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Top 50 Police Vocabulary and Terminology

Oct 14th, 2022
police vocabulary

Why Learn Police Words and Phrases?

You may be interested in learning about police vocabulary for a number of reasons. Some people may be learning English as a second language. Alternatively, you may just be interested in law enforcement itself, or perhaps you are planning on taking the police officer exam. 

Learning about police vocabulary is useful for a number of reasons. Take some Netflix shows, such as How to Get Away with Murder, where there is near-constant reference to law enforcement terms and phrases. You may be familiar with some police words, yet are not entirely sure what the term means. 

The best way to learn police vocabulary is to isolate words you don’t know and practice them in person. Make a conscious effort to deliberately use the word in an everyday conversation with a friend, family member, or colleague. That act of verbalising the word helps to remember the word in ways that reading cannot achieve on its own. If you need to learn police phrases because of work or career ambitions, take the time to expand the number of law enforcement sources you read; for example:

  • Newspapers – either print or online.
  • Books – texts written by famous police officers or detective novels.
  • Police department websites – download the latest local crime reports.

The opportunities are endless.

Learning police words and phrases also helps improve communication skills, too. The more accurate words and phrases are used in communication, the better and more fluent you become over time. Of course, it’s important not only to learn what words mean, but also how they are spelled. Always take the time to learn how new words and phrases are spelled. 

Below, we put together some of the top police vocabulary to help you along that journey. Go through each example and, if you have the time, try to come up with your own, original examples too! The more effort you put in, the more you can yield in the long term. 

Top Police Vocabulary and Terminology.

Word Definition Example
Corroborate To give support to a theory or finding.   “He corroborated the claim that she was in her home that night”.
Suborn To bribe someone to commit an unlawful act.   “He tried to suborn witnesses to speak in his favor”.
Sequester To isolate.   “The police officer sequestered the suspect in the local park”.
Libel To publish a false statement that damages an individual’s reputation.   “The newspaper committed libel by falsely claiming he evaded tax for the past decade”.  
Adjourn To postpone, often referring to court. “The trial was adjourned to a later date”.
Bail Release of an accused person awaiting trial, often after the payment of a fee.   “He was granted bail at a cost of $4,000 and released and was due back in court on 14 September”.
Impeach To charge the holder of public office with misconduct.   “The US president was impeached on grounds that he personally profited from his public role”.
Arraign To bring to court on a criminal charge.   “She was arraigned on charges of manslaughter”.
Admonish To firmly warn against someone’s behavior.   “She admonished him for taking drugs when he promised not to do so”.
Reprobate An unprincipled person.   “He was a reprobate; an individual who had no principles and who acted according to his selfish needs”.
Custody To place into imprisonment.  “He was taken into custody on charges of theft”.
Reprimand To warn sternly against.   “Mike was reprimanded for consuming too much alcohol”.
Incarceration The state of being imprisoned.   “She was incarcerated after being found guilty at trial”.
Perjury Telling a lie whilst under oath.   “He committed perjury by lying to the court about his whereabouts on the night”.
Embezzle To misappropriate, typically money.   “She embezzled up to $5,000 from the company credit card without their consent or knowledge”.
Collusion Illegal cooperation between two entities.   “Armed forces were found to be in collusion with a well-known drug gang operating in the local area”.
Exonerate To find innocent or free from wrongdoing.   “The court exonerated the man after new evidence came to light that proved his innocence”.
Vagrancy The state of being homeless.   “The vagrant moved from street to street each week, never having a permanent place to call home”.
Lynch To kill someone for an offence without trial (often in group form). “They lynched him, hung him up and left him to die.”
Extortion Obtaining something, such as money, through force or by threats.   “His empire was built on extortion, and not through any lawful means”.
Subdue To overcome or to bring under control.   “The officer subdued the suspect, preventing the situation from escalating any further”.
Contusion A bruise.   “The officer suffered two contusions; one to his left forearm, the second to his lower lip”.
Inquest An inquiry that takes place to establish the facts.   “The court ordered an inquest to be held to learn what happened missing government funds”.
Indictment A charge or accusation of a crime.   “He was indicted on charges of murder”.
Warrant An authorization for the police to arrest someone or to act, such as search premises.   “A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found and arrested later that day”.
Moratorium A temporary ban.   “A moratorium on drinking alcohol was sanctioned”.
Summons An order to appear in court in front of a judge.   “A summons was issued for Nathan to appear in court on the 10 August”.
Coroner An official tasked with inquiring into a suspicious death.   The coroner learned that the politician did not die by hanging but was instead killed by order of the government”.
Lien The right to keep possession of a property until a debt has been paid.   The owner could not sell his property because a lien was in place to ensure he first paid off the debt”.
Subpoena A writ ordering an individual to appear in court.   “A subpoena was issued for Richard to appear in court after it transpired he had knowledge of what the suspect did”.
Slander To make a false spoken statement about an individual’s reputation.   “He slandered Michael’s character in public by claiming that he was a pedophile”.
Litigation The act of taking legal action; to be litigious.   “The US is not the most litigious country. Germany is far more litigious, with 123.2 lawsuits per 1,000 people“.
Prosecution To conduct legal proceedings against an individual. “He was prosecuted for manslaughter”.
Arson Deliberately setting fire to property.   “Sheldon committed arson when he set fire to his employer’s premises”.
Siege A military operation in which a town or city is surrounded, essential supplies cut off, with the intention that the town / city will surrender.   “The siege was ongoing for 3 weeks now, and they didn’t yet surrender”.
Culprit A person responsible for a crime or misdeed.   “The culprit was 6 feet tall, 300 pounds and was found by the police enjoying a meal in McDonalds”.
Manslaughter The non-intentional killing of a human being.   “The judge established that he had committed manslaughter by reacting to an explosive situation with his wife, suddenly impacting her fatally on the head”.
Murder The premeditated killing of a human being.   “He planned this murder for several weeks. It was a highly calculated operation and, therefore, he was issued the death penalty”.  
Delinquent A young offender.   “She was 13, a delinquent by all accounts, who regularly stole from half a dozen local stores”.
Sabotage To deliberately obstruct an event or action. “The concert did not go ahead. Three individuals deliberately sabotaged the event to ensure that it would not go ahead”.
Surveillance Close observation, as in spying. “The government had extensive surveillance in place to monitor Russia”.
Abscond To leave hurriedly to avoid arrest. “He tried to abscond the country, but it was too late. He was arrested on the plane before it took off”.
Expropriation State taking property from an owner for public use / benefit. “The law allowed for the expropriation of church land for other development purposes”.
Laceration A deep cut to the skin / flesh. “After the brawl, he realised he had suffered a laceration to his left thigh”.
Larceny Theft of personal property. “Paul committed larceny, stealing over $1,000 from his business partner”.
Sedition Conduct that incites rebellion against the authority of the state. “His seditious acts were enough for the government to hand down the charge of treason”.
Forgery A fake document, bill or work intended for a criminal purpose. “The banknotes were clearly forged. He was arrested on charges of forgery”.
Barricade Improvised barrier erected to defend against opposing forces. “A barricade was set up to defend the police force against the unruly mob on the opposite side”.
Brandish To threateningly wave a dangerous object, such as a knife. “When approached, he brandished a knife and threatened all those who were in his immediate vicinity”.
Apprehend To arrest an individual for a crime. “He was apprehended for murder later that day and is set to appear on trial on October 1”.

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