Police Lighting Colors and History (2024)

Police Lighting has been around since the first posse went out into the night carrying torches. We’ve come a long way since then! Today, highly advanced Generation I, II, III and IV LEDs provide our Police Departments with a formidable arsenal of far-ranging, high-intensity emergency light setups that not only light up their surroundings, but more importantly, keep them safe when doing their dangerous jobs, often at night.

Police Lights Protected With Polycarbonate Housing

NEW! Check out or range of best-selling LED police lights.

Clear, super bright LEDs are the heart of a superior police light. High-grade, industrial strength polycarbonate has brought lenses and housings to a new level of excellence because this material is virtually indestructible; it won’t shatter or crack. The lenses stay clear, won’t fog up, and will not yellow, so LEDs shine brightly while staying protected from the elements and road debris. Extreme Tactical Dynamics has every type of emergency vehicle light, including a full size police light bar to outfit your police car, truck, or motorcycle from top to bottom, inside and out, and almost every one of them has housings and lenses made of polycarbonate.

Types of Police Lights

Police Lighting Colors and History (1)We have tiny 1” Hideaway 9 Lights that blast 24 Watts all the way up to a a Chameleon Multi-Functional Traffic Advisor that has a light output of 96 Watts. We offer those who serve and protect us economical “packages,” too! Our E-36 10-Pack produces a whopping 180 Watts of surface light that will illuminate the entire exterior of your vehicle. Check out our products section, and find exactly the police car lighting you need. We also have any bracket or accessory you’ll need for a DIY installation.

Take down lights are designed to protect you. When turned on they completely light up the vehicle in front of yours, and are made so high-intensity that those inside cannot see you because of the brightness of the light. This gives you the advantage because you can quickly assess a situation, see how many people you will be dealing with, and see well inside the vehicle itself. Alley lights enhance your peripheral vision expanding the width of the light spread especially when you are on patrol. Adding them to the ends of one of our full light bars increases the lighted area making it easy to see what’s going on the sides of your police vehicle, as one police officer commented...They really help you see what’s in the bushes.

Our surface mount lights with either black or chrome bezels blend well with the exterior, so they are not even noticed until they are switched on. 160 Watts of light can be hidden in the head and tail lights of your police vehicle, totally hidden, and perfect for undercover work by installing the Head Strobe Tube Kit that has 8 German-made 20-Watt Xenon lights. There are a whole lot more police lights with other features to choose from; there are various sizes of Traffic Advisors, some displaying flash patterns, all with pattern memory. Others have versatile ON/Off switches on the back of lights or on a cigarette lighter power plug-in.

Our versatile police lights have many features that make them perfect for police work. When you’re running a Code Blue and trying to get to an incident as quickly as possible, you’ll need powerful, well-placed, highly visible lights to show the motorist where you are. How many of us have heard a siren but have not been able to tell where the noise was coming from?The siren catches our attention, but it’s the bright, flashing lights that tell us exactly where the police vehicle actually is. These lights can be mounted high on the roof with gutter brackets or internally on the dash or deck of your police car or POV.They can be attached to visors with straps or to the interior windows with suction cups, features that make them quick and easy to install and to remove if you want to always have your lights with you no matter what you are driving. ETD offers additional features like take down lights and alley lights which are often overlooked, but extremely practical, useful, and could be life-saving.

Popular Police Light Colors in the United States

The most popular police light colors used in the United States are red and blue. Many agencies across the US also use white lights to offset the traditional red and blue. White and sometimes amber colors are referred to as optional emergency vehicle lights by different state laws.

No matter what type of emergency vehicle light a police officer has installed on their patrol or undercover vehicle, it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure the lights on the car is legal to their jurisdiction. Make sure the lights on your car or truck are legal in your state before you install them by checking out our guides on the different state statutes.

Red Warning Lights
Most police cars implement some form red lights on their car, SUV, or truck. In the US, red forward facing lights, like those used in a grille or dash light, are usually only allowed to be used on emergency vehicles like police cruisers and fire trucks.

Blue Lights are Exclusive to First Responders
The color blue is a symbol of police, which is why almost every cop car in the US will use some blue lighting. Firefighters and paramedics may use blue lights on their vehicles too. The same way it would be unusual to see a cop car with just red lights, it would be odd to see the same vehicle with just blue lights as well. Almost all police vehicles will use a combination of red/blue lights on any vehicle in their fleet.

White is a Popular Optional Color for Police Lighting
White is the most popular optional color used for police cruisers in the United States. Rarely would white be the only color on a light bar or any other type of emergency light except for wigwags or fog lights. Red and blue light bars usually use white lighting for takedown and alley lights. While police departments also use amber lights on their cruisers, state statutes often mandate that amber lights be rear facing. Most traffic advisors installed on the rear of law enforcement vehicles only use yellow lights to direct traffic away from scenes.

You customize the colors by selecting either solid or split color options, and often you can choose how you want your lights to shine, with either TIR or Linear 1 lenses. Extreme Tactical Dynamics offers our customers a wide selection of multi-functional features which allows you to get just the light you need for whatever job you’re doing, whether it’s on your way to an emergency and when you get there.

