Police and Fed Terminology for Crime Writers

WHAT LANGUAGE DO COPS SPEAKA while back Lee Lofland graciously agreed to allow me to republish his Crime Writer’s Dictionary. I want to be clear that this is not an extension of that but rather, an independent resource of police and fed terminology. This I received from my secret source, Officer X, who’s still on the job. Hence, why I’m protecting his identity. Okay? Great. Here we go…

Police and Fed Terminology for Crime Writers

Arrest related terms

Double Lock:  After applying handcuffs, the officer engages a secondary locking mechanism preventing the handcuffs from further tightening, preventing injury to the suspect’s wrists.

Habeas Grabbis: Slang term used amongst cops meaning to physically apprehend someone.

Queen for a Day:  Slang term for a Proffer Session, a proffer agreement is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation which permits these individuals to give the government information about crimes with some assurances that they will be protected against prosecution of information provided. These aren’t complete immunity agreements. Although the government cannot use actual proffer session statements against the individual, the information provided can be used to follow up leads. If the leads reveal new evidence, the new evidence can be used to indict and convict the individual who gave the information in the proffer session.

Gun terms

BUG: Back up gun, usually carried by officers so in the event their primary firearm malfunctions, becomes inoperable, or is out of reach the officer can retrieve their BUG to defend themselves.

CNS Shot: Central Nervous System shot, a shot placement where the bullet destroys the medulla oblongata or the spinal cord at the base of the skull causing instantaneous incapacitation. (like unplugging a computer)

Out of Battery: (or knocked out of battery) A situation where the slide of a semi-automatic pistol is pushed back prohibiting the firing of the weapon.  Occurs usually during a struggle when the person wielding the pistol attempts a contact shot and presses the barrel too hard against their target forcing the slide to move back prohibiting the hammer from hitting the primer of the cartridge.

Stove Pipe: A situation when a shell casing fails to completely clear from the ejection port of a semi-automatic pistol (or rifle) prohibiting the weapon from auto loading the next cartridge.

Police Training Terms

DT: Defensive tactics taught during initial police training and during yearly required in service training

EVOC: Emergency vehicle operations course, basic police driver’s training course for operating a police vehicle in variety of conditions including high speed pursuit.

In Service: In service training, a set number of hours, usually 40 hours of required annual training that covers changes in laws, policies, as well as qualification of firearms, driving, and defensive tactics.  This is required by an officer to keep his/her police certification current.

Investigative Terms

SORNA investigation: (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) SORNA is a set of minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States. SORNA closes most loopholes that existed under prior law and enhances the nationwide sex offender registration networks. This makes it a federal crime for sex offender to move interstate and not register in the new location.  This is a primary enforcement jurisdiction of the US Marshal’s Service.

(A) Straw: A straw is person employed to make a purchase to hide the identity of the true purchaser.  Often used in the purchase of firearms and real estate.

Internal Affairs Investigation Terms

Kalkines: The Kalkines warning is an advisement of rights usually administered by United States federal agents to federal employees/contractors in internal investigations. The Kalkines warning compels subjects to make statements or face disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, but also provides suspects with criminal immunity for their statements due to its coercive nature.

Garrity: The Garrity warning is an advisement of rights usually administered by state or local investigators to their employees who may be the subject of an internal investigation, however, this includes a 5th amendment advisement so the statement can be used in a criminal trial. (This is the state version of Kalkines)

Fed Terms

Granny in the Garden Case:

Refers to social security benefit investigation where the beneficiary dies or is murdered and a relative or caretaker conceals the death in order to continue collecting the social security payments by, yup you guessed it, burying granny in the back yard. (Used mainly by SSA-OIG Special Agents during their investigations)

Stamp Camp: US Postal Inspection Service Law Enforcement Academy officially called the Career Development Unit (CDU) located in Potomac MD.

