units and becoming the Uniformed Policing Directorate). All officers' collar numbers were then suffixed by the letters "CP" rather than a divisional letter.
Collar numbers are allocated as follows:
Range Officers 1–149 Sergeants 150–999 Constables 1000–1099 Special Sergeants 1100–1299 Special Constables 2000–2099 PCSOs
A number, followed by one or two letters indicating the station/sector, borough, or unit. Current practice favours use of borough codes rather than station codes (with the borough code generally taken from one of the borough's stations—see below—which can cause confusion).
Divisional area codes are still used to identify the areas themselves, together with the police station and vehicles (if any) nominally covering them, but not officers.
A one, two or three digit number denotes a Sergeant, a three or four digit number denotes a Constable, a four digit number beginning with 5 denotes an officer of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary, unless they're attached to a 'Roads & Transport Policing Command' (RTPC) team, in which case the number will begin with an 8 and a four digit number beginning with 7 denotes a PCSO again unless they are attached to RTPC and they will start with a 6. Confusingly, MPS epaulettes display the letters over the digits, i.e. 81FH (a Sergeant based at Hammersmith) would show FH over 81 on their shoulder, which reads more like FH81 (the call sign of a panda car based there). Ranks above Sergeant do not have collar numbers - officers are identified by name (e.g. Inspector Smith, who may once have been PC 123 kg Smith).
An exception to the above was the City of Westminster borough. Westminster had over 1,500 officers therefore a three digit number system was too small. Until late 2009 constables and sergeants had four digit shoulder numbers beginning 1, 2, 3 or 4 (with the leading number signifying which part of the borough you were attached to - 1 Westminster North, 2 Westminster Central, 3 Westminster South or 4 Westminster HQ). With the amalgamation of Westminster Central and South in late 2009 the decision was taken to amalgamate all the shoulder numbers into one numbering system. All new officers joining the borough were given the first available number and cross division moves no longer resulted in the need for a new shoulder number.
Central and Specialist Units
Code Specialist unit CC Central Communications Command (CO10) CJ Met Detention (Custody) CO Specialist Crime & Operations (includes Specialist Firearms Command, Mounted Branch, Marine Policing Unit etc.) FRT Forensic Retrieval Team R Royalty Protection Group (SO14) RO Royal Parks MxC Specialist Crime Directorate SO Specialist Operations & Aviation Security SO18 (Heathrow Airport & London City Airport) VF Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) VE Operation Venice P Units based at Parliament (Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection) D Units supporting diplomats and senior ministers (Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection) V Vehicle Enforcement Team L Learning Directorate (training) T Roads and Transport Policing Command - (Merger of ST (Safer Transport) and TD (Traffic) U Territorial Support Group (CO20)
From 2017 to 2019 the Metropolitan Police Service reformed the organisational structure of Frontline Policing from the existing 32 Borough Operational Command Units (BOCUs) into 12 new Basic Command Units.
† Some authoritative sources (e.g. Police and Constabulary Almanac) are self-contradictory and incomplete.
Not all of these stations are currently operational.
Further to this; letters on shoulders will denote borough or newly formed basic command units and not the police station an officer is based from. An example of this would be a PC working from East Ham Police Station in the borough of Newham; the PC would have KF (Newham) on their shoulder and not KE (East Ham station). Similarly in newly merged boroughs a PC working from Holloway Police Station would have CN (Central North BCU) on their shoulder.
All officers will be provided with a collar number which is also their warrant number. Prior to September 2018, this was deemed by gender for example CS123 would represent a male officer who's surname started with S, a female would being with a D, DS123 for example.
The second letter would be the first initial of the officer, followed by a three digit number. In September 2018, this changed and all new officers warrant numbers start EA followed by a three digit number.
PNC codes and collar numbers
When a police officer or a member of staff is in a collaborative (multi-constabulary) unit or department (such as the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit), the PNC code, which is a force identification number, is added to the collar number to prevent confusion between officers; e.g., 41-9999 would indicate a Hertfordshire officer. These numbers are only used in paperwork and are not seen on the officer's epaulettes.
HM Prison Service
Operational Support Staff and sworn Prison Officers in Her Majesty’s Prison Service bear collar numbers to aid in accountability in the service. Collar numbers bear two letters indicating which establishment the officer is based at and three random numerical digits.
- "Arrêté du 24 décembre 2013 relatif aux conditions et modalités de port du numéro d'identification individuel par les fonctionnaires de la police nationale, les adjoints de sécurité et les réservistes de la police nationale". Journal officiel de la République française (0300): 46. 24 December 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- ""Welcome to the Wandsworth Borough Police homepage", Metropolitan Police Service website". Archived from the original on 27 June 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2009.