How Do You Address the Chief of Police in Correspondence?

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How Do You Address the Chief of Police in Correspondence?
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It's important to strike a tone of politeness and respect when communicating with your local police chief, especially if you want her help and attention. Being too informal or sloppy with the person's credentials shows disrespect for the police chief, which could lead to your letter not being taken seriously. When on the job, police chiefs are addressed by their titles. That could be a rank or an administrative title, depending on the size of the police department.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

It's courteous to address a uniformed police chief by her rank, for example, Captain. Where the chief is a non-police administrator, use Mr., Ms., or Mrs., followed by the person's name.

Chief of Police Has Multiple Meanings

In many mid-sized cities, the chief of police is the most senior uniformed police officer and holds a military-style rank, such as colonel, major or captain. In larger metropolitan districts, the chief of police may not be a uniformed officer, but rather an elected administrator. This type of chief does not hold a rank and may go by the title of police commissioner. Before writing your letter, it's a good idea to call the police department and ask an assistant in the chief's office what the correct job title is in your district.

Addressing an Officer of Rank

Where the chief of police is a uniformed officer, address him by rank followed by the officer's last name. So, the address block on your letter might read:

Captain Robert Gates
Chief of Police
St. Louis County Police Department

The salutation should also refer to the chief's rank as in Dear Captain Gates: (Be sure to include a colon after the chief's name in keeping with standard business letter format.)

Addressing an Administrator

Where the chief of police is an elected official, address your letter using the person's name:

Mr. Robert Gates
Commissioner of Police
St. Louis County Police Department

In this case, you can open with a formal salutation of your choosing. It is correct to either use the chief's title as in Dear Commissioner Gates or simply the chief's name, Dear Mr. Gates, although the former sounds more courteous and respectful. Dear Sir/Madam is also appropriate and may be preferable if you wish to strike an especially formal tone, for example, if you're making a complaint.

Complimentary Closing

The complimentary closing refers to the way you end the letter before your signature. Typically, you'll use formal closings, like Sincerely or Sincerely yours, but the phrases Very truly yours, Respectfully and Yours truly are also acceptable. The closings Best regards, Kind regards and Warm wishes are appropriate if you know the police chief personally or are writing an informal letter, for example, congratulating the police chief on an award or promotion. Use the content of the letter to help guide your choice of closing.

References

About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.

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