Answer Ultimate

Short But Precise Answers

Have a Question?

You may ask any queries you want below or enter in the keywords you're searching for!

Why Are Police Called 12

Why Are Police Called 12

Are you curious about why police officers are often referred to as “12”? It’s a term that you might have heard before, but may not fully understand. In this blog post, we will delve into the history and meaning behind this term, as well as discuss some common misconceptions about it.

So, why are police called 12? The short answer is that “12” is police code for “officer in trouble.” It originated in the 1920s, when police officers would use two-way radios to communicate with one another. If an officer needed immediate assistance, they would say “10-12,” which meant “officer needs help.” Over time, this code evolved into simply saying “12,” which is now widely recognized as a call for backup.

However, there is a common misconception that “12” refers to the number of officers on a shift. This is not true. The number of officers on a shift can vary greatly depending on the size and needs of a particular department. In fact, many smaller departments may only have a few officers working at a time, while larger departments may have dozens.

Another misunderstanding is that “12” is a code for “officer down.” While “10-33” is the code for an officer being shot or otherwise seriously injured, “12” is simply a call for backup. It does not necessarily indicate that an officer is in danger or has been injured.

But why use a code like “12” in the first place? Why not just say “officer needs help” or “officer down”? The main reason for using codes like “12” is to minimize confusion and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Imagine if an officer were to shout “officer down” over the radio, and every other officer in the area rushed to the scene. This could lead to chaos and potentially even more dangerous situations. By using a specific code, officers can quickly and clearly communicate their needs without causing unnecessary confusion or panic.

Another reason for using codes is to keep sensitive information private. Imagine if an officer were to broadcast over the radio that they had just witnessed a drug deal. If anyone nearby were to overhear this information, it could compromise the investigation. By using codes, officers can communicate important information without revealing it to the public.

So, the next time you hear someone say “12,” you’ll know that it’s a call for backup, not a reference to the number of officers on a shift or an indication that an officer is in danger. It’s just one small part of the complex system of communication that police officers use to keep themselves and the public safe.

Misconceptions about Police Codes

While “12” is a well-known police code, there are many other codes that are commonly misunderstood. Here are a few examples:

  • “10-4” does not mean “yes.” This code actually means “affirmative” or “message received.”
  • “10-20” does not mean “location.” This code actually refers to an officer’s location. For example, an officer might say “I’m at 10-20 Washington Street.”
  • “10-99” does not mean “emergency.” This code actually refers to an “in-progress crime,” such as a robbery or assault.

It’s important to remember that police codes can vary from department to department and even from state to state. What might be a “10-99” in one jurisdiction could be a “10-55” in another. It’s always best to rely on credible sources for information about police codes, rather than relying on hearsay or urban myths.

The History of Police Codes

Police codes have a long history dating back to the early days of law enforcement. In the late 1800s, police officers used a system of words and phrases to communicate with one another. This system, known as “police cant,” was a form of slang that was only understood by other officers. It was used to keep sensitive information private and to minimize confusion when communicating over the radio.

As technology advanced, police officers began using two-way radios to communicate with one another. In the 1920s, the first set of police codes was developed, which included codes for different types of crimes, locations, and emergencies. These codes were designed to be concise and easy to understand, and they quickly became an integral part of police communication.

Today, police codes are still used by law enforcement agencies all over the world. While some codes have remained relatively unchanged over the years, others have been updated or modified to reflect modern technology and changing societal needs.


In conclusion, the term “12” is police code for “officer in trouble,” indicating that an officer needs immediate assistance. It is not a reference to the number of officers on a shift or a code for “officer down.” Police codes are an important tool that allows officers to communicate quickly and clearly with one another, ensuring their safety and the safety of the public. While there are many misconceptions about police codes, it’s important to rely on credible sources for accurate information.

If you've enjoyed this blog post, Please share it now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *