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by Peter Moskos

May 7, 2008

Is "Cop" a bad word?

I gave a talk on my book today at John Jay College. After the talk a man came up to me asking about my use of "cop." He said when he was a kid, it was considered a bad word. Police officer is the proper term.

A couple of cops and students present discussed the issue. I don't consider "cop" a bad word. Maybe it is a generational thing. And also, as one cop said, "it's OK for cops to use the word."

On the street, if somebody addressed me in the second person as "cop," I wouldn't have taken kindly to it. Officer was my title and it is, to some extent, a title of respect. But if you say, "I called 911 earlier and this cop came and said...", that wouldn't bother me at all.

I think cop is perfectly OK as a descriptive and when used in the third-person. But no, you shouldn't address a cop as "cop."


Anonymous said...

look at it as a black name using the "N" word.... just like cops.. its ok for other cops to call us cops... but if a citizen calls us a cop... thats insulting.... i'm glad i wasn't called, "a clean cut headed cop." ... can i get a CLICK CLICK

PCM said...

It's kind of like that, but not quite. Because I don't mind if non-cops refer to me as a cop. "This is my friend Peter, he's a cop in Baltimore." I got no problem with that. As long as people don't get my attention by yelling, "Yo, cop!"

I got another question. Why do cops always call me "Pete" and everybody else in the world call me "Peter"? I don't really care if people call me Pete (any more than if they call me a [former] cop), but I never introduce myself as Pete.

PCM said...

Maybe it's this: "cop" can be rude, but it's not an insult.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, if it was an unequivocally bad word, would there be a program called "Cops in Shops"?

PCM said...

And if it were an unequivocally bad word, would I have called my book, "Cop in the Hood?"