LAPD phonetic alphabet

LAPD phonetic alphabet

The LAPD phonetic alphabet is a phonetic alphabet similar to the NATO phonetic alphabet that is used by the LAPD and other local and state law enforcement agencies across the state of California. It is "not" a phonetic alphabet in the sense in which that term is used in phonetics, i.e., it is not a system for transcribing speech sounds. See the phonetic alphabet disambiguation page, and also phonetic notation."


At some point in the early history of emergency service mobile radio systems, the Los Angeles Police Department developed its own phonetic alphabet for relaying precise word spellings. For example, the license plate "8QXG518" might be read by a civilian as "eight cue ex jee five eighteen" but with accuracy being paramount, the police dispatcher would voice it as "eight queen x-ray george five one eight." Despite the development in 1941 of the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet and its replacement, circa 1956, by the NATO phonetic alphabet (currently utilized by U.S. military, civil aviation, telecommunications, and some law enforcement agencies), the LAPD and other law enforcement and emergency service agencies throughout the United States continue to use it.Fact|date=March 2007

The LAPD phonetic alphabet is also known as the APCO phonetic alphabet, named after the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) [] , which was responsible for making the LAPD alphabet known and adopted by other law enforcement agencies in the US.

Popular Culture

The origin of the name Adam-12 from the television series with that same title is believed to have come from this alphabet. To the present, the LAPD calls its basic two-man patrol car an "A" unit - and the letter "A" is spoken as "Adam" in the phonetic alphabet. So 1-Adam-12 translates to the 12th Adam unit assigned to the geographic area "one".

Also, since many police, fire department, and rescue squad TV programs and movies are set in Los Angeles, the words of the LAPD phonetic alphabet have become familiar in the United States, Canada, English-speaking countries around the world - due to the wide reach of American entertainment media.


The LAPD phonetic alphabet represents the letters of the English alphabet using words as follows:

There are several local variations of this system in use. The California Highway Patrol, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the San Francisco Police Department, along with other agencies across the West Coast and Southwestern United States, use versions that either map the letter "Y" to "Yellow" and other agencies' versions map the letter "B" to "Baker" or "Bravo" or use variations that include mapping the letter "N" to "Nancy" instead of "Nora" or mapping the letter "Y" to "Yesterday."

The use of the word "Ocean" seems to be advantageous in the radio communication of the letter "O" because it begins with the long, clear vowel "O". The phonetic words "Ida" and "Union" feature this same advantage.

However, phonetic alphabets seem to rarely use initial long vowels. None of the initial vowels in the NATO alphabet are like this. In an earlier U.S. military alphabet, "A" was indicated by "Able", which does start with a long "A", but this is no longer the case.

ee also

*ICAO phonetic alphabet - International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) phonetic alphabet
* [ LASD and LACDCS APCO Phonetic alphabet]

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