Why Are Police Called 12?

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It is difficult to say exactly where the police term “12” came from, but it has been widely used for quite some time. Many musical artists, especially rappers have used the term in their songs when they refer to the police.

Although there are many theories about where the term came from, referring to the police as “12” is not meant to be derogatory. Most references to the time are just used to refer to the fact that the police are present.

If you are wondering why police are called 12 and what it means, keep reading below.

Why Are Police Called 12?

Even though many people have heard the police called 12, either in songs or movies, it may not be as common as you may think. This is because the phrase is said to have derived in the more Southern states such as Georgia.

One belief of why the police are called 12 is to inform the officers that are on duty and responding to a call that there may be other people in the vicinity of where they're going. This helps the police to know what they may be walking into when they get there.

Another belief is that the term 12 can be used by citizens to let other individuals know that a police officer is in the vicinity. this is something that is used to assist others especially those that may be committing a crime to let them know that they could get caught.

The bottom line is that there are several beliefs about why police are called 12, however, in most uses the term is meant to be harmless. However, in other instances referring to a police officer as 12 can be seen as derogatory.

Derogatory uses of the term 12 to refer to a police officer often come with another word either before or after it. These words that either come before or after the number 12 are often used as a way to insult or complain about the police.

Where Did the Term 12 Come From?

Similar to there being many different belief systems about what it means to refer to a police officer as 12, there are also many theories as to where the number 12 came from. although there does not seem to be a consensus as to where exactly it came from many of the theories make sense.

If you want to learn more about the different theories behind calling the police officer 12, keep reading below.

10 Codes

For those that are familiar with police work, you probably know that the police respond to many different kinds of calls during their duty. many of these calls are coded with what is referred to as 10 codes.

these codes are used to tell the officer who may be responding to the call what the issue is and what they may be facing when they arrive in the vicinity. for example, codes the bathroom 10-12 inform police officers that there may be other people in the area of the call they are going to.


Another theory behind the police being referred to as 12, goes back to the 1960s and 1970s and the television show Adam-12. this was a show that was filmed in Los Angeles and featured two police officers who answered a variety of calls around the city.

the two police officers in this television series Were most known for their patrol unit which was 1- Adam-12. based on this Theory, it would make sense that calling the police 12 is just used as slang based on this television series.

Is Referring to the Police as 12 Disrespectful?

In most cases when the police are referred to as 12 it is not meant to be disrespectful or insulting in any way. however, and more recent years the number 12 has often come with a derogatory word either before or after the number.

Depending on how the number is used to refer to the police it could be seen as disrespectful or not. however, most people believe that to show True respect to the officers in blue it is better to refer to them as police officers.

Reference Legal Explanations

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  • "Why Are Police Called 12?". Legal Explanations. Accessed on July 19, 2024. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/why-are-police-called-12/.

  • "Why Are Police Called 12?". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/why-are-police-called-12/. Accessed 19 July, 2024

  • Why Are Police Called 12?. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/why-are-police-called-12/.