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What is the correct form of address for a police officer?

What is the correct way to address a police officer in the US in a non-emergency situation (such as asking directions)?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

The best way:

Excuse me officer, can you....


Excuse me sir/ma'am, can you ...

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Are there significant regional differences? Does this differ much from other English-speaking countries? (FWIW I've used "officer" in the US with bad results, whereas I've never had any trouble in the UK.) – raxacoricofallapatorius Feb 24 '12 at 18:24
To address the police officer not that I know of. In some police departments people are more rude then in others but unless you know the person's rank, which most people don't there is not. Where were the bad results and how bad? There may be situations where approaching a police officer may be iladvised. – Karlson Feb 24 '12 at 18:26
Nothing terrible: just surly and mean (and a bit threatening). – raxacoricofallapatorius Feb 24 '12 at 23:00

No formal address is necessary. You could simply begin with "Excuse me, ..." followed by your question, as you would with any other stranger. If you're in trouble, a respectful "sir" would not be inappropriate, but is also not necessary.

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