Law Enforcement Lingo 101


This post is for readers that are not familiar with basic law enforcement lingo. Understanding the full meaning of Thin Blue Line of Leadership’s tweets and blog posts will deepen your comprehension of our mission to share positive law enforcement leadership tactics.  As new terminology comes up, I will update this post with additional terms and their meanings.


CFS – Call for Service

LE – Law Enforcement

LEO – Law Enforcement Organization

LT – Lieutenant

OFC – Officer

SGT –  Sergeant


BRIEFING – A daily meeting for a squad or group of officers prior to the beginning of a shift. (15 – 30 minutes in length)

CALL – When an officer is assigned a task to complete. Typically this starts as a call to 9-1-1 or a department’s non-emergency number.

CALL FOR SERVICE (CFS) – Same as a “call.”

CHAIN OF COMMAND – Law enforcement organizations are setup as paramilitary organizations and the chain of command is the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed. Law enforcement chain of command positions are different from the military and also vary between police departments, sheriff’s departments, and federal law enforcement agencies. In a police department, the chain of command is usually some form of the following: Chief of Police, Assistant Chief of Police, Commander, Lieutenant, Sergeant, and Officer. Depending on the size of the organization, there may be more or less positions in the chain.

OFFICER/DEPUTY/AGENT – These are all similar positions, just different terminology, and make up the backbone of any law enforcement organization. The only difference is the type of jurisdiction they serve – city, county, state, or federal. The jurisdiction dictates if an organization is a police department, sheriff’s department, or federal law enforcement agency. Thin Blue Line of Leadership will be using the term officer as a default, but the knowledge shared applies to all law enforcement agencies regardless of name.

OFFICER SAFETY – This is a term used to describe the actions necessary to keep an officer safe in any given situation and get them safely home to their family. It encompasses things like using a backup officer, wearing a vest, proper officer positioning, and many more. A huge part of being a law enforcement leader is keeping your officers safe by sharing up-to-date officer safety information and verifying that they are applying all officer safety techniques available to them.

PARAMILITARY – An organization whose structure, training, and function are similar to that of the military, but is not a part of the nation’s formal armed forces. Police departments, sheriff’s departments, and federal law enforcement agencies are set up as paramilitary organizations.

SQUAD – A group of approximately 6 to 10 officers assigned to work the same general area and shift. Each squad will have a sergeant or equivalent first-line-supervisor assigned to oversee their activities. It is common for multiple squads to overlap each other due to the need for 24-7 coverage and staffing at busier times of day/night.

THIN BLUE LINE – A common law enforcement symbol showing 2 black lines with a thinner blue line in-between. It has 3 common meanings: (1) Represents the line between life and death an officer walks each time they start a shift. (2) Represents the line that officers maintain between the good and bad to prevent chaos and disorder. (3) Represents fallen law enforcement officers that have died in the line of duty.

Thin Blue Line of Leadership can be reached at for any questions, comments, or suggestions.



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