descriptors / writers resources

17 Ways to Describe Law Enforcement

policeFor the next few months, weekly writing tips will include word choice suggestions. That includes:

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s on how to describe law enforcement.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  • Lock picking gun
  • Specially-designed lumbar pack
  • Compact submachine gun


  • R*** had extremely acute situational awareness
  • Sheriff, Undersheriff, Captain, Lieutenant, section leaders, unit heads
  • How do people move, how do they interact? Do they wait for Walk lights, or do they jaywalk? Do they meet one another’s eyes on the sidewalks or exchange pleasantries? How many cop cars do you see? Check for parking. Is it metered or free? Nail down the BART entrances.
  • Micro-expressions


  • Very first lesson of Secret Service training… to look for the person who wasn’t acting like the other members of the crowd. Find the person who was fidgety, or sweaty, or who was patting his own chest, a well-recognized tip-off that he was carrying a weapon.
  • a few minutes later he was struck by another anomaly. It was looking back at him from an evidence photograph of the brass casings. The casings had been tossed into the same locking toolbox where the gun and money had been found. There were four of them. They were heavily smeared with blood. He pictured the scene, the order of shooting, the distances to the targets. He pictured E collecting his casings. And it made no sense that the brass would be heavily smeared.


  • Fired a revolver in a PPC competition
  • Get off six rounds, shuck the empties, smack home the speed loader, squeeze off six more and hit nothing but black at fifty feet without ever looking at anything but his target
  • Magazines
  • Rounds
  • Keep the gun at eye level during the reload
  • Clipdraw
  • Six magazine with the Mustang, then fifth rounds from a Smith AirLite .22 that was small and light enough to slip into a pocket
  • …got off the elevator, the entire space was jammed full of uniforms, big blocky men and solid, capable-looking women

Click for the complete list of 69 writer’s themed descriptions.

Most popular collections:

How to Describe Nature

51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination

How to Describe a Landscape

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

37 thoughts on “17 Ways to Describe Law Enforcement

  1. Pingback: 11 Ways to Describe Rooms | WordDreams...

  2. I just got done writing a scene that happens in a police station. Seeing that I grew up with a fireman for a father, I’m slightly familiar with what goes on with cops. However, as I wrote I was having a terrible time coming up with different pronouns for police officers. I tried the thesaurus, but most of what it had is sorely outdated, hasn’t been used in decades in fact, or is disrespectful, which doesn’t go along with my scene at all. I ended up using just last names in dialog to give more variety, because that is how cops the firefighters talk. Do you know of any current terms that would fit for my scene?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always wonder–when I’m writing what I don’t know and just researched–if some reader will laugh at my efforts. I have a submarine scene in my upcoming novel which I struggled with. I’ve been on a submarine, talked to submariners, but never while it deployed.


  3. I have actually had the opportunity to exchange conversation with some of the law enforcement officers here in Germany because of conducting concerts in prison. I find there vocabulary interesting and sometimes even humorous.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know any of this, Jacqui, so thank you for the education.

    There was an episode of George Gently, the British detective show, where he and his partner, John Bacchus, raced to capture a murderer, and one asked the other if he’d brought the guns. So different from the U.S. where every cop carries an arsenal with him all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list. I especially like “Specially-designed lumbar pack.” I haven’t gone into too much detail about law enforcement in my books so far, but if I do have a question, I have a niece who’s a police officer so that comes in handy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember doing tons of research for my Morgan and Fairchild series and was obsessed when it came to descriptions that embodied the role of a police officer – they are as distinctive as soldiers in a lot of ways, so my brother helped a lot; spending time with him and observing his skills. These are great examples 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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