Why Are Police Called “Pigs”? Look at the Origins & History

Have you ever wondered why police officers are sometimes referred to as “pigs”? This derogatory term has a long and complex history, dating back centuries. In this in-depth article, we’ll explore the origins of this controversial nickname, how it has evolved over time, and why it remains a polarizing piece of police culture and slang.

What you’ll learn in this post:

  • The historical origins of the term “pig” as a slur against police
  • How the term gained prominence in the 1960s counterculture movement
  • Perspectives from both police supporters and critics on the use of this term
  • The impact and implications of referring to law enforcement as “pigs”
  • Why the term remains a contentious issue in discussions about policing

Understanding the context and evolution of this provocative language is crucial for having informed conversations about the relationship between the public and law enforcement. Let’s dive in and unpack the history and significance of calling police “pigs.”

The Origins of “Pig” as Police Slang

The term “pig” as a derogatory reference to police officers can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries in England. At that time, “pig” was used as an insult to describe any person that was widely disliked, not just law enforcement.

The exact origins of this usage are unclear, but there are a few theories:

The “Greedy and Unpleasant” Theory

One common explanation is that “pig” was used to describe people who were perceived as greedy, unpleasant, or taking more than their fair share – traits that were often attributed to police officers as well. Pigs were seen as gluttonous, dirty animals, making the comparison a derogatory one.

The “Bow Street Runners” Connection

The first modern police force in London, known as the Bow Street Runners, was established in 1749. These early officers were sometimes referred to as “pigs” in the criminal underworld, likely due to the negative perception of their law enforcement duties.

The “Corruption” Angle

Another theory suggests that “pig” became associated with police due to the belief that many officers were corrupt and “on the take” – accepting bribes and engaging in other unethical practices. This furthered the unflattering comparison to the unclean and gluttonous pig.

Regardless of the exact origin, by the early 19th century, “pig” had become a common slur used by criminals and the working class to refer to police officers in England. The term eventually made its way across the Atlantic to the United States.

The Rise of “Pigs” in 1960s America

While the term “pig” had been used sporadically to describe police in the past, it gained new prominence and momentum during the social upheaval of the 1960s in the United States. This was a time of widespread civil rights protests, anti-war demonstrations, and growing counterculture movements that often clashed with law enforcement.

The 1968 Democratic Convention Incident

One often-cited flashpoint was the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Thousands of protestors, including members of the counterculture and anti-war activists, gathered to voice their opposition to the Vietnam War. When police were ordered to disperse the crowds, violent clashes ensued, and the protestors began chanting “F*** the pigs!”

This incident helped cement “pig” as a rallying cry against perceived police brutality and oppression among the youth counterculture. The term was embraced by activists as a way to dehumanize and delegitimize law enforcement.

The Black Panther Party’s Influence

The Black Panther Party, a prominent African-American revolutionary socialist organization, also played a significant role in popularizing “pig” as anti-police slang. The Panthers viewed the police as an occupying force in their communities and regularly used the term to denounce what they saw as systemic racism and violence by law enforcement.

Widespread Adoption in Counterculture

Beyond specific events and groups, the term “pig” became widely adopted across the broader counterculture movement as a way to express general disdain and distrust for police. It was used in protest chants, graffiti, and popular media, further entrenching it in the cultural lexicon.

The Ongoing Controversy

The use of “pig” as an insult against police remains a highly controversial and polarizing issue to this day. Those who support law enforcement tend to view the term as deeply disrespectful and demoralizing, while critics see it as a legitimate expression of frustration with perceived police misconduct and abuse of power.

The Police Perspective

For many police officers and their supporters, “pig” is an unacceptable slur that undermines the important work and sacrifices of law enforcement. They argue that the term dehumanizes officers and makes their jobs more dangerous by eroding public trust and respect.

The Critic’s Perspective

On the other side, those who are critical of police often justify the use of “pig” as a means of calling out what they see as systemic problems within law enforcement, such as racism, brutality, and a lack of accountability. They view the term as a powerful way to challenge the perceived power and privilege of the police.

The Ongoing Debate

This debate continues to play out in various contexts, from political discourse to pop culture references. The lingering use of “pig” as an anti-police slur highlights the deep divisions and mistrust that exist between law enforcement and certain segments of the public.

Ultimately, the controversy surrounding the term “pig” reflects the complex and often contentious relationship between the police and the communities they serve. Understanding the historical roots and modern implications of this language is crucial for having informed and productive conversations about policing and justice in America.


The term “pig” as a derogatory reference to police officers has a long and complex history, dating back centuries to its origins in England. The use of this slur gained new prominence during the social upheaval of the 1960s in the United States, where it was embraced by the counterculture movement as a way to challenge perceived police oppression and brutality.

Today, the use of “pig” remains a highly controversial and polarizing issue, with supporters of law enforcement viewing it as deeply disrespectful, while critics see it as a legitimate expression of frustration with systemic problems within policing. Understanding the nuances and implications of this language is crucial for having informed discussions about the relationship between the public and law enforcement.

As we continue to grapple with these complex issues, it’s important to approach the topic with empathy, nuance, and a willingness to listen to diverse perspectives. By understanding the history and context behind the use of “pig” as a police slur, we can work towards more constructive and productive dialogues about the role of law enforcement in our society.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *