BACK IN THE DAY - Cop Language
By Mark DeMayo

The other night at the comedy club, I was talking with a fellow comedian and I used the expression, it’s a ground ball. My buddy was fascinated by the term and asked me to repeat it. And then it hit me: I had just snuck some police jargon into our conversation. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I guess I miss the job. It’s not that I miss doing actual police work; I miss just talking shop with other cops.

I can always spot a cop — even when they’re in plain clothes — just by listening to the words and phrases they use. Cops have a language all their own:

 

Perp = Bad Guy
Swings = Weekends
Put me out on meal = I’m going out for lunch
Bus = Ambulance
Scratch this = Put your signature on it
Bats = Batons we use for crowd control
The Box = The precinct interrogation room
The Cage = The holding cell

 

If you step on your dick (mess up), then you may get launched (transferred to another Precinct far, far away). If you go out for coffee, or come back from the free world with food and didn’t call into the office to check to see if anyone else wanted something, then you may get labeled as being one way (someone who only looks out for himself). Arresting a perp is a called making a collar, and if you avoid making an arrest, you shit canned it. A magillah is a situation that’s gone horribly wrong, and a cluster fuck is the result of dealing with a magillah.

I worked in the 26th Precinct Detective Squad, investigating robberies and burglaries for five years. One sunny day, while working in the squad, I received a call from the Desk Sergeant, notifying me of a robbery. A male, white — possibly Latino — with a long pony tail and tattoos on both arms had just held up the laundromat right around the corner from the precinct. So my partner Rob and I took a walk over to investigate.

When we got there, I asked the victim — a pretty brunette with the heavy Spanish accent — to tell me what happened. She said, “A man came in and put a knife to my throat and say give me the money, so, I gave him the money!” I then asked her, “If you ever saw the man who put the knife to your throat again, would she be able to recognize him?” “Oh yes!” she exclaimed. “He come every day with his daughter…she play the video games.”  I admit to being somewhat surprised at her answer, so I pushed my luck a bit more and asked “Do you know where this guy lives?” And she shocked us once again. “Oh yes, yes,” she said. “He lives next door, come, I show you.” So my partner Rob and I followed our victim out of the laundromat and onto 125th street. She took us two doors west, pointed up to the second floor window and says, “that’s his apartment.”

We sent the pretty Spanish girl back inside. Then Rob and I went into the building, up to the second floor, and I knocked on the door. A man fitting the description given to us by our victim answered the door. So, I asked him straight out, “Hey man, did you just rob the laundromat next door?” And the guy enthusiastically replied,  “YEAH!” I looked at Rob, and he’s shaking his head in disbelief — clearly this guy was not playing with a full deck. So I asked him, “Why?” to which he gladly replied, “Because I needed the money!” So I said, “You know pal, I’m going to have to arrest you now.” Then he sadly bowed his head and said, “Yeah, I know.” He turned around, put his hands behind his back, and I cuffed him.

The whole case was solved in 20 minutes — start to finish. That, my friend, is what’s known in NYPD jargon as A Ground Ball! Of course not every case gets solved so easily. Sometimes you catch a case that’s referred to as a bag of shit… that’s when you got nothing: No evidence, no witnesses, no I.D., no surveillance cameras — nothing.

Back in the day, when I was a Detective in the squad, every once in awhile there’d be a spike in crime or a homicide, and it was all hands on deck. We’d have to work countless hours, sometimes not going home for days. Enough paper work to make your head spin. The only comfort was that you knew you could talk shop with your partners, because they spoke your language. And I miss that.

34 Responses to Back in the Day: Cop Language

  1. brianjconway says:

    A hairbag is an aspiring, would be scum bag

  2. RichardD1835 says:

    Solutions: Give the Police off for a week, and see how much better things will be. Hire ownly Ivy League grads. Develope Police automatons. Have cops watch more police shows on TV to see how things are done. My choice: look the other way.
    Questions: How would you take a person very much larger than yourself into custody?

  3. bajajoes says:

    I will NEVER call the cops!

  4. TheDashboardPoet says:

    The other day I said to a civilian that I “rolled up” to an address. He asked if I was a cop. I didn’t even realize I was using the “language.” Oops.

  5. Rick says:

    Right on Tony Ramey. Tony Lacona- gfy & stfu. I won’t waste anymore of my precious time on an asshole like you.

