After recently binge-watching the entire run of Endeavour, Inspector Morse, and Lewis, I heard lots of unusual words related to British policing. So, I thought it would be fun and useful to put together a list. I’ve tried to be comprehensive, if there’s a word I left off, please leave it in the comments and I’ll update the list later.
Bobby – Police Officer, so named because Sir Robert Peel set up the first proper police force in the UK – The Metropolitan Police.
Rozzer – Police Officer
Battenburg Markings – The markings on a British police car, also slang for the police as well.
The Bill – The police. It was originally a police show that ran from 1984-2010 and now it’s proper slang for the police.
Bizzies – The police. Said to have been coined in Merseyside, as the police were always too “busy” to help citizens who reported low-level crimes such as house burglaries. An alternative origin is that the police are seen as “busybodies”, i.e. they ask too many questions and meddle in the affairs of others.
Blues and Twos – British emergency vehicles have blue flashing lights and two-tone sirens.
Blueband – The Thin Blue Line.
WPC – Woman Police Constable, antiquated – ranks are now sexless.
Bluebottle – The police from Cockney Slang.
Booked – To be arrested.
Nicked – To be arrested.
Nick – A police station.
BTP – British Transport Police – police organization responsible for policing the railways.
Candy cars – Slang term for police cars in the UK due to the livery being yellow and blue.
Chimps – UK slang term for Community Support Officers, an acronym for “Completely Hopeless In Most Policing Situations”
Cop, Coppa, or Copper – A police officer.
Dibble – The name of a fictional police officer in the cartoon Top Cat. “Dibble” has been adopted as a British-English derogatory slang term for a police officer.
Filth – Normally “The Filth”, UK, the police. Inspiration for the Irvine Welsh novel Filth.
Fuzz – As “the fuzz”, used as slang for police officers; of unknown origin. The term was used in the title of “Hot Fuzz”, a 2007 police-comedy film.
Grass – Cockney (English) rhyming slang for a police informant: Grasshopper = Copper.
Hobby Bobby – Another slang term for Community policeman.
Jam sandwich, or Jam Butty – Police traffic car, from the now largely obsolete historical color-scheme – an overall white vehicle, with a longitudinal red, or red and yellow, stripe on each side. Still used for the metropolitan police in London. Silver cars with a red stripe down the side.
Old Bill – The Police
Paddy Wagon – A police van. So named in Liverpool, UK, as most of the policemen and prisoners were of Irish extraction.
Peeler – UK, archaic, although may have survived longer in Ireland than Britain, from Sir Robert Peel (see “Bobby”).
The Sweeney – UK slang term for the Flying Squad of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. From Cockney rhyming slang: “Sweeney Todd” = “Flying Squad”. Also a classic TV show and recently a movie.
Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) – Formed in 1829 as a professional police force responsible for Greater London and still in existence today.
The Met – Shorter version of Metropolitan Police Service.
Scotland Yard, New Scotland Yard, Newer Scotland Yard – The location of the original Met headquarters and became a metonym for the police in London. Eventually moved to ‘New Scotland Yard.’ It recently moved again but the name moved with it.
MI5 – Military Intelligence, Section 5 or the Security Service. Basically the domestic version of MI6 (the James Bond ones).
National Crime Agency – British equivalent to the FBI, formed from the remains of the Serious Organized Crime Agency.