Modern Police Departments must have dependable, trustworthy, super-bright lights that won’t let them down. All of our lights are individually checked and tested by our QC team before our products leave the factory. We sell the highest quality police lights at the most affordable prices….That’s Our Pledge to You! We always have police light bars for sale, along with a full assortment of emergency vehicle lighting and police car sirens.

Further Reading

  • Emergency Vehicle Lights for Police, Fire, Construction, and Security

  • Fire Truck Lighting and History

  • Ambulance Lights and Sirens: How useful are they?

  • How to select the right Emergency Vehicle Light

  • Upgrading Your Fleet Lights

  • Emergency Vehicle Light Mount Types and Color Choices

  • Temporary Emergency Vehicle Lights

Police Lighting Colors and History (2024)


What do the colors of police lights mean? ›

Color Significance

Most police vehicles primarily use red and blue lights – the red part here signifies that an immediate emergency is taking place, while blue police lights signal that police, and not other first responders, are present. In many cases, squad cars also use white lights.

What is the history of police lights? ›

The Beginnings of Emergency Lighting

Emergency response teams began using lighting around the 1940s, when police began using a single rotating beacon light (also called a gumball light because of its resemblance to the dome top of a gumball machine). By the 1960s, single lights gave way to light bars.

Why are police red and blue? ›

Some studies indicate that red lights are more visible during the day, while blue lights are more visible at night. The combination of flashing red and blue lights helps to alert drivers regardless of the time of day.

What do blue and yellow cop lights mean? ›

Yellow lights are sometimes found on some accompanying red and blue LEDs in light bars, surface mounts, dash lights, and more. Yellow lights are most often used to tell drivers to slow down and proceed with caution if there was an accident. Similarly, amber lights can also mean 'caution. '

What are the police colors? ›

Police use blue, white, and amber colored flashing lights. Red lights are reserved for fire trucks. Most police use red and blue lights, but they can also use white and yellow lights.

What are police force colors? ›

The most popular police uniform colors in the United States are black, blue, brown, green and gray, while the most common tactical response uniforms are black, olive, navy, khaki and camo.

What is the police light symbol? ›

🚨 Police Car Light

A revolving red light seen on top of a police car. Often used in emergency circ*mstances in addition to a siren making a loud warning sound. Police Car Light was approved as part of Unicode 6.0 in 2010 under the name “Police Cars Revolving Light” and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015.

When did police go from red to blue lights? ›

Blue lights were introduced into the emergency vehicle system in the late 1960s and it was said that blue lights were added to the red lights, to avoid confusion, since both aeronautical and nautical vessels have always used red lights to show other vessels the direction in which they are going.

Why do police use all blue lights? ›

Blue lights alone may be used to secure the site of an accident (or a standing emergency vehicle). Sometimes, columns of emergency or police vehicles use blue lights (without the two-tone horns) to make the column more visible to other vehicles.

Why are police colors? ›

Because British soldiers were already wearing red and white during this era, blue was picked to distinguish cops from the military. The United States' first official police force was formed in New York in 1845, and blue uniforms in the style of London's bobbies soon became the standard.

What do blue and red lights mean? ›

Red and blue lights are used as warning signals for a reason: they're highly visible and easily distinguishable from one another. This makes them perfect for use as emergency vehicle lights, as they provide a clear warning to other drivers that something is happening and they should take action.

Why are police colors blue and white? ›

Because the British military were already wearing red & white during that time, blue was chosen as a way to differentiate the police from the military. When the first official police force in the US was established in 1845 in New York, blue uniforms like those of the London “bobbies” became the standard.

What do purple police lights mean? ›

Traditionally, purple lights indicate a hearse or funeral procession, although as indicated previously, this is not universal, and one may see other colors on such vehicles instead. There are virtually no other uses for a purple emergency light.

What does green cop lights mean? ›

Green, yellow/amber, and purple lights are also recognized emergency vehicle light colors in many states. Green lights are considered in many places as courtesy lights, which means that the vehicle sporting that emergency vehicle light is requesting the right of way rather than demanding it.

Why do cops have orange lights? ›

However, in general, orange lights are often used to indicate caution or to warn drivers of a potential hazard. They may be used in a variety of situations, such as when an officer is directing traffic, when there is road work or construction ahead, or when there is a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

What do yellow cop lights mean? ›

Yellow lights mean to use caution. Some police light bars have yellow lights installed along with the usual red and/or blue lights. The yellow lights might be activated at the scene of an accident investigation, warning people to slow down as they go by.

What do just blue police lights mean? ›

Blue lights alone may be used to secure the site of an accident (or a standing emergency vehicle). Sometimes, columns of emergency or police vehicles use blue lights (without the two-tone horns) to make the column more visible to other vehicles.

What do only red police lights mean? ›

When a squad car is flashing a red light, it is signifying that there is an immediate emergency. However, when a blue light is used (which can be easily spotted from a farther distance) it is meant to alert the presence of police.

When did police lights change from red to blue? ›

Blue lights were introduced into the emergency vehicle system in the late 1960s and it was said that blue lights were added to the red lights, to avoid confusion, since both aeronautical and nautical vessels have always used red lights to show other vessels the direction in which they are going.

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