Is It Correct to Say 'A Police'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 16 May 2024)

A Police or A Police Officer: Which One Is Correct?

It is incorrect to say a police when referring to an individual officer. The word police is a plural noun that refers to the collective body of law enforcement officers. When you want to refer to one individual, you should say a police officer or, informally, a cop:

There is a police officer at the door.
There is a cop at the door.
There is a police at the door.

✅ A police officer stopped Tom for speeding last week.
A cop stopped Tom for speeding last week.
A police stopped Tom for speeding last week.

✅ The thief was caught by three police officers.
The thief was caught by three cops.
The thief was caught by three police.

You can also use policeman or policewoman if the gender of the police officer is known:

The young boy aspired to be a policeman like his uncle.

Anna has dreamt of becoming a policewoman since she was a child.

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Examples from the Media

I'm a police officer in the Metropolitan police, and have been since 2014. The Guardian (2019)

She started out writing parking tickets, but soon realized she wanted more. "I was like, 'I need to be a cop,'" she said. This would require a more thorough application process and physical examination. The New York Times (2021)

The kids thought they were safe. They had received a message that a policeman was coming onshore to see them. —Toronto Star (2011)

June Kelly, one of the force's first women detectives in the early 1970s, said the only disadvantage in being a policewoman had been a lack at times of physical strength. —The Sydney Morning Herald (2022)

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. The term police is a collective noun and is not used to refer to an individual officer. The correct term for an individual officer is police officer or, informally, cop.
2. The word one refers back to a police officer, given the context established earlier in the sentence. This substitution keeps the sentence concise and avoids redundancy.
3. Had been being sounds awkward and is not typically used. The correct form is had been, which is used in this sentence to describe a state that started in the past and continued up to another point in the past.
(Source: Learning through Practice—Grammar and Usage for Senior Secondary Students: Multiple Choice Questions)
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