Dad in the Pad (investigation): Benefit fraud case where the mother on benefits is hiding the fact that the “estranged” husband/boyfriend is living in the household in order to collect greater benefits or conceal the husband/boyfriend who may be wanted by the police.

OGA: Other Government Agency (CIA)

OFA: Other Federal Agency (or sometimes in not so nice speak Other Fucking Agency)

OIG: Office of Inspector General (there are over 70 in the federal government) and when OIG term is used 99% of it’s in reference to the Special Agents

1811: Government service job classification code referring to federal criminal investigators/Special Agents includes DEA, FBI, ATF, US Postal Inspectors, US Deputy Marshals, OIG Special Agents, etc…

For fun, I’ll throw in information I received for Wings of Mayhem.

The question was: If arrested for B & E, how long a sentence would someone face? The crime occurred in Massachusetts. Second offense.

Because he’s an awesome guy, Officer X went out of his way to find the exact statute for me. Thwack! Paws off, I mean it. He’s mine.

This is the Burglary Statute for Massachusetts. Here’s a link to the statute in its entirety: Burglary and Entering a Dwelling Title I Chapter 266 14 – Section 18A

Title 1 Chapter 266 Section 15 (Burglary-unarmed)

Whoever breaks and enters a dwelling house in the night time, with the intent mentioned in the preceding section, or, having entered with such intent, breaks such dwelling house in the night time, the offender not being armed, nor arming himself in such house, with a dangerous weapon, nor making an assault upon a person lawfully therein, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years and, if he shall have been previously convicted of any crime named in this or the preceding section, for not less than five years.

Title 1 Chapter 266 Section 16 (Burglary-Armed)

Whoever breaks and enters a dwelling house in the night time, with intent to commit a felony, or whoever, after having entered with such intent, breaks such dwelling house in the night time, any person being then lawfully therein, and the offender being armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of such breaking or entry, or so arming himself in such house, or making an actual assault on a person lawfully therein, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of not less than ten years.

Whoever commits any offense described in this section while armed with a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, or assault weapon shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, but not less than 15 years. Whoever commits a subsequent such offense shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, but not less than 20 years. The sentence imposed upon a person who, after being convicted of any offense mentioned in this section, commits the like offense, or any other of the offenses therein mentioned, shall not be suspended, nor shall he be placed on probation.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@SueColetta1″]Does your cop/agent character speak like the real deal?[/tweetthis]


I’ve also added a link to burglary investigations to my Crime Writer’s Resource. Update post coming soon.

After reading this statute, I was so excited. Why? Because now, the stakes are much higher for Shawnee. And that is why you, the writer, needs to know what consequences your character will face, and then relate those stakes so the reader feels the tension. The bigger the stakes, the more the character has to lose, the greater the suspense. In crime writing that’s often someone’s freedom, life, or even world destruction.

Happy writing, everyone!

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. OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine published her flash fiction and her short stories are published in numerous anthologies and collections. InSinC Quarterly featured her forensic articles about Radiocarbon Dating and Skeletal Differences. In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue's also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project. 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, where she blogs every other Monday.


  1. Nice piece – two quick comments. In NJ where I was on the job for 25 years, in-service refers to personnel who have graduated from the police academy and are working for a police department. For example; at the police academy, I taught recruits as well as in-service personnel.
    Writers need to be careful when using crime definitions which vary state to state. In NJ a burglary is entering a structure (home, building, vehicle) with the intent to commit a crime (felony). Time of day is immaterial. So if I enter your home and assault you, I’m charged with the assault and burglary.
    OK three – much of the lingo also varies by state or region. An actor is locked up in NJ but a perp is collared in NY.
    Best to check locally

    • Fabulous pointers, Joseph! Yes, I always advocate to research, research, research, because jurisdiction has a lot to do with slang. Thank you so much for adding your experience. The more crime experts we have here the better.

  2. I love these lists you curate. Slang is always fun, but it also gives a very precise image of the world that slang come from. I think suing slang in a correct way can enhence a story greatly.

