Law enforcement jargon

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Law enforcement jargon refers to a large body of acronyms, abbreviations, codes and slang used by law enforcement personnel to provide quick concise descriptions of people, places, property and situations, in both spoken and written communication. These vary between countries and to a lesser extent regionally.[1]

United Kingdom[edit]




  • AIO: All In Order
  • ATT: At This Time
  • MISPER: Missing person
  • MOE: Method Of Entry (battering ram)
  • WOFF: Write off; a vehicle or other property deemed a total loss for insurance purposes
  • WINQ: Warrant inquiry
  • NOK: Next Of Kin
  • NRRR: No Reply Repeated Ringing (telephone)
  • NRRK: No Reply Repeated Knocking (residence)
  • PAAOTCO: Please Ask An Officer To Call On...
  • POLSA: Police Search Advisor.
  • POLSTN: Police Station
  • POLACC: Police Accident (replaced by POLCOL)
  • POLCOL: Police Collision
  • U/K: Unknown
  • VIW: Victim/Informant/Witness


  • Big Red Key: A type of battering ram.[5][6]
  • DECAMP: Suspect abandoning vehicle and escaping on foot. Mostly done when a driver goes down a dead end (sometimes by accident) when trying to shake the Police off.
  • Equipped: An officer is said to be "equipped" in radio chatter if they have firearms.
  • Mistaken Harassment: Where a complainant alleging harassment is mistaken about the behaviour of another person because they have read more into that behaviour than was reasonable.[7]

United States[edit]

Numerical and alphanumerical codes[edit]

The ten-codes are used only for voice communications, usually radio transmissions and denote commonly used phrases; for example 10-16 means domestic disturbance for some agencies. Use of ten-codes is intended for the clear, quick, and concise communication between law enforcement officers.

The response codes consist of the word "Code" followed by a number; for example "Code 3" means lights and sirens.

Numbers and alphanumeric combinations referring to offenses and actions covered by legal codes are often used both as nouns and verbs in both spoken and written communication. Since each state has its own system of law, this usage varies widely by state. For example, in California, if a suspect is 849B'd, it means they are released from custody after being arrested (instead of being booked into county jail) and refers to section 849(b) of the California Penal Code.

Subject description initialisms[edit]

Three letter abbreviations are commonly used to describe subjects mentioned in incident reports. The first letter denotes apparent race/ethnicity; the most commonly used letters are: AAsian, BBlack, HHispanic, O—Other, WWhite. The letters PI are occasionally used to denote Pacific Islander resulting in a four letter abbreviation.[8] The second letter denotes gender: F—Female, M—Male. The final letter denotes whether the subject is legally an adult: A—Adult, JJuvenile. Thus the initialism WFJ (or wfj) appearing after a subject's name in a police log would denote a white female juvenile.

Code violations[edit]

*Note: Names for offenses vary by jurisdiction; accordingly, several acronyms may mean the same thing

  • ADW: Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • B&E: Breaking and Entering
  • BFMV: Burglary From Motor Vehicle
  • BFW: Bond Forfeiture Warrant
  • DIP: Drunk In Public
  • DOC: Department of Corrections
  • DUI: Driving Under the Influence [of alcohol or drugs]
  • DWI: Driving While Intoxicated
  • DWS: Driving While Suspended
  • DWLS / DWLR: Driving While License Suspended / Revoked
  • DUS: Driving Under Suspension
  • FTA: Failure to Appear
  • GTA: Grand Theft Auto
  • HS: Health and Safety Code
  • LFA: Larceny from Automobile
  • MIC/MIP: Minor in Consumption/Possession [of alcohol]
  • PC: Probable Cause
  • PI: Public Intoxication / Personal Injury (crash)
  • UDAA: Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile[9]
  • UUMV: Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle
  • VC: Vehicle Code
  • WI: Welfare & Institutions Code
  • Fel.: Felony
  • Misd.: Misdemeanor
  • Inf.: Infraction

