Combating the "Patch Police" - or Preventing Being Perceived as an "Patch Police Officer"

Ever attended a Scouting event or activity whereby you observe someone going up to some Scout or Scouter (or YOU!) and start in...

"You can't wear that's not official.."

"What is this. I've never seen sure this is a Scout patch?"

"This is the old are supposed to only wear the current version..."

Many of these people have the best of intentions, but for some reason or another, they either have self-appointed themselves or use the wrong tact in informing you that the things you are wearing are in the wrong location, or that they should not be worn.

Many Scouters and Scouts call these people the "patch police".

Are what they are doing "legal" or "official"?? Maybe.

First, remember that Commissioners -- ALL Commissioners, not just the unit level or District/Council level Commissioners -- have a responsibility to insure the correct wearing of the official uniform and insignia. That's part of their jobs, and most Commissioners view it as a teaching, coaching and training part of their jobs. This does NOT mean, however, that they can go about this in a mean-spirited manner, talking down to the Scout or Scouter whom really was either told incorrectly or did not receive ANY guidance at all as to where to place the various badges and insignia of Scouting.

The BSA's Insignia Guide is the overall "guidance" on what goes where. This site supplements the official guide by providing information on how those badges and insignia are to be worn, what they look like IN COLOR, and some background on some variations of the insignia or uniforming item.

Second, remember that for the most part, there is a place and location for EVERY piece of insignia that is produced by the Boy Scouts of America, it's local Councils and Districts, and units. NOT EVERYTHING GOES ON THE UNIFORM SHIRT AND NOT EVERYTHING IS WORN AT ALL TIMES. For instance, merit badge sashes are worn only during formal occasions; medals and ribboned awards are worn only during formal occasions; and aquatic badges and insignia are worn only on swimwear.

Third, some of these people may have NEVER seen what you're wearing, so it is immediately "assumed" that since they've never seen it, then it's not official. That's human nature working at its worst.

I see someone wearing a badge or item incorrectly. What do I do?

First, insure that they are indeed wearing the badge or item incorrectly. If you're a Commissioner, you should be carrying in your binder or notebook a current copy of the BSA's Insignia Guide. If you're just "joe or jane Scouter", you may not have a copy but try to have one handy for such occasions.

Not ALL insignia and uniforming items are in the Insignia Guide. That in part is why I built this site. If in doubt as to the official nature of an item, let it go and ask other Scouters if they've seen it or heard about it. Check this site out often, as I'll add new or changed insignia in the "News" section of the site.

Second, remember that the Scouter you're going to approach is going to be a bit embarrassed at the fact that they are wearing something wrong. So remember "praise in public, criticize in private." Take them off to the side and let them know of the error. DO NOT DEMAND THAT THEY "FIX IT NOW". They won't be able to. Suggest, as in "Are you aware that this badge is for the Scouts only?" They may not be aware that some badges and insignia are ONLY to be worn by our youth members. "You know, some folks here are going to try to correct you about wearing this..." goes a longer way than "Hey. You can't wear that on your shirt!"

Third, remember that you are talking to a fellow Scouter or to a Scout. You're not talking to a soldier in the military. If a badge or item is a few inches off, at least they are wearing it.

Fourth, offer to sew or place the item on the uniform in the right place. A lot of times in which I attend various Scouting activities, I see the year pins on youth and adult uniforms worn on the left pocket flap instead of above the pocket where it belongs. I ALWAYS ASK FIRST IF THEY DO NOT MIND ME FIXING THEIR UNIFORM SHIRT. This gives them the opportunity to say "Why" in which it gives you (or me) the chance to explain where the badge or item belongs.

Finally, make sure that you let them know where they can get more information about where the item is to be worn. They simply MAY NOT KNOW that the item is only to be worn on a vest or that they can not wear a temporary patch where the Jamboree emblem is to be worn...they saw someone wearing what looked like a temporary patch there, and they don't know that "every badge has its place" on the shirt, jacket or vest".

How can I prevent being attacked by the Patch Police?"

First, insure that the things you are wearing on your uniform conforms to what the Insignia Guide (and perhaps this online guide) says. Take your uniform shirt and take a look at the full color scans to insure that the "knot emblems" are "right side up"; that the year pins have the right color backing; and that you are wearing the insignia according to the illustrations.

Second, if your Council has special insignia or items which can be worn on the uniform shirt, make sure that you know where they are to be worn. Councils have the authority to supplement the official insignia with insignia and badges of their own. Check with a Commissioner or your Council's Scout Executive or representative.

When someone confronts you with one of those "Are you SURE you're supposed to wear this" question or the "You're not supposed to", simply and politely ASK THEM WHERE IS THIS IN WRITING. Most Scouters with good intentions will find you a copy of the Insignia Guide or some other printed publication (or will point you to a page here or elsewhere online) which explains where the item is to worn.

DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. The person is merely either trying to honestly make all Scouters and Scouts look good, or he or she is exerting their personal "power" and you just happen to be the hapless victim. Instead, acknowledge the person and thank him or her for their concern and explain that you will "check it out" before changing your uniform. And do so when you get back.

Finally, if someone tells you "TAKE THAT OFF NOW!", simply explain in a polite tone that "I will remove it when I return home if I can be shown in a written, printed publication that what I have on is illegal or not official. If you can show me right now something in writing which says that what I am wearing is not official for wear where I am wearing it, then I will be happy to borrow a pocketknife and go to a room someplace and remove the item. But in all due respect to you, I will not remove something merely on the words of someone else."

There is NO SUCH THING AS A "SPECIAL" distribution or "private" listing which only goes to professionals or to key volunteers dealing with uniforming and insignia issues or items; those telling you that there is such a publication are lying. Whenever the BSA's National Uniform and Insignia Committee releases information about any change or addition to the official uniforms or the insignia which goes onto them, it is IMMEDIATELY RELEASED TO THE ENTIRE MEMBERSHIP and there are NO PRIVATE PUBLICATIONS. Such changes are released through national publications, through local Council publications and during staff meetings of both volunteers and professionals.

(and because I or other volunteers get copies of those releases, we add them here to this site as well as to share them with several online forums. Copies of what is being released as changes or new items are also placed on the US Scouting Service Project's website).

Some folks will tell you "It just came out as a change", or "I have read it before I got here", both which could be correct. Your response should be "Can you please get me a copy of it? The BSA says that they send their changes to everyone, so you should be able to get me a copy, right?"

Don't let people - with good intentions or not - bully you around just because they are wearing "more stuff" than you, or because they are perceived as "higherups". We are ALL in the same game together. There's no reason why ALL of the rules dealing with uniforming are not available to everyone. That too, is why this site exists. Simply ask them to provide you the information in a printed matter so you can have it as reference.

You know...They could be wrong.

I hope that this information has helped you to understand the role of the "Patch Police" and helped you to deal effectively when they "pull you over" and attempt to correct or inform you why they "pulled you over"!!

If you have any questions about the "Patch Police", please post me and I'll do my best to assist you.