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I'm looking for something non-nationality-specific to visually represent police and policing. Everything I can find, however, and everything I can think of myself, is based on imagery specific to one nation's police force (mostly USA or UK).

I did, however, find a quote from the book Visual Information For Everyday Use which sums up my problem neatly:

...the ISO [tried] to develop a symbol to indicate 'police' by using a hat worn by police. The problem was that the hat varies throughout the world and not everybody can be expected to be familiar with the hats worn by police in different countries.

I thought there must be some kind of international standard used in signposting, map making, etc, but I can't find one.


For the context I need it, it needs to be non-negative, so not hand-cuffs or anything else off-putting (the context is about going to the police for help).


I've got a feeling there's some standard symbol similar to this (example from Noun Project, Rflor), but I can't find any information about what the original is or what its provenance is.

enter image description here

For some reason I associate this image with the police in Italy, not sure why.

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    While I personally recognize that icon I can't exactly point to an origin. However I have a feeling it's connected to AIGA's work for DOT (Department of Transportation). If you look at their list of icons I'm sure you'll recognize most of these. You'll notice both the Customs and Immigration icons have an officer in them that look awfully like that one you posted from the Noun Project. Maybe that's a good starting point? – Hanna Dec 10 '15 at 21:03
  • Aha, I was sure I'd seen something like it in airports. Thanks! – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 10 '15 at 21:14
  • Project noun may hav esome ideas, I always think of a badge (sheild type or sheriff), or maybe a police car? thenounproject.com/search/?q=police – Benneb10 Dec 10 '15 at 21:45
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    To a certain degree all icons are subjective. There will never be a one-size-fits-all for any symbol. As the designer you should make the final decision based on context and content. – Benjamin Dec 11 '15 at 2:39
  • All I see in that image is an elephant. ;) I honestly don't think it's possible to have just one symbol unless there is a big push by the international community to come up with one. I think it would most likely have to change from country to country. At least for a symbol that is instantly recognizable. – ErickP Jan 7 '16 at 16:21
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+250

Here's a link to a quick discussion on international symbology you might find interesting since you’ve already read about the ISO standard.
A Brief History of International Symbols
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As the article and @johannes mentioned in the comments to your question, there is the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) 50 icon set designed in 1974 that has become a free to use international icon set. Unfortunately there is no police icon.

A more recent standardization of international symbology has been undertaken buy the United Nations and the OCHA.

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The OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.

They released the OCHA Humanitarian Icon Collection that contains several police icons. Including the recommended international police symbol, which is the Shield with a letter P.
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There’s also the Safety And Security, and Protection icons that might server your needs as well.

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You were on the right path with the Noun Project icons you were already looking at.

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As you've already seen the symbol can vary between location but the symbol I consider as the internationally recognizable symbol for police is the shield or badge.

It can be found used for buttons to contact law enforcement:

enter image description here

source: gettyimages.com

It is commonly used in identifying a police location or can be found used in their union logo:

enter image description here

It does come in different shapes and sizes and sometimes a shield can be classified for an officer, sheriff, patrol, etc. etc. depending on the region.

I believe you may be associating that image to Italian police because that appears to be the typical way an officer dresses:

enter image description here

source: kryon.com

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Nearly every police force in the world uses a block sans-serif typeface. Nearly all use either a badge, emblem or a star shape of some sort (even in south Africa they use a star that looks like a sheriffs badge).

This type of icon transcends locality and everyone will know what you mean if you put a badge or a star emblem.

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