Initialisms describing situations or locations[edit]

  • ATL: Attempt To Locate
  • BOLO: Be On Lookout (pronounced as Bo-Low)
  • DB: Dead Body
  • DID: Driver in Ditch
  • DOA: Dead On Arrival
  • DOT/LKDOT: Direction Of Travel/Last Known Direction Of Travel
  • DRT: Dead Right There
  • EDP: Emotionally Disturbed Person
  • GOA: Gone On Arrival
  • IFO: In Front Of
  • LKA: Last Known Address
  • LNU: Last Name Unknown
  • LSW: Last Seen Wearing
  • PLOT: Parking Lot
  • PNB: Pulseless Non-Breather
  • QOA: Quiet On Arrival
  • UNK: Unknown [used as descriptor, i.e. UNK REG]
  • UTL: Unable To Locate
  • GSR: Gun Shot Residue
  • GSW: Gun Shot Wound
  • REG: Vehicle registration/license plate
  • TOT: Turned Over To (other agency)
  • VCB: Visual contact broken

Slang terms for police misconduct[edit]

  • Alley court: Unlawfully endeavouring to force a prisoner to make a confession.[10]
  • Testilying: Police perjury.[11]

Miscellaneous abbreviations and descriptive terms[edit]

  • Adam Henry (AH, i.e. "asshole"): ignorant individual; slang [see also HUA]
  • AKA: also known as (person has assumed name, alias)
  • APB: all points bulletin
  • APC: all points county
  • ATL: attempt to locate
  • AVL: automatic vehicle location; allows dispatch to see exactly where a given patrol car is [12]
  • BOLO: be on the look-out [for]; similar to APB
  • BI: Background Investigator / Investigation
  • CDS: controlled or dangerous substance (narcotic)
  • CJ: county jail
  • Civvies: term describing non-uniform clothing, including those used in undercover operations
  • CompStat or comp-stat: comparative statistics, a method of tracking criminal activity and subsequent enforcement[13]
  • Condition: problem or concern in need of police attention
  • DA: district attorney
  • DisCon or dis-con: disorderly conduct
  • DL: driver's license
  • DOC: Department of Corrections
  • DOB: date of birth
  • DOJ: Department of Justice
  • DV: domestic violence
  • EC: emergency contact
  • ETOH: intoxicated (ethyl alcohol)
  • FD: fire department
  • FTO: field training officer
  • GAT: illegal firearm
  • GOA: gone on arrival
  • GSW: gunshot wound
  • HBO: handled by officer
  • House mouse: a police officer who seldom leaves the police station
  • HP: highway patrol
  • HUA: "head up ass", i.e. ignorant; slang [see also AH or "Adam Henry"]
  • KA: known associate
  • LEDS/LEADS: law enforcement [agencies] data system
  • LUDS: local usage details, a detailed record of calls made and received from a particular phone number.
  • MDT: mobile data terminal, referring to in-car computer systems.
  • MHO: mental health officer
  • Mutt: an extremely unsavory character
  • MVA: motor vehicle accident
  • NAT: necessary action taken
  • NORP: normal, ordinary, responsible person
  • OIS: officer-involved shooting
  • OLN: operator's license number
  • PA: prosecuting attorney
  • PC: probable cause, a legal standard for evidence gathering that is greater than reasonable suspicion
  • PD: police department or police headquarters
  • PMVA: pedestrian and motor vehicle accident
  • PR: person [or party] reporting (used by LAPD and various others)
  • Puke: a pejorative for an inmate of the county jail or state prison
  • RDO: regular day off
  • Responsible (resp): alleged perpetrator of a violation
  • RO: registered owner
  • RP: reporting person/party
  • SA: state's attorney
  • Skell: unsavory character, particularly in the sense of being unwashed, dirty, or smelly (term often used by New York police officers); from skeleton.
  • Skell gel: Anti-bacterial lotion used by officers after contact with a skell
  • SNEU: street narcotics enforcement unit
  • SO: Sheriff Office Formal use, usually with an " 's ". Colloquial and regional term referring to the County Sheriff Department or Parish Sheriff Department (LA)
  • Soc: Social Security Number
  • SOR: sex offender registration/registrant/ Signature of Refusal
  • SRO: school resource officer
  • Tune up: a beating administered to prisoner
  • UTL: unable to locate
  • Wood shampoo: Using a nightstick (originally made of wood) on someone's head.

