why are the police called 12

Why Are the Police Called 12: Unraveling The Origins & Meaning

Police are called many names, whether it’s regular alternatives like boys in blue and law enforcers or slang terms like po-po. But one name that stands out for police is “12.” Yes, the number 12. So, why are the police called 12, and is this a derogatory remark? Find out why police are often referred to as 12, the many stories and theories behind it, and some more nicknames that cops are commonly called.

Why are the Police Called 12: 5 Reasons

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The slang words used to refer to the police tend to differ based on the city, state, and country you’re in. And one such slang term commonly used now for cops is 12. Find out why the lucky number 12 got associated with the men and women who vow to help, serve, and protect.

1. From the Police Code “10-12”

If you’ve ever watched a television series about police and law, you’ve probably heard some codes being used within the force to refer to a crime in progress. One of these is 10-12. It indicates that the location that the police are visiting has visitors, and by visitors, you’d individuals that could lead to a confrontation during the police visit.

So, the 10-12 code is given to the cops as a fair warning to be fully prepared when they go to the location.

But when it comes to the direct translation of the number 12 in police codes, it means “standby.”

2. Another Interpretation of the 10-12 Police Code

The 10-12 code is also sometimes used to inform civilians that there are police at a scene or that police are already en route to a specific location. The 10-12 code is usually used in the Southern areas of the US like Georgia, and thanks to pop culture and television shows, the 12 in the code stuck and became a reference to police.

So, unlike the first theory that the code is used to serve as a warning for police officers, this suggestion is more of a heads-up for the civilians — i.e., the perpetrator or suspect to flee the scene before the police arrive so they don’t get caught.

3. From the Adam-12 TV Show

Another likely theory regarding where the “12” nickname came from is the television show Adam-12. This show ran for almost six years from 1968 through 1974 and follows the life of two police officers as they patrol in Los Angeles in their 1-Adam-12 patrol unit.

The show aired five decades ago, so it may be a little surprising to have it be referred to in modern-day slang. But then again, the term “5-0” came from another old television show, Hawaii 5-0, so this is a plausible reference.

Among all the theories, this one makes the most sense. And although many may not have watched or even heard of this television series, it just shows how a TV program can make its mark and leave a lasting impression.

4. From the Song “F**ck 12”

Another possible origin of the term 12 as a namesake for police officers is from the song entitled “F**ck 12” by the hip-hop group Migos. Although in this song, it appears that 12 is not used to describe all cops but is only specific to narcotics officers or the DEA (drug enforcement administration).

The song lyrics include “Aye throw that sh**t, throw that sh**t, 12 outside…” — essentially, warning someone to throw the drugs outside so they won’t be caught, given that the DEA or police is outside.

Other rappers have also used 12 to refer to police like Quavo and Gucci Mane, who followed the footsteps of Migos and used F**ck 12 in their songs, which helped boost the popularity of the slang word in pop culture.

5. From the Initials “ACAB”

This is a little complicated origin of why police are called 12, but it appears that it is about the initials ACAB, which means All Cops are B*****ds.

Sometimes, instead of the letters, the number 1312 is used, with the number 1 representing the letter A, 3 for C, and 2 for B.

Over time, 1312 was shortened to just the last two digits, which is 12, although it may be more logical to use the first two numbers, 1 and 3 because it stands for “All Cops.” Nonetheless, this is another theory to consider.

Is “12” a Derogatory Term?

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The slang used for the police, including 12, is typically intended to be harmless. However, they are not necessarily respectful because the best way to call the police is by saying police or cops, but it is not entirely derogatory either.

The only time it turns derogatory is when you include a disparaging word before or after 12 because it then becomes an insult or a threat to the police.

So, if you are not confident about what 12 means, it is always safe to call the police as police, cops, or officers. These are the most respectful term to address them.

What Are Other Slang Names For Police?

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Aside from 12, here are some other common and acceptable slang terms for police:

1. Cops

This term is the most common and most popular among all names used for police officers. It is even being used by police officers themselves, thanks to the different TV series surrounding cops and crime fighting. This term just stuck and is also shorter and easier to say. Initially, in the 18th century, the police were called coppers thanks to their badges, and eventually, it was shortened to just cops.

2. Five-O

A term attributed to the show Hawaii Five-0, it serves as a notice for civilians that the police have laid out speed traps. It warns people that they need to keep an eye out and be careful.

3. Popo

Another popular slang term for police is popo or po-po, which is believed to be the shortened version of the word police. Among all the slang terms for police, this is not too favored by the police as it is understood to have a hostile intent.

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