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hertfordshire constabulary panda police motto

To Protect and To Serve

Years of watching US cop shows have told us that LAPD cars are driven by officers there 'to protect and to serve'. A good motto, like this one, is hard to come by but putting the effort into finding one is very worthwhile; a deceptively simply motto or strapline can say an awful lot about an organisation but it's so very easy to get a strapline dreadfully wrong.

What Use Is A Strapline?

For the past year, Sub@omic has been trading with the Simply More Clickable strapline of which we're rather proud; it took us 10 years of trading to discover it but, once discovered, the fit became immediately apparent. Everything we do can be traced back to our strapline that exists not only as a simple marketing device and memory hook but as a compass that can keep our work on the right path. If we sometimes experience doubt about what we're doing, we refer back to our strapline, if the website we are designing or developing will be simply more clickable as a result of our efforts then we know we're doing the right thing.

A strapline is defined as being: "a memorable slogan attached to a commercial brand" and a slogan is, in turn, defined as being: "a short and striking or memorable phrase used in marketing". The common denominator here is the word memorable yet an effective strapline needs to do so much more than be memorable because a truly great strapline also has to have real meaning.

Last week, walking back from a lunchtime mission to procure a sandwich and some chocolate Hobnobs, I spotted a Hertfordshire Constabulary panda car with 4 words, attempting to offer meaning, adhering ashamedly to the vehicle's door. Safety, Justice and Reassurance is what the Hertfordshire Constabulary appear to claim to provide yet they probably don't know that they now also work as a poster child for lame organisational straplines.

You see, the trouble is that these 4 words don't actually know what they are, we all know what they're intended to do but they don't know if they are a motto, a slogan or a strapline; there is a difference and the difference is important. These limp words on the side of the panda mean nothing, they are immediately forgettable and do little to remind us how valuable our police force truly is. My guess is that a committee far removed from frontline policing formed these words over an agenda with coffee and biscuits. Compare these 4 words to the power of the words to protect and to serve carried by US police patrol cars and you'll quickly see just how bad we Brits can be at promoting ourselves. Straplines composed in boardrooms always end up being diluted by political compromises and are very rarely hard-hitting, meaningful and memorable. The LAPD's powerful motto outguns Hertfordshire Constabulary's effort yet the famous motto was actually written by a serving officer as the result of a competition run by the LAPD.

Safety, Justice and Reassurance

These four words are a well-meaning yet limp attempt at a motto - they can't be trying to form a strapline or a slogan because those are, by definition, applied to commercial marketing so a public service organisation requires something else; a motto.

Look up the definition of a motto and you find something far closer to the brief that Hertfordshire Constabulary should have issued; a motto is: "A short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the values or beliefs of an individual, family or institution." There you have it; an institution has a motto, a commercial organisation has a strapline which is why I think to protect and to serve works and why I think Safety, Justice and Reassurance doesn't work at all.

Values and Beliefs

The Hertfordshire Constabulary's 4 flaky words merely list some of things they do and fail to communicate any values or beliefs; if straplines worked like this then Sub@omic's strapline wouldn't have evolved into Simply more clickable but probably have be something factual like Write code, eat Hobnobs instead. Factual straplines stating what an institution does won't motivate, won't inspire and they certainly won't reassure the public for, in the case of Hertfordshire Constabulary who see themselves as being in the business of reassurance, surely a police force's motto (just like "to protect and to serve") should address the public's values and beliefs? I'd argue that a stronger motto would evolve if written from the public's perspective referencing our desire to be shielded as well as our desire for the police to ensure that the bad guys get convicted.

Whilst I acknowledge the police play a vital, active role in the field of safety, the use of the words justice and reassurance is, in my opinion, quite wrong too; it's the British judicial system that deals out justice and I wouldn't say that the police are the first people I think of when I want some reassurance. I do get what the Hertfordshire Constabulary's fumbling for and that's to be a force for good within the community (there you go, even that would make a better motto) but the 4 words they currently use lack any kind of conviction. The lack of belief is further proved by the positioning of the words on the panda car - just below the window, signwritten in small type not much bigger than the reminder to fill the panda with diesel; the only people who would really get to see the words would then be people being taken into custody and surely these are not people the police want to be sending out the reassuring message to.

High-Vis Motto

If you believe in your motto or your strapline, you'll proudly display it, you'll be driven by it and you'll display it prominently in your high-visibility brand colours. The Hertfordshire Constabulary don't seem too proud of their attempted motto (and who can blame them?) So, perhaps, in the spirit of to protect and to serve, we need to offer the local force something far better so let's get the debate started with my suggestion: Protection with Conviction.

Anthea avatarAnthea30th November 1999
As you allude to, their 'motto' is in small font, only really visible to the person they may be putting in the back of their car. So maybe the message "Safety, Justice and Reassurance" is directed at those customers?

I DO think you have something there with "A Force for Good in the Community" - it's a motto that has a clever play on who they are and what they exist to be. Worth a second look.

And of course, it would need to be a bit more IN YOUR FACE!
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