Miscellaneous acronyms[edit]

Miscellaneous abbreviations[edit]

  • B&R: Booked and released (from county jail)
  • BKD: Booked (into county jail)
  • BLK: Street block
  • BTWN: Between
  • BUS: Ambulance
  • COMPL: Complainant
  • Copy: Affirmative
  • DESC: Description
  • JUV: Juvenile
  • K9: (or K-9), handler-and-canine unit
  • MOD: Model (of vehicle, for example)
  • M/N: Model Number (of article, for example)
  • P&P: Probation and Parole
  • PROP: Property
  • PERP: Perpetrator
  • R&I: Records and Information
  • REG: Vehicle registration
  • RELD/RLSD: Released
  • RPTS: Reports (verb)
  • SER: Serial number
  • S/N: Serial number
  • S/H: Station house
  • SUSP: Suspect
  • S/V: Suspect Vehicle
  • TKN: Taken
  • TANGO: Thank You
  • UNK: Unknown
  • UTL: Unable To Locate
  • VEH: Vehicle
  • VIC: Victim
  • V/C: Victim / Complainant
  • WARR: Warrant

Popular culture[edit]

Law enforcement jargon is heavily used in police procedurals and similar shows. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a television series about forensic scientists, uses many acronyms such as AFIS, CODIS and DB.

Some shows, like "Adam-12" and CSI will use the criminal code, for where the show is based, to describe a crime. This would be understood by people from that state or others in the know, but would be nonsense for others.

The numeric code 187 from the California Penal Code section dealing with murder has been featured in numerous songs, including the gangsta rap song Deep Cover by Dr. Dre and Big Pun and the alternative hip hop-ska punk song April 29, 1992 (Miami) by Sublime. It also serves as the title of the movie One Eight Seven. A police drama show called "Detroit 1-8-7" aired in the U.S. on the ABC network in 2010 - 2011, despite the fact that 187 does not denote murder under Michigan law.


  1. ^ "Law Enforcement Terms".
  2. ^ Evidence in Drugs Cases. Release.
  3. ^ Dorset Police Performance Report 2011-2012 Archived 2014-07-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Beggs and Davies. Police Misconduct, Complaints, and Public Regulation. Oxford University Press. 2009. Para 1.39 at p 13.
  5. ^ Video: Exhausted cops don't give up on the Big Red Key. The Northern Echo.
  6. ^ Police open doors for Children in Need Archived 2015-02-19 at the Wayback Machine. North Yorkshire Police.
  7. ^ Harris, Jessica. An evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Home Office Research Study 203. Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. Home Office. ISBN 1 84082 499 9. Page 42.
  8. ^ "MENLO PARK POLICE DAILY LOG GLOSSARY". Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  9. ^ Michigan Law and Practice Encyclopedia. 2nd Ed. LEXIS Law Publishing. 2007. Volume 4. Page 424. Google Books.
  10. ^ Widick, B J. Detroit: City of Race and Class Violence. Wayne State University Press. 1989. Page 181.
  11. ^ Kenworthy Bilz, "Book Review: The Fall of the Confession Era" (2005) 96 The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 367 JSTOR; Pitts, Giacopassi and Turner, "The Legacy of the OJ Simpson Trial" (2008) 10 Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 199 Hein; Phillip Walters, "Would a Cop Do This: Ending the Practice of Sexual Sampling in Prostitution Stings" (2011) 29 Law & Inequality 451 Hein.
  12. ^ "Police Uniforms And Slang". Concealed carry archive
  13. ^

External links[edit]