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I am putting together a scene which has a policeman and another male character in it. I am finding that constantly using "policeman" is quite repetitive, clumsy and interrupts the flow. I have tried to improve this by using the policeman's rank at times (eg. captain) but I am looking for some alternatives.

I previously used "officer" but my understanding is that this can also be a rank or type of policeman? If so I am concerned about calling one person by two different ranks. Similarly "detective" and "inspector" came to mind but again, based on my research I believe these are more specifiers of a type of policeman not necessarily something that can be used as a synonym for one.

The only other idea I have come up with is to simply give the character a name, although I was trying to avoid that as I'm trying to distance the reader from this character.

Any suggestions at all?

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    What country? This is important. Jul 30, 2020 at 6:06
  • "Officer of the law" is one term. And there's "peace officer".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 30, 2020 at 11:49

3 Answers 3

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A police officer can be referred to by several titles.

  • Officer can be a generic term not denoting rank, position, or job function. Although it usually refers to a patrolman regardless of the patrolman’s rank (officer, corporal, sergeant, etc.)
  • Patrolman can refer to a uniformed police officer, usually on patrol.
  • Cop is an obvious choice.
  • Copper is a little antiquated.
  • LEO is short for Law Enforcement Officer. Many states and departments use this term to identify someone as a certificated and registered police officer.
  • Five-O if you are street.
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  • Note that LEO also applies to a number of non-police officers, including for example customs officers and immigration officers.
    – nnnnnn
    Jul 30, 2020 at 5:00
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"Cop, "police officer," "law enforcement officer," or "law enforcement agent" could all work, but "cop" is likely the best choice.

Cop: A police officer. [Lexico]

Police officer: A policeman or policewoman. [Lexico]

Law enforcement officer: A government employee appointed to enforce the law, such as a police officer or sheriff. [Lexico]

Law enforcement agent: A police officer [Macmillan]

If you want to learn about the police ranks, visit THIS site. Then, you can decide what rank your policeman/woman is so you can use one more word to avoid naming them.

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Police officer doesn't suggest any particular rank or type—any member of the police force can be referred to by that term:

[Merriam-Webster]
: a member of a police force
// there were police officers directing traffic around the scene of the accident

More informally, there is simply officer (again, no rank or type in this context) or cop, and slang terms, some with regional bias, include copper, flatfoot, and bobby.

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