Free to Speak? Translating Police Jargon for the Outside World


A while back I wrote a short guide to understanding corporate buzzwords for anyone leaving the emergency services. This time, we’re turning the tables – what are those police officers trying to tell you with their endless acronyms? Maybe you’ve hired one into your company, maybe you live with one, maybe you’ve been binge-watching The Bill in lockdown…

Well, if you don’t know your TJF from your LOB and want to avoid being weary, read on. I know these are all subject to regional variations so I will await corrections/abuse from County Mounties. I’ve also tried to restrict the more unsuitable ones, but if I removed them all there’d be no article.

Of course, the serious point to this is to understand that every industry has a language of its own – if you want to successfully move from one to another, the onus is on you to proactively translate your skills, experiences and stories into a form others will understand.

The Job/Job – the Police, working for the police, someone who works for the police etc

TJF – The Job’s F*cked. Almost a religious mantra that was probably first carved into caves in the Stone Age when Neanderthal Man was an hour late off dealing with a griefy bison.

Free to speak? - If you live with/know someone in the police, you’ll have noticed they probably even start phone calls this way. Really, it’s to check there are no nefarious ears nearby.

Go Ahead – the positive answer to free to speak.

LN – Local Knowledge. Is the misspelling ironic? Who knows… nothing more satisfying when operating though to receive an appreciative nod and a quiet confirmation of your LN.

Operator – the front seat passenger, responsible for directions, communications and only touching buttons pre-approved by the driver.

Griefy – a task no-one wants to do. Usually heard in “can you do me a favour, it’s non griefy” – which, incidentally, is almost always a lie.

Weary – a person who makes things unnecessarily difficult or long-winded

Sh*t Magnet – an officer who inexplicably finds themselves in all the wrong places at the wrong time

R5/Roger – message received loud and clear. R5 only exists in London, I believe. Are there a lot of people called Roger in other forces? If so, does it ever end up like the film Airplane?

Q – because the full word, meaning the opposite of busy, must never be spoken as it will unleash the busiest and most griefy turn of events.

Refs – refreshment break (though I think these last existed in about 2003).

Old Sweat – an officer with plenty of time in The Job who has seen it all. Potentially liable to blah but also likely to own several styles of jacket/jumper no longer available and coveted by others.

Job-P*ssed – someone who loves The Job just a little too much.

Blah – to embellish events to impress an audience

Swinging the Lamp – when old sweats get together and reminisce

GTP – Good to Police. Establishments that might offer discounts, or at least not spit in the food.

LOB – Load of B*llocks. A high proportion of calls to the police.

Home Address – where you live. Yes, it would be easier to just say address.

VRM – Vehicle Registration Mark. A car’s number plate, which is again much simpler.

Practicable – is this a real word outside the police? A mix of feasible and practical, I suppose.

Forensicate – to do forensic stuff to a crime scene… pretty sure it isn’t a real word. E.g. “Sarge, how long do I have to stand in this alleyway in the rain? Until it’s been forensicated”.

County Mounty – a friendly (OK, slightly arrogant) term used in the Met for an officer from another part of the country.

Rat – a Traffic (or now Roads Policing in many places) officer

Cakes – the currency of Britain might be the Pound, but cake talks. Atone for mistakes, announce your arrival on a new team, celebrate your own birthday – all by buying an acceptable standard of cake. Payment often also accepted in coffees, breakfasts or crates of beer.

Let us know any we’ve missed (and that are printable)!

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