The history of police codenames dates back to the early 1900s. Over the years, the men in blue have been called several names, with different contexts corresponding to the era.
However, one code that has stuck for over nine decades is the number “12.” Seems odd, but that’s the slang that has progressed through generations with evolving meaning behind it.
However, there’s not one common connotation as to why this number is associated with police. Here are a few popular theories of police being referred to as 12.
The first reason for the slang 12 comes from the radio codes 10-12 that originated in the 1930s. This number also lets the officers know that civilians are in the area where they are called for duty. Plus, the slang was popularized by a 1960 show, “Adam-12” and Hip-hop, as several rappers used 12 in their bars. The slang “12,” which is commonly used in the Southern states of America in Atlanta and Georgia, also has a negative connotation that depicts the violent history of policing.
How to use it? You can use the slang “12” if you want to warn someone that the police are around discretely.
Why Do They Call the Police 12?
The origin of the number comes from the police radio code 10-12, used in the 1930s. The 10 codes are usually used to direct the call-of-duty police to a specific instruction. The 10-12 code, specifically, is used to inform the police officer who is driving towards an area that the place might be crowded by civilians. Hence, they will maintain caution while driving.
Here are a few reasons why they call the police 12:
#1 Coding the Police: Deriving from the context of 10-12, the number 12 is now used by people, especially from Southern states, to inform someone that the police are around. Usually, it is used by someone who is committing a felony and wants to inform their accomplice.
#2 Adam-12 Cop Show: The slang gained traction after the hit cop show Adam-12 aired in the late 1960s till the early 1970s. People from Georgia and Atlanta heavily used this slang to refer to cops after the show.
#3 Popularized in HipHop: The hip-hop scene has a lot to say about the cops, starting with NWA, who openly cussed at police.
But the new generation rappers have found a way to diss the cops using the slang 12. In one context, the number 12 is associated with narcotics police. Gucci Mane and Quavo from Migos dropped the hot bars in the song “F*** 12,” which says–
“Aye throw that s–t, throw that s–t, 12 outside.”
#4 Denoting Police Brutality: The slang also has a negative contention that symbolizes the violent history of police brutality over the years. Sometimes, 12 can be taken as disrespect to law enforcement.
What are your thoughts on these theories? Do you think this code slang is still relevant for the police? What are other police slangs you know?
Let us know in the comments section below.