ACAB, or A.C.A.B is an acronym for “All Cops Are Bastards”, a derogatory slang used by those who have had bad experiences with the police.
It is argued that although “ACAB” seems to state that every single police officer is evil, that is not the purpose of the slang.
Some police officers may be “good cops”, however, each and every one of them is an agent of the state, and if the state is in the wrong, they are in the wrong.
You may come across it in its numerical form “1312”, each number referring to the corresponding letter in the alphabet.
Origin of the term
References trace the slang back all the way to the 1940’s, however, its first solid origin is in the UK during the 70’s.
Prison inmates and ex-inmates used to tattoo the acronym on their bodies, and the UK version of the acronym would stand for “All Coppers Are Bastards”, compared to the US “All Cops Are Bastards”.
The latter version showed up shortly after the UK version.
Spread of the term
Due to the murder of George Floyd, the slang became extremely prevalent in 2020, and was found protestors writing the acronym with graffiti on numerous government-owned buildings, along with BLM (Black Lives Matter).
Although the term is often encountered in the US, especially today, use of the acronym in Europe may result in legal charges. In 2011, three Dutch men were fined for wearing T-shirts with “ACAB” print.
Germany has even banned it being shown in public, and in Austria it’s usage can be punished under administrative law.