More Cop Slang & Fed Lingo

Police and Fed Terms for Crime Writers

I swear I haven’t abandoned you. I’ve been learning exciting new stuff, which I’ll share soon. In the meantime, here’s some fun cop slang and Fed lingo for your enjoyment and/or to use in your stories.

Street Cop Lingo

Suicide Strap: Narrow leather strap passing diagonally over the right shoulder connected to a police duty belt, also called a suicide belt. They were used extensively until the 1960s. The strap gained its name after often being grabbed by suspects and used against officers during altercations.

Pinch Book: A (usually) black leather case about 12” long that is used to hold an officer’s criminal and civil citations.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@SueColetta1″]A cop pulled me over and whipped out his Pinch Book! Don’t understand? Check out Cop Slang and Fed Lingo.[/tweetthis]

Pinch: Cop slang meaning to arrest someone

Barney Cage: A small steel bar jail cell with a bench and toilet that can hold up to four pre-processing arrestees, usually at a police sub-station. It got its name because it resembles the jail cell on the Barney Miller TV show.

Sap: A small bowling pin shaped leather sack, approximately 10 to 12 inches, that is tightly packed with granulated lead beads. Used similar to a night stick as an impact weapon, SAPs fell out of favor by most police by the 1980s.

Sap Pocket: A narrow pocket sewn into a police officer’s uniform pant leg, usually on the right side below the back pocket. Originally it was used to carry a SAP, but now is mainly used to carry an officer’s patrol gloves.

Hats and Bats:  Cop slang for the riot squad

Kick Ya Outta the House Cops:  Street slang for Deputy Sheriffs in the Pacific Northwest. The Sheriff’s Offices handle evictions and their uniforms are distinctly different from the city police uniforms. While serving evictions in the cities, kids (often paid by dope dealers as lookouts) will spill out into the street from neighboring homes yelling “it’s the kick ya outta the house cops.” This allows the kids to notify their employers that police are in the area and that they are likely the reason for the police presence.

Railroad Bull: Police Officer employed by private railroads and commissioned by the both the state and federal government to protect the railroad from trespassers, thefts, crossing violations, property destruction, and terrorism, usually carrying the title Special Agent or Detective.

Stock Detective: Cow Cop, Brand inspector, Cattleman’s Association Detective, Ranch Detective, Agriculture investigator — law enforcement investigators specifically assigned to police the agricultural industry through the state or cattle and stock associations deputized as peace officers with the primary duty of preventing, investing, and arresting livestock thieves, which have seen a massive rise in occurrence in the last five years.

Rippers: Groups of thieves who raid marijuana grows for resale. However, the term is starting to be used for people doing home invasions of marijuana dealers and business takeovers of medical marijuana dispensaries.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@SueColetta1″]The Rippers took their stash, man. Don’t understand? Check out Cop Slang and Fed Lingo.[/tweetthis]

Booster: Professional shop lifter who makes their living by shoplifting large amounts of various items from department stores for the purpose of resale.

On the Nod: The state of a person after they ingest an opiate, usually heroine, leaving them in a drowsy euphoric state.

Shooting Gallery: Usually a secluded location like an abandoned house, building, or under a bridge, where drug addicts can inject heroine and stay there while they’re “On the Nod.”

Popping: Also called skin popping. Which is the subcutaneous injection of opiates (and sometimes stimulants like cocaine) instead of intravenously injecting the drug. Popping causes a slower introduction of the drugs into the blood system and also leaves bruising and scabbing to the injection area.

More Fed Lingo

302: Pronounced “three oh two,” is the term for the written interview reports by an FBI agent.

1001: Pronounced as “thousand and one,” is derived from 18 USC 1001, this is the felony charge of lying to federal investigators. (This is what Martha Stewart was charged with.)

SCERS Agent: Seized Computer Evidence Recovery Specialist (SCERS) Agent. A forensic analyst who is responsible for the recovery of electronic data from suspects’ computer systems.  Most federal and state agencies have regional certified SCERS Agents who assist on search warrant operations to seize and handle electronic data.

Target letter: A letter issued by the US Attorney’s office to a soon-to-be defendant which lays out a broad scope of criminal activity the recipient is being investigated for, with the intention of convincing the recipient to obtain an attorney and come in for a proffer session (also known as Queen for a Day).

Lacey Violation: A Lacey Act Violation, federal felonies related to wildlife trafficking under 16 USC 3372 which contains numerous separate violations for illegal fish and wildlife trafficking crimes (it actually covers both flora and fauna).

PSD: Protective Security Detail, bodyguards for senior government officials, VIPs, and other people of government interest at a higher risk for kidnapping or assassination.

doggie robbers

I found the origin of the Barney Cage fascinating. I used to be a big fan of Barney Miller. And I’ve always loved the term “Hats and Bats.”

Cops have the best slang, don’t they? Who comes up with this stuff?

I hope you all have a safe and fun Halloween!

After my book signing/reading on Friday, I’ll launch the Crime Lover’s Lounge. If you haven’t signed up to join us, you can do so on the left sidebar. Hope to see you there!

About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. Sue’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine and numerous anthologies, and her forensic articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly.

In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue’s the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project, and co-hosts the radio show “Partners in Crime” on Writestream Radio Network. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She’s also a proud member of the Kill Zone (see details in full bio — menu bar).


  1. Lingo is always so intersting. It say a big deal of people who use it 🙂
    JazzFeathers recently posted…Spooktacular Challenge – The devil and the Arena of VeronaMy Profile

  2. I was a huge fan of Barney Miller and still catch it in reruns now and then. I love that the “Barney cage” came from that show. And Railroad Bull makes me think back to the days of hobos and prohibition. Always interesting to see what you’ve got to share, Sue. I’ll miss the launch of the Crime Lover’s Lounge as I’m headed to the tropics for a week, but I’ll be looking forward to exploring it when I get back!

  3. Wow, I probably knew just a couple of these. What’s a “proffer session”?
    Nicholas C. Rossis recently posted…Books on Book Marketing for Indie AuthorsMy Profile

    • A proffer session is when the defendant meets with his attorney, State’s attorney, and the federal agent to discuss what the defendant has to offer to make a deal. Such as, a lower tier drug dealer giving up his main supplier. Good question, Nicholas!

  4. Interesting language! Thank you for the learning.
    Joycelin Leahy recently posted…Unforgetful FacesMy Profile

  5. Lots of good stuff here, Sue, as always. 🙂

  6. Wonderful terms. These can be used to show a lot of character.
    Craig recently posted…Merging into the next phaseMy Profile

  7. Hey Sue – You have some terms here I hadn’t heard before, like Barney Cage, but I see where that came from. Some of the best slang names are the ones that cops have for street criminals – pukes, scroats, bugs, puss-heads, hair-bags, zipper-heads, hypes, crack-heads, slime-balls, loogies, nobs, ferret-faces, shit-rats, and a whole bunch of others that you’d probably have to delete 😉

    • Hahahaha! Love those terms, Garry! Your comments are always the highlight of my posts. I think my favorite is Ferret-Face. What a picture that conjures in my crime writer mind. Hmm…I’ve got an old school detective as a secondary character in Wings of Mayhem. I may have to use a couple of these to give him some added flair. 😉

  8. I always find it fascinating to learn the way different cultures (and law enforcement is a culture) use language. The language does make sense when you have the background. And using it very judiciously can add a bit of interest and authenticity to a novel. Thanks, Sue!
    Margot Kinberg recently posted…Down the Local 😉My Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Margot. I thought the terms this time around were adorable. It is strange that after a while they start to make sense, you’re right.

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