you might need to call your OSC and find out if he can supply us with any details.’ ‘I can’t call Heath,’ said William. ‘He only ever contacts me.’

Hidden in Plain Sight, Jeffrey Archer

From context, OSC is I think a criminal informant but I can’t find an exact definition?

Google tells me one police-related definition is Office of The Surveillance Commissioners, but that doesn’t work here.

EDIT (in response to comment).
Heath is a drug user who is an informant. William and the person he is talking to are both UK police detectives working in the drug squad.

  • 2
    You should expand the original quoted section to include the description of Heath. It seems he's a drug user and a suspect in an investigation, so he's unlikely to be a police officer. Jul 28 at 9:42
  • 1
    Apparently, the current offical UK term for an informat is “covert human intelligence source” (CHIS). So OCS might be an earlier term (for a book set in 1986) or possibly just an invention by the author. Jul 28 at 12:13
  • @KillingTime I will add the year to the question- thanks!
    – k1eran
    Jul 28 at 14:58
  • @KillingTime I have encountered CHIS when watching Line Of Duty - they say it a lot on that show !
    – k1eran
    Jul 28 at 15:01

2 Answers 2


It stands for "Old School Chum". From the book (Chapter 6 just before the OSC acronym first appears):

After Britain joined the EEC in 1973, Rashidi and his mother moved to London. She now lives in The Boltons, and my old school chum assures me that he visits her every Friday afternoon at five o’clock.

  • 2
    You beat me to it, I was just about to give that as the answer. Lots of references to old school chum throughout the book.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 12 at 10:43
  • 2
  • 1
    Thanks so much! I knew Heath was Warwick’s old classmate but I just couldn’t connect the dots 😬. Archer also uses the term UCO in the book for undercover officer and I somehow got into my head OSC was a standard police term of a similar vein to UCO !
    – k1eran
    Aug 12 at 11:12

It's unanswerable without reading the book, and I'm not going to do that. It might mean on-scene commander, which refers to the most senior officer/person in charge at some site of a major incident or disaster. Free Dictionary defines on-scene commander as

  1. The person designated to coordinate the rescue efforts at the rescue site.
  2. Federal officer designated to direct federal crisis and consequence management efforts at the scene of a terrorist or weapons of mass destruction incident. Also called OSC.

This doesn't seem particularly associated with police, linked more with emergency services, crisis management, etc, but terms vary from force to force.

  • It doesn't seem to fit the context, where the OSC is a police informant, not a police officer.
    – Barmar
    Jul 29 at 22:25

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