Police Slang Terms

Ever wonder what they’re saying to one another and what it all means?  This is just a brief sample police slang terms used over the radios and on the street.

Below this list, please see the links I have attached to find out more on this subject. 

Abba Dabba: A criminal, the implication being that he or she is some sort of evolutionary throwback.

Artillery: A slang term for a hypodermic syringe.

A.V.A.N.H.I.: “Asshole Versus Asshole, No Humans Involved.”

Badge Heavy: Being overly authoritative and intimidating.

Barfbag: Used as police jargon for a criminal.

Bindle: A small envelope of heroin, morphine, cocaine, etc. Also known as a deck.

Black Jack: A hand weapon consisting of a short elastic shaft having at one end a heavy metal head encased in netting, leather, etc.

Boogie: A derogatory term for a black person.

Bookie: A bookmaker.

Bookmaker: A term for a person who takes bets on races. Also known as a bookie.

Boost: A term for shoplifting or theft.

Buddha Heads: A derogatory term for Asian people.

Bunco: Used as a term for a dice game involving loaded dice. Later this term was used to describe swindling in general.

Bunco Squad: A term first used to describe a police fraud squad.

Burn/Burned: This term first appeared in the police vocabulary in Mills Report in 1973: “The ultimate disaster is discovery- in undercover language a ‘burn’. When junkies and pushers… learn or suspect an agent’s identity, he has ‘taken a burn’.”

Bust: This term is referring to a police raid. It later came to be used as a synonym for arrest.

Bustle Rubber: 1) A prostitute. 2) A person that practices frotteurism: touching and rubbing up against a non-consenting person. Also known as bustle-punching. Bustle is an old slang term for the buttocks.

By The Nose: Surveillance term. A surveillance vehicle which has the suspect’s vehicle behind them is said to have the suspect “by the nose”.

Canoe Maker: Coroner.

Cap: 1) To shoot, ie. ‘snap a cap”, or “bust a cap”. 2) A capsule of heroin or other narcotics.

Cat: A slang term for the relatively new and powerful stimulant methcathenone, which is sometimes substituted for cocaine as it gives a stronger high.

Cat Burglar: Originally this was a name for a burglar who enters through upper story windows. Nowadays it is often used to describe a burglar who strikes at night while the occupants of a home are asleep.

Choir Practice: A police term for an after work “tailgate party” in a park or other secluded place.

Coconut: A cocaine addict.

Code Two: A police dispatch term for “respond quickly but not with lights and siren”.

Code Three: A police term for responding with lights and siren.

Code Four: A police term for pursuit.

Code Seven: Meal break.

Connection: Originally the act of purchasing drugs. Later referred to the drugs purchased or to the drug dealer.

Cop: A slang term for a police officer.

Crash: 1) A slang term for sleeping. A crash pad is a place where criminals go to sleep. 2) To return to a normal state after being high on drugs.

C.U.B.O.: “Conduct Un Becoming an Officer”. Called “cue bow” by cops.

D.B.: Dead body.

Dealer: A person who sells drugs.

Deck: A small envelope containing heroin, cocaine, or other drugs.

Dicks: A derogatory Canadian slang term for detectives

Dime Bag: $10 worth of drugs.

Dine and Dash: To order and consume a meal in a restaurant and then leave without paying for it. Also known as “eat no pay”.

D.O.A.: Dead On Arrival.

Doing The Chicken: Tremors in an unconscious person. Refers to the death throws of a decapitated chicken. Police officers using vascular restraint holds to render a fighting suspect unconscious are said to be “making them do the chicken.”

Dope: It was used as a term for a drug addict, referring to the fact that a person was stupid (“a dope”) for being one. Nowadays it is used in reference to any sort of illegal narcotic.

Dope Fiend: A drug addict. See dope.

Eat No Pay: See Dine and Dash.

End of Watch: Also referred to as E.O.W. Originally meant the end of a shift, but has become a slang term for the death of a police officer, often as a result of a suicide.

E.O.W.: See End of Watch.

Fighting Ghosts: Trying to catch burglars.

F.I.G.M.O.: “Fuck It, Got My Orders.” A police slang term borrowed from the military.

Fink: This term was first used to describe a person who betrayed their associates now it is being used as a verb describing the act of informing to the police.

Fit: A hypodermic syringe, short for “hypodermic outfit”.

Fix: A slang term meaning to use drugs.

Flim Flam: To swindle a victim by short changing them.

Floater: A corpse found floating in a body of water.

Four Fifteen Personality: 415 is the California Penal Code section for disturbing the peace. A cop with a 415 personality is a cop who regularly turns peaceful calls into brawls, a troublemaker who enjoys inciting riots.

Fruit Hustler: A male prostitute. Also used to describe a man who robs or extorts money from homosexuals.

F.U.B.A.R.: “        Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.” A police slang acronym borrowed from the military.

Funny Place: Derogatory term for a mental hospital.

Ganja: Also Ganje. Originally an Indian term for marijuana.

Gat: This slang term for a gun is probably derived from the Gatling Gun, a crank operated, multibarrel machine gun. It was later referred to by its operators as a “Gat”.

Geez/Geeze: An injection of drugs.

Geezing: Injecting drugs (see Geez).

Gravy Train: This expression in reference to a source or condition of undeserved ease, advantage, or profit. In a police context it refers to a case file that promises to be lucrative in the way of overtime.

Gumshoe: Originally a term for sneakers, which had gum rubber soles. It first appeared as a term for a plain clothes detective or private investigator in 1889-1900. It also refers to the act of sneaking about quietly while searching for something.

Gunsel: Derived originally from the Yidish term “gendzl”, meaning “goose” or “raw youth” back in 1910. In 1941 it had become a term for a gunman or thug.

Half A Piece: Half a gram of drugs.

Handbook: A small bookmaker (q.v.) who takes bets on horse races.

Hang Six: To act as a lookout (see six).

Hangtoughs: A term for criminals.

Head: A term for an addict. Variations include hash head, pot head, dope head, coke head, etc.

Heat: 1) First appeared as a verb describing intense police activity or harassment. In 1930 it was listed as a slang term for a police officer. 2) First used as a slang term for a hangun.

Holding: In possession of drugs.

Holding the Deck: It is a reference to a “Stacked Deck” – meaning to effect a specific outcome of that persons case. Likely the officer may have said “we are holding the deck” meaning the deck is stacked against you, meaning the case is a slam dunk.

H.P.: An acronym for the expression “half price”. A police slang term for places that offer discounts to police officers.

H.U.A.: “Head Up Ass”. A term usually used to describe inept motorists by police officers.

Hugger Mugger: A prostitute who acts as a decoy for a mugger or who herself robs victims.

Hype: Used as an abbreviation for a hypodermic syringe. Later used to describe an addict.

I.A.D.: Internal Affairs Department.

I.E.D.: Improvised Explosive Device.

I.I.S.: Internal Investigation Squad.

Jailhouse Tattoos: Homemade tattoos made with pencil lead shavings and spit or ballpoint pen ink. A jailhouse tattoo of a cross made at the base of the thumb indicates a person who has been a convict.

Joint: 1) First appeared in 1877 as a slang term for a place set up to do a swindle. 2) First used to describe an opium den in 1881. 3) First used to describe a brothel in 1894. 4) First used to describe a prison in 1933. 5) First used as a slang term for a homemade hypodermic syringe in 1935. 6) First used to describe a hand rolled marijuana cigarette in 1942.

Juke: A term of Afro-Caribbean origin of Jamaican Slang. It is a verb meaning “to poke, stab or prick”. Later it became a slang term for stabbing.

Junk: A term first used to describe heroin.

Junkie: A person who uses junk.

Key: A slang term for a kilogram.

Kick Pad: A drug or alcohol rehabilitation center. The expression”to kick a (drug) habit” dates back to 1958.

Laughing Academy: A derogatory term for a mental hospital.

Lid: An ounce of marijuana.

Lightweight: A small time crook.

Mainline: To inject drugs directly into a major vein in the arm or leg.

Man, The: 1) First used to describe a prison warden in 1918. 2) First used to describe a prison guard in 1930. 3) First used to describe a cop in 1933.

Markers: A bookie’s records of money owed.

Milking: Milking a call is failing to clear a call that you are on in order to do other things that you want to do without the dispatcher or supervisor bothering you.

M.O.: See Modus Operandi.

Modus Operandi: Often shortened to M.O. A Latin term referring to a criminal’s mode of operating.

Mugger: A criminal who strong arms his victims.

Narc: A slang term for a narcotics squad officer.

Narc Ark: An unmarked police car (see Narc).

Narco: A term for narcotics. Later it was used to describe a drug squad officer.

N.H.I.: See A.V.A.N.H.I.

Nightstick: A wooden or synthetic club carried by police officers since the beginning of the 20th century. The name seems to refer to its use as a means of protection by police officers patrolling on foot on the night watch.

Nine Irons: A derogatory term for Asian people. It refers to the slant of their eyes (the head of a nine iron is slanted).

Paddy: A white person. Derives from the slang term for people of Irish descent.

Paddy Wagon: A slang term for a police wagon used to transport prisoners. Derives from the slang term for people of Irish descent.

Paper: A small envelope containing drugs (see deck, bindle).

Phone Spot: Also known as a relay or a relay spot. The connection that a bookie calls his betting action into. The relay person writes the bets down on a blackboard or white board which can be wiped clean if cops bust the relay.

Piece: 1) A gun. 2) A slang term for one gram of drugs.

Pigeon Drop: Two suspects flim flaming an old man.

