cop an attitude

List of slang terms for police officers

Many slang terms for police officers exist. These are often used by the public rather than the police themselves, but not all are considered offensive.

The precise sociological and etymological provenance of some of these terms is significant:

  • 4Chan Party Van: Slang for the FBI. References child pornography sting operations from images posted to 4Chan.
  • 5 - 0: Slang for police officers and/or a warning that police are approaching. Believed to be derived from the fact that some Police Interceptors use highly modified 5.0 Liter engines. Derived from the television show Hawaii 5-0.
  • Babylon: Jamaican English term for corrupt establishment systems, often applied to the police. Derived from the Rastafari movement.
  • Bacon: Derived from Pigs: often used in the structure "I smell bacon" to warn of the approaching presence of an officer.
  • Barney: Term coined after Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show.
  • Bear: Short for "Smokey Bear" in reference to the hats worn by some U.S. state police being similar to that of "Smokey the Bear". "Bear bait" is a reference to speeders, who may draw the attention of the police and allow slightly slower traffic to exceed the speed limit in their wake. "Bear in the Air" is a reference to a police chopper.
  • Berry: Originating from blueberry, referring to the blue uniform most officers wear.
  • Bizzies: Common Liverpool slang term for the police, it was invented as the police were always too "busy" to help. An alternative explanation of the term is that the police are seen as "busy-bodies" i.e. that they ask too many questions.
  • Blue Heelers: This is a term used in Australia and is related to a breed of dog, the Australian Cattle Dog. It reflects the personality and appearance (blue uniform) of a police officer. Its use has been popularised by the Australian police drama series Blue Heelers.
  • Blue Meanies: This is a 1960s hippie slang term for the police, it was used in the Beatles film the Yellow Submarine, although many viewers may not have realised its significance.
  • Bluebottle: A British term for policeman that may have derived from Cockney rhyming slang. 'Bottle' is an abbreviation of 'bottle and glass', which is rhyming slang for 'arse'. (See also Bottles).
  • Bobby: This is not now widely used in Britain (except by the police, who still commonly use it to refer to themselves), though it can occur with a mixture of affection and slight irony in the phrase "village bobby", nowadays referring to the local community police officer. The term "Bobby on the beat" is often used in politics in reference to return to more community based policing including footpatrols by one local officer (bobby) of a his own small area (beat). It is derived from Robert Peel (Bobby being the usual nickname for Robert), the founder of the Metropolitan Police. In Britain, volunteer Auxiliary Constables are sometimes referred to as Hobby Bobbies.
  • Bottles: Cockney rhyming slang for Coppers (see below), from Bottles and Stoppers.
  • Boys in blue: A reference to the blue uniform worn by some officers.
  • Brass: Term originating from the brass badges that police carry in order to identify themselves.
  • Bronze: A term used for police officers in the 1979 Mel Gibson movie Mad Max
  • Bulls: An American term usually used to refer to railroad police but may also indicate regular police officers.
  • Cherry Toppers: Often used in reference to police cars which in some nations bear red lights on the top of the car.
  • Cop or Copper: While commonly believed to be an acronym for Constable On Patrol, the term refers to "one who captures or snatches". This word first appeared in the early 18th century, and can be matched with the word "cap", which has the same meaning and whose etymology can be traced to the Latin word 'capere'. (The word retains this meaning in other contexts: teenagers "cop a feel" on a date, and they have also been known to "cop an attitude".) Variation: Copper. It is also believed that the term Copper was the original, unshortened word, popularly believed to represent the copper badges American officers used to wear at the time of origin, but in fact probably used in Britain to mean "someone who cops" long before this.
  • County Mountie - Term for the county sheriff anddDeputies
  • Crusher: Of unknown origin but may have come from the nickname used for the Royal Navy Regulating Branch.
  • Dibble or The Dibble: Arises from the police officer in the Hanna-Barbera animated programme Top Cat. Most commonly used in Manchester.
  • Do-do nutters or The Do-dos: Arises from the stereotype of police officers eating donuts.
  • DRC or The DRC: Dirty Rotten Cop(per).
  • Ducks and Geese: Cockney rhyming slang for police.
  • Evel Knievel - Motorcycle Police.
  • Feds: Usually used in the United States to refer to higher federal law enforcement agencies, especially the F.B.I. The term has gained widespread use around the West Midlands area in the UK, especially Birmingham. Derogatory slang, possibly due to influence of imported US television programmes.
  • Filth: a widespread term used in several countries, very popular in London, where it is pronounced "Filf".
  • (Name of city)'s Finest: Used in either admiration, or slightly derisive irony, in the United States. In New York City, the term has been adapted to other civil servants, such as "New York's Bravest" (the Fire Department) and "New York's Boldest" (the Department of Correction).
  • First Bunch of Idiots: Referring to the F.B.I., the federal law enforcement arm of the United States.
  • Flatfoot: A term that refers to the large amount of walking that a police officer would do, thus causing flat feet.
  • Flic: French slang for a policeman. Commonly used in the form les flics (sometimes, ungrammatically, les flic).
  • Folks or Tha Folks: Southern Louisiana, rarely used.
