Why the Police Are Always Referred to as “12”?

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Commonly used in the southern United States, “12” is slang for law enforcement officers. Though many theories have been advanced to explain the term’s origin and subsequent popularity, none of them are supported by any hard evidence. Many Atlantans refer to police officers by their radio code, which is “12,” because it indicates that there are civilians in the area where police are going (10-12). Not only that, but it’s a quick way to let a crowd know the police are on their way. So why are Police referred to as “12.” Let’s explore the topic in this article.

Why Police are Called 12

What are some common slurs that locals in your area use to describe the police? Cops, buzzkill, five-o, and dozens of other slang terms are among the many that are used to refer to law enforcement officials. You might be wondering where the number 12 comes from when referring to police officers. The number 12 (short for “twelve”) is the basis of a popular new slang name. Most people who call out this name are either criminals themselves or are trying to warn others to stop doing something illegal before the police arrive. The term “12” used to be a police radio call code, but in popular culture, it has been co-opted as a threatening expression.

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Where did the term police come from?

It was in the early 15th century that the term “police” was first used to refer to a wide variety of government regulations. This is where its roots can be found. The Greek word “polis,” which can mean both “city” and “polity,” is the etymological ancestor of the English word “police.”

In addition, the term “political” derives from the Latin word “politia,” which means “citizenship.”

Part of a law enforcement officer’s duty is to ensure that the public’s policies are followed and that public order is kept.

Why do they have a name that includes a number, and what does that even mean?

The common practice of referring to police as “12” can be attributed to several factors. The reasons for this include a few of the ones that are listed below.


The phrase “Drug Enforcement Administration” can be shortened to “DEA,” which stands for the abbreviation “United States Drug Enforcement Administration.” A member of law enforcement who has the number 12 after their name indicates that they have training and experience in drug enforcement. It is common practice for people who sell drugs to use the number 12 as a code to alert their customers and other dealers to the fact that law enforcement is present. One of the rap songs that Migos have released includes the line “throw that shit, throw that shit 12 outside.” According to the lyrics, you ought to get rid of the drugs because the police or the DEA are on their way to your location.

Warn those responsible for the potential consequences of their actions.

Because of the “10-12” police protocol, officers are sometimes referred to by their badge number followed by a digit, such as “12.” This is because the “10-12” protocol was established in the 1920s. This takes place during the calls received on the radio scanner. It is possible that this 10-to-12 code was the source of inspiration for the term “12.” For instance, a police officer on patrol who hears the term “12” will understand that the call is a “Warning: there are bad guys, probably suspects within that very area.”


A television show from the 1960s and 1970s was the source of the first known usage of the number 12 about a police officer. The name “Adam-12” was given to the show itself. It was based on a police drama storyline that highlighted the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which was featured in the show.

The fictional police officers from the television show conducted their routine patrols through the city of Los Angeles in a vehicle that they referred to as 1-Adam-12. This television show was the first of its kind to incorporate police lingo and procedures into a drama series. They had no idea that their best intentions to show how the Los Angeles police department worked would give birth to some slang name from the first day the show got aired in September 1968 until the show finished in May 1975.
The show began airing in September 1968. A name that would be used to warn criminals so that they could get away from law enforcement officers before they caught up with them.

I hope you now understand why Police are sometimes referred to as “12.”