Pill Head: A person addicted to prescription drugs.

Pinch: 1) First used as a synonym for the verb “steal”. 2) Then used as a verb meaning “arrest”.

Piss Kid: Rookie cop.

Pogue: Originally a term used to describe a youthful homosexual male. It was later absorbed into police slang to describe an officer who “sucks up” to his superiors.

Pop: 1) First used as a verb describing the injection of illegal drugs. 2) Also used as a verb meaning to “arrest”.

Pot: First used to describe marijuana.

Pusher: 1) First used to describe a prostitute. 2) Then used to describe a drug dealer.

Quiet Air: When the radio is quiet (nobody is transmitting). A quiet shift.

Rabbit: To take off running.

Rat: A term used to describe a police informant.

Rat Jacket: To “get a rat (snitch) jacket” or “get a jacket” means to become known as a police informant.

Rig: A hypodermic syringe.

R.I.N.: “Rap In the Nuts”. Self explanatory.

Roach: Used to describe the butt of a marijuana cigarette.

Roscoe: A handgun

Roust: A term meaning to rough up or harass which first appeared in 1904.

R.T.O.: “Return To Office.” An expression used to describe heading in at the end of shift. Originated in surveillance: the supervisor would transmit to his officers to head in at the end of the day by coming over the air and telling them to “R.T. O.”

Ruby: A surveillance term used to describe a red light. A suspect vehicle stopped for a red light is broadcast as: “Suspect stopped for a ruby.”

Sam Browne Belt: Named for British Army officer General Sir Samuel J. Browne (1824-1901). A belt with one or two diagonal shoulder straps used to carry a pistol.

Sap: A club or short staff. In the early days of policing, police officers were sometimes issued saps.

Sap Gloves: Gloves with pouches of powdered metal (usually lead) or sand in the palms and padded knuckles to make them more effective for punching or striking.

Scag: A term for illegal drugs.

Score: 1) A synonym for stealing. 2) Also used to describe a purchase of illegal drugs.

Scottish Handshake: A head butt. This is an old rugby term adopted by police.

Scrotes: A term for criminals (derived from the word “scrotum”).

Scumbag: First used to describe a condom in 1967. In 1971 it was first used as a derogatory term for an unwholesome person.

Secret Service Money: Money supplied by the department to pay informants or buy drugs.

Set Up: A term first used to describe a stake out.

Shag: 1) An arrest. 2) Sexual intercourse.

Shim: Originally referred to a thin wedge of metal or wood used to fill a gap. Later became used to describe a thin metal or plastic probe used to open the locks of windows or doors.

Shit: Used as a synonym for drugs.

Shooting Gallery: Used to describe a place where people gather to inject drugs.

Shooting Up: Used to describe the act of injecting drugs.

Shoulder: A methamphetamine high.

Six, Sixing: To keep watch. To act as a lookout.

Skipper: A methamphetamine addict or “speed freak” . Refers to their pacing and uncoordinated movements (ataxia).

Slim Jim: A metal or plastic probe used by wrecker drivers (and thieves) to open car doors.

Slopes: A derogatory term for Asians.

Snitch: A slang term for an informant.

Speed Ball: A mixture of cocaine with heroin or morphine.

Speed Freaks: Used to describe methamphetamine addicts.

Spike: A slang term for a hypodermic needle.

Stake Out: Also referred to as a set up.

Stickup: A slang term for an armed robbery.

Stuff: Used as a slang term for illegal drug, especially heroin.

Taxi Dancing: Prostitution.

Team Policing: A very popular term which means different things in different police departments. Described it as “deployment as often as possible of the same man in a given radio car district, making these men responsible not only for uniform patrol in that district but for helping the detectives with their follow up investigation.

Till Tappers/Till Punch: A theft committed by reaching quickly over the sales counter, punching the till open and grabbing money out of the till.

Tracks/Track Marks: Bruise marks that appear as long lines along the veins in the arm or leg caused by the injection of illegal drugs.

Turn: “Turn” became a verb describing the act of turning into an informant. Variations include “turned that guy”, “turn states evidence”, and “turn him in”.

Tweaking: Using depressants such as alcohol or heroin to overcome dysphoria due to heavy methamphetamine use.

V.C.B.: Surveillance slang meaning “Visual Contact Broken”. Another way of saying “I lost sight of the suspect.”

Watering the Vegetables: Slang expression for keeping a brain dead person alive even when recovery is hopeless.

Weed: Used to describe marijuana.

Weinie Waggers: People who expose their genitals in public.

Wino: A term used to describe an alcoholic.


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Author: PDJ Services, Inc.

PDJ Services is a nationwide information brokerage service dedicated to searching and finding people in the US and Canada. Our staff has over 25 years experience in the investigative/people locate trade. PDJ Services is a proud member of national associations as well as many state wide associations.

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