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ACAB graffiti in Barriera di Milano, Turin, Italy

A.C.A.B. is an acronym meaning "All Cops Are Bastards".[1] It is used as a slogan and written catchphrase in graffiti, tattoos, and other imagery to protest unethical police behavior, and police in general. It is sometimes numerically rendered as "1312", after the alphabetic order of the letters.


Director Sidney Hayers used the phrase as the title of his 1972 crime drama All Coppers Are..., and the Dictionary of Catchphrases states that while the initialism — later seen in 1977 by a Newcastle journalist written on the walls of a prison cell — may be no older than the 1970s, the full phrase may date back as far as the 1920s.[2][3] The 4-Skins, a British Oi! punk band, popularized the initialism A.C.A.B. in their 1980s song of the same name.[4]


A Montreal police car spray-painted with "ACAB" during the 2012 Quebec student protests

The Anti-Defamation League categorizes the phrase as a hate symbol in certain contexts and describes it as "a slogan of long standing in the skinhead culture," while noting the phrase is used both by racist and anti-racist skinheads.[5]

The acronym is often integrated into prison tattoos in the United Kingdom, commonly rendered as one letter per finger, alternatively sometimes seen as symbolic small dots across each knuckle.[6]

Prosecution history[edit]

  • Brian Stableford's 2009 Exotic Encounters states that "many years ago" during a fad for wearing ACAB shirts, a British youth was arrested for incitement to riot for wearing one, and ineffectively claimed the shirt stood for "All Canadians Are Bastards".[7]
  • On 7 January 2011, three Ajax football fans in the Netherlands were fined for wearing T-shirts with the numbers 1312 printed on them.[8]
  • In Germany both "ACAB" and "1312" have been deemed insults by state courts. In 2015, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled in reference to the term "FCK CPS" (read as Fuck Cops) that an insult is only punishable when it is directed at a specific, identifiable group, but left interpretation of individual cases to the criminal courts.[9][10]
  • On 4 July 2015, a girl in Alicante, Spain, was fined for wearing a T-shirt with the acronym "ACAB" printed on it.[11]
  • On 22 May 2016, a 34-year-old woman in Madrid, Spain, was charged under Article 37 of the Citizen Safety Law for carrying a bag displaying the acronym "ACAB" accompanied by the words "All Cats Are Beautiful".[12] The charges were dropped 3 days later.[13]
  • On 15 September 2017, a man from Karlovac, Croatia posted a photomontage with the message "Fuck da Police A.C.A.B." from his Facebook profile. For this, he was later charged with violating the public order and fined €100 by the Misdemeanor Court in Karlovac.[14]
  • On 12 September 2018, in Indonesia a group of Persija Jakarta football fans were arrested for using banner with message "All Cops Are Bastards" during the league match day.[citation needed]
  • On 4 April 2019, a 26 year old hockey fan was arrested for wearing a T-shirt that had a numeric version of "ACAB", 1312. "ACAB" and 1312 are both considered extremist information in Belarus.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry, eds. (2014). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-415-52720-0.
  2. ^ Elliot, Paul (2014). Studying the British Crime Film. Columbia University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-1-906-73374-2.
  3. ^ Partridge, Eric (1986). A Dictionary of Catch Phrases. Taylor & Francis. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-415-05916-9.
  4. ^ Woodman, Gordon (2009). The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 57/2008. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 53. ISBN 978-3-643-10157-0.
  5. ^ "ACAB". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  6. ^ Thompson, Tim; Black, Sue (2006). Forensic Human Identification: An Introduction. Taylor & Francis. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-8493-3954-7.
  7. ^ Stableford, Brian (2009). Exotic Encounters: Selected Reviews. Wildside Press LLC. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-434-45760-8.
  8. ^ "Football fans fined for anti-police t-shirt". DutchNews. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Constitutional Court allows 'FCK CPS' sticker". The Local. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  10. ^ Federal Constitutional Court (28 April 2015). "„Kollektivbeleidigung" nur bei Bezug zu einer hinreichend überschaubaren und abgegrenzten Personengruppe" (Press release) (in German). Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Multa de 600 euros en Alicante por llevar una camiseta que pone "ACAB"". Yo Me Tiro Al Monte. 4 July 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2016. (in Spanish)
  12. ^ Hancock, Jaime Rubio (24 May 2016). "All Cats Are Beautiful or All Cops Are Bastards?". El País. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Madrid police drop action against woman with All Cats Are Beautiful bag". El País. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  14. ^ "KARLOVČANIN DOBIO 100 EURA KAZNE JER JE NA FACEBOOKU NAPISAO ACAB Policija mladića koji nikad prije nije kažnjavan odmah prijavila prekršajnom sudu". jutarnji.hr (in Croatian). 24 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  15. ^ "На парня из Минска составили протокол об экстремизме за четыре цифры на майке" [Youngster from Minsk detained for extremism for four numbers on T-shirt]. TUT.by. 11 June 2019.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to A.C.A.B. at Wikimedia Commons