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Baltimore Police Motto

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 From News Articles and Our Police 1888

A large and handsome shield on the front wall, (Central's new Gym) upon which was painted in great golden letters, "The Central Police Gymnasium, Organized November 9, 1880." and  "Ever on the Watch" In the center of the shield. This was carved into a large round wooden plaque upon which was a representation of two gladiators engaged in mortal combat. Framing the plaque was a representation, also carved in wood, of the regulation Patrolman's Belt, upon which were inscribed in a ribbon-shaped scroll the Latin legends "Semper Paratus" and "Semper Fideles." Semper could be translated to Always, or Ever, given the only portion that was written in English was Ever on the Watch, we assumed it would have been Ever that was used in our motto and not Always. Making our Motto - "Ever Ready" - "Ever Faithful'' - "Ever on the Watch." The wood carvings were described as having been excellent examples of this type of sculpture, in which modern American artists of the time, lead the world. The shield (with the Baltimore Police Motto) was presented to the "Central Police Athletic Association" for the Baltimore Police, by Mr. John Convery on November 10, 1886

This Motto is an important part of our departmental history; it is part of everyone that has ever worn the badge of a Baltimore Police Officer. Knowing this should make those that have enforced the laws on the streets of Baltimore, proud, and those currently doing the job feel equally proud. As well, it should give those contemplating or ready to apply even more reason to at least start off their careers in the uniform of a Baltimore Police Officer. For years people have come to Baltimore and felt proud to have served. Families that have learned their great-grandfather, grandfather, uncle or other relatives were Baltimore Police have always held a certain amount of pride and walked with their heads a little higher; this is why;

Semper ParatusSemper FidelesEver on the Watch” is more than just words; Baltimore police live this motto, every time they walk(ed) their beat, handle(d) their calls, or did their job. They did it knowing the importance of the legacy they are apart of.  The gymnasium at the Central District Station House was described at the time as having been the best equipped of the four gymnasiums established. It occupied the entire upper floors of the building located on North Street, near Lexington Street, and was composed of two sections of approximately equal size, each measuring forty feet wide by nearly forty-five feet in length. When special exhibitions were given one of these sections was used as an auditorium, and the other in which all of the stationary exercise equipment of the gymnasium was built, was used as the stage. Audiences of as many as 200 people had frequently witnessed exhibitions in the hall. The front section of the gymnasium proper was well lit at night by three full-sized “Brush Company” electric lights. As the visitor entered the Hall from the stairs the most prominent object that met their eyes was that large, handsome shield on the front wall, upon which was painted in those brilliant gold letters; "The Central Police Gymnasium; Organized November 9, 1880. On the sign was carved and painted the aforementioned Motto, “Ever on the Watch" written in English. Under that written in Latin legends was the previously described "Semper Paratus" and "Semper Fideles.

This motto was meant for the police, and the public to know. For the public, it was to know what their police meant... and for the police to have something to live up to, something to aspire to, so they would be proud of it and honor it. Which is something most Baltimore Police have lived up to, and been proud of (even without knowing the motto) Baltimore Police have all had big shoes to fill, and most of us have lived up to the Oath we took as if it were the words of this Motto... We were Always ready, Always faithful, and Always on the watch... "Semper Paratus - Semper Fideles - Semper Alapa Buris Pervigil" - "Ever Ready - Ever Faithful - Ever on the Watch." This came to us as rookie officers when a veteran would take us under their wing, and drill into us the importance, of backing each other up on calls, and never leaving an officer alone to handle dangerous calls. Telling young officers, the most important thing you carry is your word, your honesty, and your trust. So don't lie, don't steal, and don't take drugs. Doing any of the three you will lose your honor and be of no value to the department or the people you serve. They explained there would be times where it is your word against a suspect you will have to arrest, and as long as you have never lied, stolen or taken drugs, your word will be more valuable. 

better phrase couldn't be written to describe the Baltimore Police Department, and it's men and women. In Latin the entire phrase would read "Semper Paratus - Semper Fideles - Semper Alapa Buris Pervigil" “Semper Fideles” does it sound familiar, it should, it's used by the US Marines, "Semper Fi." The next question I received when telling others of this exciting find, “Who used it first?” They used it at about the same time, Baltimore Police opened the gym/hall in 1880 - the sign was hung in 1886... so the motto was adopted sometime between 1880 and 1886... The U.S. Marines took on its use in 1883. So we either used it three years before or three years after the Marines. The truth be told; It doesn't matter who used it first. All that matters is both the US Marines and the Baltimore Police have lived it and lived up to it long before either adopted this as their motto! The Motto is about, men and women, backing up the men and women they have sworn alongside to better protect our country and our communities.

Semper Fideles has served as a slogan for many families, and entities, in many countries, dated no earlier than the 16th century. Now said as often as "I Love You," but like "I Love You" it is a group of words that means more than most can fully understand. Some that say it, won't say it without deep thought, and an even deeper meaning. To say, I love you and not mean it, isn't honorable, nor is it honorable to say, "Ever Faithful," i.e., Semper Fi... without the intent or true understanding of what it means to be, "Forever and Always Faithful,"  it is an Honor. Something to be proud of, to take pride in, and like many militaries, and or paramilitary organizations, Brotherhood is at the heart of everything; without it, there can be nothing to be Faithful too. The United States Marine Corps adopted the motto Semper Fideles in 1883, on the initiative of Colonel Charles McCawley, the 8th Commandant of the Marine Corps. There were three mottos before "Semper Fideles" including "Fortitudine" (meaning "with courage"). Antedating the War of 1812, "Per MarePer Terram" (By seaBy land; presumably inherited from the British Royal Marines, who used the same motto previously), and, up until 1843, there was also the motto "To the Shores of Tripoli." 

"Semper Fideles" signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for "Corps and Country," even after leaving service. Marines frequently shorten the motto to "Semper FiSemper Fideles can be traced back as far as the 17th century. The first unit that used the motto was the Irish Brigade (France), raised in 1691 under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, which ended the war between King James II and King William III in Ireland. As the Irish army in exile, they served as part of the French army with the motto “Semper et Ubique Fideles” (Always and Everywhere Faithful) in reference to their fidelity to the Catholic faith, King James II, and their allies the Kings of France. Comprising five regiments, Walsh’s regiment is noted for aiding the American cause in the American Revolution, when they were assigned as Marines to John Paul Jones’s Bonhomme Richard.As you can see we designed two Motto Logos, one large, as well as a smaller version. These smaller logos were made for use on our letterhead, patches, etc. The Larger logo can be purchased in a full-sized shoulder patch, while the smaller logo can be purchased as a baseball cap, or breast patch, for polo/golf shirts - 

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The mottos and logos on this page were all drawn and created by Kenny Driscoll Retired Detective and President of the Baltimore Police Historical Society they are copyright © and use without written permission is prohibited.

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Keep checking back for a great story that will go here; we are waiting for the information and confirmation. Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department. Anyone with information, photographs, memorabilia, or other "Baltimore City Police" items can contact Ret. Det. Kenny Driscoll at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow us on Twitter @BaltoPoliceHist or like us on Facebook or mail pics to 8138 Dundalk Ave. Baltimore Md. 21222 

  Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll

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Copies of: Your Baltimore Police Department Class Photo, Pictures of our Officers, Vehicles, Equipment, Newspaper Articles relating to our department and or officers, Old Departmental Newsletters, Lookouts, Wanted Posters, and or Brochures. Information on Retired or Deceased Officers and anything that may help us to Preserve the History and Proud Traditions of this agency.
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