Meaning of ACAB and 1312: A catchphrase in graffiti, tattoos or other imagery

Author: Eric Sof


ACAB and 1312 is an anti-police acronym and catchphrase meaning All Cops Are Bastards. It is often found in graffiti, tattoos, and other graphic imagery. Today, it is widely used to express protests against unethical police behavior. It can be found on many walls in the form of slogans in graffiti, like tattoos, and another graphic, which has the primary goal of showing antipathy against law enforcement and police.


The first appearance of this acronym in public was in 1977 when a Newcastle journalist spent the night in prison. Eric Partridge documented the ACAB acronym written on prison walls. He published the book “The Dictionary of Catchphrases,” where it is noted that the abbreviation is from the early 1970th and can’t be older until the whole meaning of words comes from 1920. British punk band the 4 Skins populated the acronym ACAB through their song with the same name during the 1980′.

Partridge first heard the phrase in the 1920s as part of the song: “I’ll sing you a song, it’s not very long: all coppers are bastards.”

According to his knowledge, the phrase had existed throughout the 20th century and had been used “among professional criminals and crooks, for at least a generation before.”

Since then, ACAB has been an abbreviation for “All Cop[per]s Are Bastards.”

What is ACAB?

The catchphrase is often integrated into prison tattoos in the United Kingdom apropos Great Britain. It’s usually written on fist, finger by finger, and sometimes like tiny dots on every finger. In modern politics, all sides use the acronym ACAB like “All Cops Are Bastards.” It’s primarily used in the world of football fans worldwide.

Using the acronym, as we mentioned, is most popular in the world of sports fans, especially football ones and their ULTRAS culture. It’s not weird to see graffiti, t-shirts, transparent and other equipment of football hooligan “decorated” with these symbols and acronyms. It’s their way of showing their anger against police and law enforcement.

ACAB - All Cops Are Bastards graffiti
ACAB means All Cops Are Bastards. To define bastardized in this context means corrupted or devalued. (Photo: XY)

What is 1312?

In past years, the publishing of ACAB in public in many countries was forbidden by law, so football fans created an alternative. The new synonym 1312 means the same as ACAB, which was a way to override laws in some countries. 1312 means that every number is one letter (1312=A.C.A.B., ACAB, where 1 stand for A, 3 stands for C, 1 stand for A, and 2 stands for B, which fits the letters from the English alphabet).

What ACAB or 1312 acronym stands for?
Meaning of 1312: ACAB is sometimes numerically rendered as 1312, representing the letters’ ordering in the English alphabet. (Photo: XY)

Today, in most countries in Europe, publishing these symbols is forbidden by law and punishable as a minor offense because it’s recognized as inappropriate behavior and abetment of riots. You may also find answers to similar questions in our FAQ section.

From London to the United States

In 2020, the phrase was again populated after the incidents around the globe. From protests in America to graffiti daubed on the Winston Churchill statue in London, the phrase found its way to the public. After the public outrage and a wave of anger at police brutality following George Floyd’s killing in the mid-2020, the four-letter phrase was brought to the broader public reach in the United States.

In the wake of the George Floyd case (police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd), the term ACAB became more frequently used by those who oppose the police. During the mass protests, it was one of the main slogans used by protesters, and it was more regularly referenced on social media, and products bearing the acronym became available. It also involved 1312 slogans, which means the same as the ACAB.

Protests against police in the United States following the death of the George Floyd, an Afroamerican killed by police in 2020
Protests against police in the United States following George Floyd’s death, an Afroamerican killed by police in 2020. (Photo: XY)

Four simple words or numbers (in the case of 1312) are all the protesters need to show their disdain for centuries of brutality and political persecution accumulated through the time. It has become the universal anti-police slogan used worldwide, regardless of political background or spoken language.


Not everyone is a killer, corrupt, bad. Generalizations of everything are what started all the problems. Just like when some people said all black people are bad, All Mexicans are illegal, all Asians are bad drivers, All Muslims are extremists. Police brutality is a huge issue that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, but I don’t think calling every cop a bastard just for having the same job as someone who did an awful thing isn’t a good way of expressing our feelings.

There are only a few of them that do horrible things. Still, there are also honest, hardworking, and dedicated people aside from the stereotypes and name-calling that have been attached to one’s race, profession, nationality, and religion. Each own merits and actions should judge each individual. Not everyone is their brother’s keeper. You should give everyone the benefit of the doubt and do not assume.

Anger and aggression create more anger and aggression, and when people have too many of those things, they tend to release them on other people. Do we want a bunch of stressed-out, angry cops driving around getting called a bastard by everyone and taking all of those pent-up emotions on the people they interact with?

Police are good guys, never forget that
Police are good guys; never forget that (Photo: XY)

ACAB is just another form of discrimination that is very similar to racism. I’m not justifying racism, but hating cops just because the minority are bad people doesn’t justify discrimination. People say that they’re all bad people because they bow down to a “corrupt” system, but that’s kind of a dumb complaint as cops can’t be expected to look at every single flaw with their system. These people need the money, and the fact that they’re willing to risk their lives to save these people goes underappreciated.

I’m tired of seeing this constant hate for these cops as they have one of the essential jobs in the world. If it weren’t for them, robberies would be much more common, and crime would exist all over the place. Of course, not all cops are great people, but they contribute so much that they should not go unnoticed because of some bad cops. It is important not to fight hate with hate as that causes more problems.

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10 thoughts on “Meaning of ACAB and 1312: A catchphrase in graffiti, tattoos or other imagery”

  1. You have an inaccuracy here. While the way police treated George Floyd was appalling they didn’t kill him. The medical examiner said he died of a drug overdose and late video released from the incident shows him gasping for air and repeating I can’t breathe long before police abused him. Pretty typical of a fentanyl overdose.

  2. Odd that you say George Floyd wasn’t killed by that cop – considering he was found guilty of murder for his actions and the medical examination said he died of asphyxiation and NO Where did it say he died of a drug overdose. You are a liar.

  3. Even the ‘good’ cops support and cover for the ‘bad’ cops.

    They should all be held to a higher standard. Even one ‘occasional’ bad cop is just too much.

    What if your airline pilot was having a bad day and decided today it was OK to ram the plane into a mountain?

    Doesn’t happen. Why? We hold them to a higher standard than the average person.

    Cops are in the same position, but, they don’t live up to it. so, ACAB is appropriate. For all of them.

  4. I was over here thinking that this was a good article because the guy possibly believed in acab then he’s over here talking about how cops are good and that we shouldn’t think like that fuck that ACAB

  5. ACAB is perhaps more of a reaction to the abuse of power of some who wear the badge. just like with doctors who do more harm than good lose their license, perhaps there needs to be more accountability for the police who are found to have harmed the public who they are supposed to serve and protect, not just control and suspect. until there is a systematic way to improve the relationship between innocent civilians and the police who continue to find the need to use violence and sometimes kill unnecessarily people who have done no crime, the calling of names will continue. bullies with badges and guns cannot beat their way to being respected even if it may be only a few cops. they may not be their brother’s keeper but if they stay silent on bad cop’s behaviors, they deserve to carry the title.