  • Fuzz: This North American term first appeared in the 1920s and gained popularity in the 1930s. This slang term may be in reference to the sound of the field radios that police commonly use. It surfaced in Britain in the 1960s.
  • The Gaver: Cockney rhyming slang for the police - unknown origin - London.
  • The Guards: Irish term for the Garda Síochána.
  • The Heat: American; putting the heat on someone. (Example: in the line What a field day for the heat (Stephen Stills, "For What It's Worth" from Buffalo Springfield, 1967), Stills is referring to the police.)
  • Heavy or Heavies: Cockney rhyming slang for the Flying Squad, from the Heavy Mob, (see also Sweeney).
  • Horseman: A Canadian term referring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Variation: Mounties.
  • Jake: A common term used and created in New York City, New York.
  • John Law or Johnny Law: Used across the United States. Mostly an older term.
  • Johnny Hopper: Cockney rhyming slang for copper (q.v.)
  • Knickers: see Nickers (below)
  • Khaki Kutta: A Derogatory term used for police constables in India literally meaning Brown or Khaki Dog. Derived from the Khaki color of their uniform which resembles the color of common street dogs often found in India. This term is often used for crooked or unreasonable police men.
  • Law or The Law: Probably an abbreviation of the phrase "The long arm of the law" (suggesting that no matter how far they run, all criminals are eventually caught and prosecuted successfully).
  • Laws: A term originated in Houston, Texas.
  • Mama (Maman in South): Hindi (Malayalam in South) word which means uncle. Sarcastic reference to a policeman.
  • The Man: A derisive term popular during the 1960s and 1970s during the anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian movements. Implies that police are a tool of the powerful "man" that is trying to keep others down.
  • Member: Used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to refer to fellow Mounties in place of the usual "officer" or "constable" (or equivalent) in other police forces.
  • Mr. Plod, P.C. Plod or Plodder: a British term that arose from the Noddy books by Enid Blyton, in which Mr. Plod was the village policeman. "Plod" has also commonly been used by the British police themselves, as has its (generally disparaging) female equivalent "plonk".
  • Nickers : A uncommon British term being a pun on "knickers" (female underwear). As the term is spoken not written the silent "k" in knickers is not obvious. This relates to an officer "nicking" a suspect i.e. arresting them, and taking them to "the nick" i.e. a cell in either a prison or police station.
  • Old Bill: A term in use in London among other areas, inspiring the television series The Bill. The origin of this nickname is obscure; according to the Metropolitan Police themselves, there are at least 13 different explanations.
  • One Time: A term where its meaning is derived from where if arrested all it takes is "one time" to be put away (convicted).
  • Paco: A derogatory Chilean term for Carabineros, the national police force of Chile. "Paco", and "tortugas ninjas" ("ninja turtles") are Chilean slang terms for any member of the Carabineros.
  • Pandu Hawaldar: Indian constabulary (and not officers) were recruited mostly from village areas. Pandu Ram was a common name in the villages. Hawaldar is a police sergeant.
  • Peeler: This also comes from Robert Peel (see 'Bobby'); it has largely disappeared in Britain, but is sometimes used in Northern Ireland.
  • Penelope's: A slang word for the police term coined by the SF Bay Area rap artist E-40
  • Pigs: This term was widespread during the 19th century, disappeared for a while, but reappeared during the 20th century. It became especially popular during the 1960s and 1970s in the underground hippie and anti-establishment culture. It has also been used in anti-authoritarian punk and gangsta rap circles. Oz magazine showed a picture of a pig dressed as a policeman on a front cover.
  • Polis: A term used in Scotland.
  • Po-po or Po: A term used commonly by North American youth and rap artists.
  • Po-9: A term originating from "po-po", used mostly in the southern US.
  • Rashers: British slang derived from pigs.
  • Rozzers: A British term. To Rozz was slang for to roast in the East End of London.
  • Rollers: An American term believed to have originated in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Scuffers: An old British term, which came to prominence in the 1960s Merseyside-set BBC television series Z-Cars.
  • Scum: Used across Britain, as an insult to say that the police are lower than the criminals.
  • Smokey: A term from the CB Radio fad of the 1970s. See "Bear" above.
  • Snippers: An African-American term used mostly in North America.
  • Soggies: Australian term for officers of the Special Operations Group.
  • Sweeney: Cockney rhyming slang for the Flying Squad, from Sweeney Todd, inspiring the television series The Sweeney, (see also Heavy).
  • Swine: Comes from pig (see above).
  • The Thin Blue Line: Used to describe the role of the police in being the barrier between civilized society and chaos, inspiring a TV series and a documentary of the same name. This has led to policemen involved in entrapping gays being ironically described as "The Thin Blue Jeans".
  • Tit-Heads or Tits : Rarely used derogative British term for uniformed police officers originating in the shape of traditional UK police helmets worn by patrolling officers which are or were a similar shape to a large female breast - as in the phrase (to a policeman) "take the tit off your head" meaning "relax" or "imagine you are not on duty".
  • Tyre Biters: A term typically used for country police officers because of their habit of being involved with frequent car chases.
  • Wallopers: Mostly Commonwealth usage, from "wallop" meaning to hit or beat.
  • Woodentops: British term for uniformed police. Believed to be a reference to the 1950s children's TV series The Woodentops, very rarely in use.

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