  6. Tony Ichiro Sato Ramey says:

    On the job for 25 years, 20 military police (Navy) and 5 as a City Cop. Police jargon can be contagious and there were many times my co-workers used a 10 code and signal code to communicate with each other on or off the radio. For lunch; 409 will be out for signal 5 at my signal 4, no signal 9. Arriving on scene- 10-97, I’m 10-15 times 2, female subject is at her signal 4, and I will be code 2 with other 10-97 units. I arrived on scene, made 2 arrests, female was at her home, and I was with other arriving units. Some cities use plain language on the radio because of the number of officers like LAPD. At least it was like that at one time, I recall studying the 10 code with LASD years ago.

    • Tony Iacona says:

      25 year’s on the force huh?
      Really trying to suck all of the taxpayers money you can huh?

      • Tony Ichiro Sato Ramey says:

        I laugh every time I deposit your money into my account, and it’s because of Richard Craniums like you that cops have to sometimes use force. You must be mentally unstable and I’m sure you have been arrested numerous times, probably for robbing old ladies of their social security checks, stealing elderly peoples mail, stalking women because you were never able to convince some girl to date you. I would be willing to bet your tax dollars that you give me every month that you are one of the following:
        1. Some rejected Phd candidate that couldn’t spell “dissertation” even with spell check.
        2. Kicked out of the military.
        3. Couldn’t pass the basic Police Academy entrance exam.
        4. Or you sell bottled water and untaxed cigarettes out of a little plastic cooler somewhere around Central Park.
        How many times have you been arrested for possessing child pornography?
        Your ex-wife or other transgender significant other couldn’t stand your 400 pound lard ass and wouldn’t bathe.
        I think that you should look in the mirror and thank those that might save your butt the next time you get sexually assaulted by some other man. Were you the stunt double in the movie “Deliverance” years ago when they needed weird looking people to stand by the roadside?
        Oh well, I am sure that the CO’s at Rikers Island are getting your suite ready along with your Sunday morning continental breakfast or brunch.
        Wait a minute, didn’t I arrest you for being a “Peeping Tom” at a local boy’s gym class or were you watching with a hidden camera in the boys bathroom? You are such a jerk and I am sure some state trooper “smoked” your head on the side of the road at 2am when he caught you with buggering some poor little dog you found wondering around the road. Smoked means “adjusted your attitude”.

        • Jim Marcum says:

          tony you can make more accusations about someone you have never meet that anyone I have ever seen. you must be a lying piece of shit.

        • CBinMd says:

          I would say that with all those negative assumptions about someone who you do not know, but who ruffled your feathers….that you probably ARE an ex-cop and your stated attitude is exactly why citizens should be armed.

      • brianjconway says:

        Try a steady job you might like it. Scumbag

  7. Alucard_the_last says:

    Let’s not forget: LTH (less than human) which are the homeless, gang bangers and prostitutes.

    • Tony Iacona says:

      Hey Douchcock, THEY ARE NOT LESS THAN HUMAN!
      It’s that fucking thinking that is destroying this country. You fucking piggies do NOT have the authority to label someone “less than human”
      FUCK YOU
      ACAB
      1312
      ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS!

      • Alucard_the_last says:

        Hey asshole: I didn’t say anyone was less than human, I said that it is a code word by cops. FUCK YOU.

        • Tony Ichiro Sato Ramey says:

          This Tony Iacona is some little baby that has watched too many episodes of “Adam 12″ years ago and is mad because he could never measure up to wear a real badge. This is what I replied to him down below when he made his little “keyboard warrior” comment to me. Please understand this is targeted toward this Tony Iacona jerk wad:

          I laugh every time I deposit your money into my account, and it’s because of Richard Craniums like you that cops have to sometimes use force. You must be mentally unstable and I’m sure you have been arrested numerous times, probably for robbing old ladies of their social security checks, stealing elderly peoples mail, stalking women because you were never able to convince some girl to date you. I would be willing to bet your tax dollars that you give me every month that you are one of the following:
          1. Some rejected Phd candidate that couldn’t spell “dissertation” even with spell check.
          2. Kicked out of the military.
          3. Couldn’t pass the basic Police Academy entrance exam.
          4. Or you sell bottled water and untaxed cigarettes out of a little plastic cooler somewhere around Central Park.
          How many times have you been arrested for possessing child pornography?
          Your ex-wife or other transgender significant other couldn’t stand your 400 pound lard ass and wouldn’t bathe.
          I think that you should look in the mirror and thank those that might save your butt the next time you get sexually assaulted by some other man. Were you the stunt double in the movie “Deliverance” years ago when they needed weird looking people to stand by the roadside?
          Oh well, I am sure that the CO’s at Rikers Island are getting your suite ready along with your Sunday morning continental breakfast or brunch.
          Wait a minute, didn’t I arrest you for being a “Peeping Tom” at a local boy’s gym class or were you watching with a hidden camera in the boys bathroom? You are such a jerk and I am sure some state trooper “smoked” your head on the side of the road at 2am when he caught you with buggering some poor little dog you found wondering around the road. Smoked means “adjusted your attitude”.

