Your average police constable is known by a host of slang names. “The copper, a member of the Old Bill’s local nick, is nicking a local toe-rag after his nark gave tipped him the wink…..”
This post is a (roughly) alphabetical guide to police-related slang in England. It’s based on those I’m familiar with, and therefore probably London-biased.
Blue and twos A police car with both blue lights flashing and siren going.
Bobby A fairly affectionate way of referring to a policeman – usually in the phrase “we need more bobbies on the beat”, meaning more policemen wandering round the streets keeping an eye on things. The origin is the man Sir Robert Peel, who set up the Metropolitan Police at the start of the 19th century; Bobby is short for Robert.
Boys in Blue The police in general, what with them having blue uniforms….
Copper Like “cop”, and probably from the same origin. A copper is someone who cops someone, or grabs him.
Filth A London word for a police officer or police in general.
Grass A police informant. Also a noun, “he grassed me up”, meaning told the police about an offence. A supergrass was, in the 1980s, an IRA informant who turned Queen’s Evidence and gave evidence against other IRA members, and is now more generally used for a serious informant who gets a lot of nasty people nicked. The origin’s not entirely clear. Here’s a BBC article about two recent supergrasses in Northern Ireland.
Jam Sandwich An armed police response vehicle, which has huge red, orange and yellow stripes all over it.
Nick (noun) A police station – “he’s in Holborn nick” means that he is locked up in Holborn police station.
Nick (verb) / Nab Either to steal (he nicked it from the supermarket) or arrested, Q “What’s he been nicked / nabbed for?” A. “Assault”. The origin of “nick” is a 15th century English word meaning a groove or notch. “Nab” probably has a common origin with “nap”, meaning to grab (as in “kidnap”).
(The) Old Bill Either an individual policeman, or several, or the police force as a whole. As in, “watch him, he’s Old Bill”, or “Let’s run, the Old Bill’s arrived”. The origin’s unknown – the Metropolitan Police’s website suggests 13 (!) possible origins here. For the last 20 years or so, there’s been a several-times-a-week ITV programme called “The Bill”.
PC Plod An uncomplimentary term for a police constable, suggesting someone plodding around slowly and not very usefully. May come from Enid Blyton’s Noddy books. Or may not.
Rozzers A London term for the police, fairly old-fashioned, now.
Snout – another term for a police informant.
Toe-rag A low-life who is probably a crook of some description. Often used in TV programmes at times of day when “little shit” is ruled out because children might be watching.