    And of course, you need to know what’s bhind that slang to use it correctly 😉
    JazzFeathers recently posted…Pictures from IrelandMy Profile

    • I absolutely agree, Sarah. In Marred, I had my sheriff and deputies use slang and it made a world of difference. These posts are always so fun. Good thing too, because he has more terms for me. 🙂

  3. Awesome information, Sue. Officer X rocks (yeah, I know…paws off, LOL!). The only term I was familiar with was Straw (from real estate). Everything else was all sparkly and new.

    You are so right about knowing the risks for your characters and how that increases tension for your reader. Great point!

  4. I just love these. Mind you, is it just me or does 20 years for unarmed burglary sound a tad excessive?

    Of course, that’s the burglar’s fault: he should have committed his crime during the day (yes, I was rather amused by the repeated mention of the words, “at night time”).
    Nicholas C. Rossis recently posted…Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge (Day 3)My Profile

    • So was I, Nicholas! But to edit the law in any way would take away from it. I wondered if anyone would pick up on that. 🙂 Yes, twenty years did seem a bit harsh…unless you’re the victim, I suppose.

  5. OMG! This is so fantastic. I love all this information and my mind is whirling with ideas for how my characters can use it. Thank you, Sue. Your blog is one of the best and thank your Officer X for all of his expertise. I’ll keep my hands off but he’s starting to claim my heart. 🙂
    Amy Valentini recently posted…Celebrating My Two Year Anniversary & International Literacy DayMy Profile

    • I’m with you there, Amy. Officer X is so generous with his knowledge and time. Thank you for your kind words. It’s comments like yours that make it all worthwhile. 🙂

  6. This is getting bookmarked. Thank you for the great information!
    Ben Sobieck recently posted…What is a Riot Gun?My Profile

    • You’re welcome, Ben. I’m so glad you found it useful. Did I lose your blog too? Man, somehow I lost all the WP.com blogs I was following. Thank God for commentluv.

  7. Good stuff, Sue. I’ve never heard the term ‘stove pipe’ – the only thing I know it as is a ‘jam’. Learn something everyday, just like these warnings.

    It’s interesting to see the Massachusetts minimum / maximum penalties for repeat residential B&E offenders – especially the armed section. I think that’s right in line, given the severity of the offence.

    Thanks for this & I hope Shawnee evades capture 😉
    Garry Rodgers recently posted…HOW TO WRITE DEADLY CRIME FICTIONMy Profile

    • I actually have heard that term, isn’t that odd? Aw, Garry, you know I can’t go easy on Shawnee. What fun would that be? LOL

    • A stove pipe is a specific type of malfunction, where the ejector does not fully clear the spent casing, and the brass is sticking out of the slide/ejector area. You can use a slightly different clearance technique to ensure you don’t create a worse jam.

      • Hey, TJ! Thank you for clarifying. Gee, I almost forgot about your extensive background. Any chance of convincing you to guest post? Or, shoot me more terms/laws/whatever via email? Full credit to you, of course.

  8. Cool stuff. I’ve been involved in a few strawman cases myself.
    Craig recently posted…Today is the day.My Profile

  9. Can I share some of these things at a workshop we are having this weekend as handouts or is it taboo? Nancy  Hudgins, Director 2016 Northeast Texas Writers OrganizationSpring Writers RoundupH: 903-843-2914C: 903-738-1474F: 903-843-4629

    • Absolutely, Nancy. Just please add a link to this site. Thanks!

      • Perfect! I will do that and make sure you get the glory :-).  Writing has been my dream for a long time; now that I am retired, I am working on making it a reality. Your site has already been invaluable to me in my research on how things are done! Thank you again!
         Nancy  Hudgins, Director 2016 Northeast Texas Writers OrganizationSpring Writers RoundupH: 903-843-2914C: 903-738-1474F: 903-843-4629

Comments are closed

  • Follow me on Amazon (click image of books)

    Books by Sue Coletta