          • William Callen says:

            As we used to say in the ’60s “If you don’t like Cops, next time someone robs you, call a hippie.”

      • brianjconway says:

        Did you pay that ticket yet you little fairy?

  8. Ptm368 says:

    And don’t forget, if you “step on your dick”, you might get “road therapy” (transferred to a precinct far away from where you live)

  9. Rob Stultz says:

    you have to be ol’ school to know what “booking” a perp at Gold Street, and making grill cheese in the rmp meant, before you came back to house to catch an ol timer scamming. Or knowing what you got when a bird shits on a leaf, of yeah Beechie is still on scamming with a piano, hairbaggin’ it at the the nine once in a while he hits the streets with clover patch 3/4. ps take your memo book with you before it grows balls lol

  10. Jeffery P Hamilton says:

    Thanks for your service, Detective DeMayo! Everyone be safe.

  11. Jim Williams says:

    the ‘BROOM’

  12. Jim Marcum says:

    Dribers Litunce = Drivers License (with chew in Jaw). Throw Down = gun placed in the hand of the ‘prep’. Shake down = money taken from hoe’s and dealers. Double Down = drawing retirement and a pay check. Assault on an Officer = someone claims they’re constitutional rights and gets the hell beat out of them. Plea Bargain = We won’t press assault on an officer charge if you forget about us beating the hell out of you (DA covering asses). No words just a Blank Dumb Gaze = You mentioned the Law and the Constitution. Turn off the Camera = I can’t be a real prick and threaten and possibly knock the hell out of you, if I don’t like your answers.

  13. John Rodway says:

    Good to see that life and language in USA policing has so many similarities to pre political correctness policing in UK.

    Most of what was said was not racist, homophobic, sexist, gender specific or intended to upset anyone in the job. Then the day arrived when someone heard someone else say something in a private conversation that they misunderstood and from then on only correct comments are acceptable. So pleased to have policed from 1960’s to 90’s and enjoyed the company of free thinking men and women supporting each other in good times and bad. We had a language sub set of our own that got straight to the point and helped each of understand the gravity or hilarity of any situation.

    • Red_Geologist says:

      BS. A biased one sided account is hardly proof of anything. Get a Brain. John R. Trying to think with a cranium full of lime jello just makes you sound “stupider”!

    • brianjconway says:

      It’s still common among street cops but not among headquarters pogues or carpet beetles. Never used in reports or other written communications.

  14. Ralph Jtek Cruz says:

    Most cops are too busy putting people in choke holds. Why would they know any of the old school cop slang..

    • Jim Marcum says:

      true. so true.

    • Tony Ichiro Sato Ramey says:

      Are you for real? Yes most cops go around on a daily basis and put people in choke holds. What it wrong with you? Just because some NYPD officer used a choke hold it doesn’t mean that “Most Cops Use Choke Holds”. Have you ever wore a real cop badge, really have you? Have you ever had to answer a call in the middle of the night to help some 5 year old little girl that had just been molested by her relative? When you arrive on the scene the little girl has been so traumatized that she is not in touch with reality. Or investigated someones elderly parent that was a victim of a “home invasion’ and the “Perps” decided to beat them to death because there wasn’t any money or drugs in the house. Or look for some lost child who was kidnapped off the street by some thug who wanted to prove his manhood because he was rejected by beautiful girls when he was in school. You people that post silly remarks on here need to go on a week long ride along with street Police Officer and go into the “bad neighborhoods” and see what it’s like for real.

      • Marlo M Aegerter says:

        ya and what about the people the pigs invade theyre homes and do whatever they want?its totally ok for them to be a cop and a criminal? I think if the badge wearing assholes do a crime they should be subject to the same punishments! if you shoot someone it oh its your vacation time already!paid suspention!they are the biggest gang and the worst. they will tell you well im going home to my kids tonight as theyre taking yours away!so if I seen one on the street that was shot or something to that nature,i would look at them and say looks like you might not be going home to your children tonight?

    • Mel Wood says:

      35 K plus cops in NYC. So if most of them put people in choke holds. You do the math if you can!

    • brianjconway says:

      Get an enema you asshole!

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