Cop Talk: Crime Writer’s Dictionary J – M


I hope you all are loving this series as much I am. Not only will it help strengthen our stories and make them more believable, but knowing the right terminology helps bring our characters alive. Thank you again to Lee Lofland for his hard work putting this together for crime writers and/or anyone else who has a law enforcement character.

If you’ve missed the first two posts in the series you can find them here: A – E, F – I.


Junior Franklin, well known to all the local cops for his kiting expertise, was keeping-six in a beat up and rusty loser-cruiser while his KA, Little Larry Mazo, set a bit of Lex talionis in motion on the kiddie cop who once gave him a severe case of lead poisoning.

Not familiar with the terminology in the previous and somewhat odd sentence? No problem. Here’s J through M from Lee’s handy-dandy, mini crime writer’s dictionary.


Jack Wagon: Jerk/idiot. “I don’t care if he is your captain, that guy’s a real jack wagon.”

JAFR: Just another f***ing rookie.

Jailitis: The mysterious illness/injury suddenly contracted the moment handcuffs are applied.“Easy, man, I have a bad heart and you’re going to make me have one of my spells. Besides, I’m allergic to jail sheets.”

Jail Credit: Time served while waiting for trial. Jail credit is deducted from the overall sentence.

Jet: Get out of here! “The cops are on the way, Boo, so I’m ’bout to jet.”

Jiggle Keys: Homemade keys used to pick (jiggle) locks on automobiles.

John Wayne: Assuming an over-the-top tough-guy role. “Old Chicken-Wing Jenkins went all John Wayne on that guy. Messed him up, too. I heard the ‘other guy’ has three broken ribs.”

New Picture

Junior Officer: Next thing to toilet tissue stuck to the bottom of a veteran officer’s shoe.

Jurisdiction: An area of authority. Sheriff Lock M. Up has jurisdiction over the entire county and all towns and cities within.

Justifiable Homicide: Killing of another in self-defense or the defense of others.


KA: Known associate

Keepers: Thin leather straps used to attach a gun belt to an under belt, or dress belt.

Hamilton One 046

Belt keeper

Without belt keepers the duty belt would easily and quickly fall down to your ankles, especially when chasing someone through a dark alley.

Hamilton One 094Two belt keepers positioned between handcuff cases

Keeping a Gambling House: A proprietor is said to be “keeping a gambling house” if he has knowledge and consents to gambling at or on his premises, or at a place under his control. If true, the proprietor is guilty of Keeping a Gambling House.

Keeping Six: Watching your back. The numerical reference is to the number six on a clock face. Standing at the center of the clock, facing twelve, six would be to your rear.

Kiddie Cop: School Resource Officer.

Kill: To deprive of life.

Kiting: Taking advantage of the time between when a check is deposited and when the funds are collected at another bank. This time period is known as “the float.” Drawing checks against deposits/funds which have not yet cleared. Writing checks against an account having funds insufficient to cover the check amount(s).

Kleptomania: An irresistible, uncontrollable propensity to steal things.

Knock and Announce: The rule that requires police to knock and announce their presence and purpose before entering a home. No-knock search warrants are the exception to the rule.


Laundering: Transfer of money gained illegally into legal channels for the purpose of hiding its true source.

Lawn Ornament: An intoxicated person who passed out in someone’s front yard.

Lay Witness: Person offering testimony who is not an expert on the subject matter at hand.

Lead Poisoning: Shot multiple times. “Wow, twenty-three gunshot wounds. The cause of death is definitely lead poisoning.”

Lex talionis: The law of retaliation. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.

Light ‘Em Up: Activate emergency/blue lights. Initiate a traffic stop. “That car matches the description of the one used in the armed robbery. Light ‘em up.” This phrase was often used on the television show Southland.


Liquid Jesus: Pepper spray…because it has the capability to instantly convert the mean and nasty into sweet and compliant.

L.K.A.: Last Known Address

Lockdown: To temporarily confine prisoners to their cells during an emergency, or for added security during, after, or to prevent an “event”.

Lockup: Temporary holding facility.

Looky-Loo: A person who cannot resist watching anything related to police, fire, EMS, train wreck, car crash, and general death and/or dismemberment. AKA Rubberneckers.

Loser Cruiser: A retired police car, now civilian-owned. Typically, the loser cruiser still has at least one spotlight still attached, as well as a couple of other police-type identifiers—antenna, etc. These cars are often purchased and driven by cop wannabe’s.


Mace-greff: In Old English law, one who buys stolen goods. A fence.

Mail Fraud: The use of the mail to defraud (mailing a letter to set a scheme in motion, or to continue the criminal act). Mail fraud is a federal offense.

Major Crimes: Unofficially, the broad classification of the most serious crimes—Murder, Rape, Robbery, etc. Lt. Leadfoot is the detective in charge of the Major Crimes Division.

Malice: Intentionally committing a wrongful act, with the intent of causing an injury of some type.

Manslaughter: Unlawful (inexcusable) killing someone without premeditation or malice.

M.E.:  Medical Examiner

Mens Rea: A criminal intent.

M.O.:  Modus operandi, or method of operation. A pattern of behavior.

MCT:  Mobile Computer Terminal

Hamilton One 061

Monger: A seller, or dealer. For example, fishmonger.

Mug Book: A collection of mugshots/photos of suspected and convicted criminals.

Mugshot: Photo taken of suspect during booking/processing.


I’ve heard the term “Got your six.” many times, even used it myself, but I never knew the origin. I found that very interesting.

If you’d like to see the wealth of information Lee has over on The Graveyard Shift I’ve included his website/blog in the sidebar under crime writers. I’ve also included blogs that give excellent writing tips, ones that I follow, and ones that I contribute to. Since I follow so many of you I wasn’t able to include everyone. Please know it isn’t because I don’t enjoy your blog, I wouldn’t be following you if I didn’t. I just had to draw the line somewhere. Periodically I will add to the list hoping to build a great resource for all of you.

Have a great weekend!



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