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Sword and Staff


The sword and staff, with other insignia, is used as a sign of rank in the South African Police Service and is worn by persons having the rank of assistant commissioner and higher. These symbols represent:


A sword is the symbol of power. This power is given to the South African Police Service in terms of an Act of Parliament. This power shall be, and is used exclusively to ensure the safety and security of the State and of all its peoples.


The staff has, since Roman times, been the symbol of authority. Called a fasces and carried in front of a Roman magistrate, the staff gave him the authority to rule and govern. In the same way this is a symbol of the authority vested in those members of the South African Police Service who have the honour of wearing it.

The Power and The Authority of the State

The fasces or staff was made up of an axe (the ability to cut through untruth or prejudice) and a bundle of sticks (the whole is stronger than the individual). In the same way, the staff combined with the sword represents that, together, they have greater power than they would have if they were separate.

Lawfulness and Legality

The fasces was the symbol of authority in all matters of lawfulness and legality. This symbol still represents the wearer’s total submission to legality and lawfulness. The wearers shall not be a law unto themselves, but they shall do all in their power to uphold the law, and to ensure the lawfulness of all their actions.


Righteousness can also be the rightness of an authority or power. The sword, which is also a symbol of justice, thus symbolizes the striving of the South African Police Service to rendering a just, unpartisan service to the community. In this service, it will constantly monitor the rightness of its actions.

A Position of Rank and Leadership

The staff and sword have since the earliest times been the symbols of a position of rank and leadership. They represent a position of great seniority but also great responsibility. By wearing this insignia, the wearers pledge that, as they enjoy the place of privilege, so will they also carry out their greater responsibilities.

Humility with Authority and Power

The sword, as in all holy writings, is in the spiritual realm, the symbol of divine guidance and correction. This symbol thus declares that the wearers will humbly submit to that authority that is above every other.

Partnerships in the Law

The symbols of the sword and staff are shared with the other security services. By sharing these symbols, the South African Police Service identifies itself with all the other security services which, in the service of the State, serve the community.