The other day I was out pushing a panda around my default patrol area. The RADS at WS saw from ARLS that I wasn’t too far from a recently reported incident and so dispatched me, telling me to make towards as it was an early.
I was about to code six when an all out came in over the Airwaves and so I whipped the car around, hit the blues and twos and joined in with an area search.
Alpha Oscar One joined us too as did Alpha Delta, it didn’t take too long to locate a couple of CROs in the locality and as they matched the descriptions passed, they were taken into custody.
I pulled up next to someone who turned out to be a sig wit and so obtained an MG11 before heading back to the station for some code four.
What am I talking about?
Well, if you followed even a quarter of that incomprehensible smattering of police jargon then you did rather well. Those two paragraphs contained just a small proportion of the bewildering number of acronyms and abbreviations that us officers love to confuse each other with.
Yes, I reckon one of the things I found hardest when I first joined was not getting my head around the law, but instead understanding what people were talking about when they were ‘talking job’.
Some of it I imagine comes from the fact that when we talk on the radio, we need to be concise to avoid tying up the airwaves. The key is ‘accuracy, brevity and clarity’ with the emphasis obviously on brevity over clarity!
As it is, this means that even simple things are awarded their own special terms. A call make from a ‘TK’ is a telephone kiosk, ‘RTC’ means someone’s crashed their car and ‘KIV’ means we need to ‘keep in view’ some risk or other that the control room have flagged up.
Needing to keep things short doesn’t fully explain why we sometimes end up talking in code though. There are also a range of terms that are so commonly used we have abandoned their actual names and resorted to ‘easier’ terminology.
Take ‘updating the EDL’ as an example. This is a particularly confusing one as quite rightly so you might assume it’s a reference to the English Defence League and us policing a demonstration.
This it could be, but actually the ‘EDL’ referred to here is the ‘Electronic Detention Log’ which is the record we keep of prisoner activity whilst they’re in custody in our station cells.
As it is the case that police speak is so prevalent between officers, it can be very easy for us to slip into using the same terminology when speaking with the public which often leads to nothing but confusion and blank faces.
I actually try to ‘scan’ what I’m about to say when talking to members of the public to ensure that I’ve filtered out all of the acronyms, although as I say they’re so prevalent that sometimes I don’t always manage it.
Take filling in a ‘392’ or informing someone that a ‘NFA’ decision has been made as examples – both contain important information but when disguised with in our mysterious police tongue, they are pretty much meaningless.
As it is, if you find yourself struggling to understand a police officer when we’re talking about ‘mainline burglaries’ or ‘FSI’, please don’t hesitate to stop us and ask for some clarification.
You could even drop in a little ‘Airwaves speak’ yourself – use the phrase ‘say again’ and they should get the picture!
P.S. We’ve got a handy list of 5% of the abbreviations we use over on our website. Get in touch if there are any not listed that you’re curious about, I’ll do my best to figure them out.