How should one address a police officer in English speaking countries? More specifically, in a non-emergency situation—asking directions for example—what is the expected form of address used to call a police officer's attention?
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They are all officers of the law, so "officer" applies no matter what their rank ("Pardon me, officer...").
I've lived in Britain all my life, and I don't think I would use any particular word to address a policeman. It's seldom necessary to use an appellation in a typical British conversation. Indeed, it would seem odd.
In the US, people seem to like calling each other "Sir" and "Ma'am" as a mark of respect, and I see no reason why that wouldn't be appropriate with a police officer.
If you must use an occupation-specific appellation, then you can use the person's rank. But that requires you to recognise their badges, or you risk getting the rank wrong. AS @Gnawme observes, "officer" is always OK.
Any policeman worth their salt, of course, will treat you politely whatever you call them (unless you abuse them).
When in doubt, ask. This sort of thing does vary from one region to another. When you find yourself in a new place and you're not sure what the local custom is, there's nothing wrong with asking politely: Excuse me... I'm new to this area. How should I address a police officer such as yourself?
In Japan, we adress police officer just casually as “Omawari-san" meaning "Mr. (Ms) police (officer),” though I’m afraid I’d be laughed at when I did so in UK and US.
protected by RegDwigнt♦ Feb 28 '13 at 12:59
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