The Language of Corruption

The following glossary was published at the front of the final report of the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Force in 1997.



The expressions listed below describe corrupt and/or criminal practices and other colloquialisms referred to in evidence received by the Royal Commission and in this Report.

A graders: expression used by police to describe the perceived elite members of the Service – usually referring to senior detectives in the specialist squads and task forces. (More often used by a person who considers that he or she is already a member of that group).

barbecue set: clique of senior and/or corrupt police in the 1980s who regularly socialised together.

blooding or ‘to blood’ in general: the breaking in of police to the realities of policing following graduation from the Academy; in the context of corruption, the breaking in of police to corrupt practices by including them in an activity which may compromise them.

book up (drugs): the police process of recording drugs seized during raids.

brick up: see load up

buy-bust: form of police operation in which an undercover officer buys drugs and then arrests the dealer.

buy money: funds used by police to perform an undercover drug purchase.

Christmas Club: term given to a group of JTF detectives involved in the theft and distribution among themselves of a large sum of money.

cockatoo: a lookout

a ‘cook’: the chemical process involved in the manufacture of amphetamine.

cut: the division of a quantity of a drug into smaller quantities often with the addition of another cheaper substance in order to increase the overall quantity.

deemed supply: common expression used for the offence under s. 29 Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 whereby the possession by a person of a certain amount of a prohibited drug(s) is ‘deemed’ to be for supply unless the person can prove otherwise.

dive-bombing: surprise/random visits by a commander/supervisor to stations, operations or surveillance posts.

dog: an officer who reports other officers or breaks the code of silence.
goods or things in custody: common term for the offence under s. 527C Crimes Act 1990 relating to goods or money found during a search, or in the possession of an individual, which are suspected of being stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.

green-lighting: when police permit criminals to conduct robberies or drug dealing, for example, in return for money and/or information. The term is best known to describe the way corrupt police in the 1980s are alleged to have allowed certain criminals to conduct a series of armed robberies.

gutting: in the context of ‘gutting a brief’ it means to remove documents from or otherwise weaken a brief so that prosecution will be unsuccessful or charges reduced.

holding the line: sticking to a version of events.
letter of comfort/assistance: a letter provided by a police officer to be used during sentencing hearings in support of a convicted criminal who has purportedly assisted the police in some way. For example, an officer may provide a letter of comfort for a criminal informant who has provided information which has led to the convictions of other individuals.

load up: where police charge an individual with a crime or crimes the person did not commit – usually by false evidence as to the finding of drugs, a weapon or other items in the possession of an accused, or as to admissions by that person.

note book confession or ‘do a notebook’: a form of ‘verbal’ (see below) in which a record is made in a police note book of a ‘confession’ which did not in fact occur.

payback (complaint): a complaint made by another officer against an officer who has himself made a complaint or arrested a civilian. A significant aspect of these complaints is that they come after their target has been identified or suspected of being an internal witness.

pulling (a brief): withdrawing/losing a brief to prevent prosecution.
rat:  same as dog.
rebirthing (of cars): the transformation of a vehicle by use of parts taken from other vehicles so that the original will not be recognised.

roll-over: a witness who, after initially maintaining an exculpatory version of events common to other witnesses, provided evidence and/or admissions incriminating him or herself and/or other persons in corrupt or illegal activity.

running interference: to actively and purposively hamper an investigation or prosecution by for example, misinformation, avoidance, delay, or deliberate error.

‘salting’ of exhibits: interfering with exhibits usually to assist the prosecution.

 scrumdown: a police term for the practice of getting together to ensure police statements and/or evidence are consistent. The practice can be used innocently or corruptly; the latter to ensure that the evidence and statements consistently support a corrupt purpose. For example, a scrumdown may occur prior to an IA investigation to ensure that all police support each other and maintain a common story about the events in question.

shakedown: extortion; in relation to police refers to the extortion, through abuse of police powers, of money from, for example, licensed premises, unlicensed premises, drug dealers.

sharps: needles, as in hypodermic needles for drug injection.

shooting-gallery: a place where a drug user can go to buy a syringe kit and rent a room for a short period of time to inject drugs.

show money: similar to ‘buy money’; money shown by police to demonstrate bona fides preparatory to an undercover drug purchase.

show raids: a sham raid which is carried out for the purpose of indicating police activity when in fact the target has been given prior warning or protection from police action.

sly-grogging: selling alcohol without a liquor licence.

sponsor: a senior officer who is a mentor, referee and/or advocate for a more junior officer.

spotters’ fees: commissions paid to police by private businesses for introducing business to them, particularly funeral and tow truck businesses.

sting: undercover operation.
the laugh: the term given to a system of corrupt payments, during the 1980s and early 1990s, between Kings Cross detectives and local criminals for protection from prosecution, primarily shared by sergeants.

trifecta: the colloquial term given by police to a series of three minor charges, for example, – offensive language/behaviour, resist arrest, and assault police. This practice has been used by police to legitimise arrests of individuals against whom there is no legitimate charge, or by way of payback or harassment.

‘turn’ a witness: the same as to ‘roll’ a witness; convincing a witness to assist a law enforcement agency in its inquiries including the giving of evidence against others.

used fit: a used needle and syringe.

verbal: false evidence given by police that a suspect had confessed or made inculpatory remarks at the time of arrest or during an interview.

whale in the bay: a coded message used to warn colleagues of an internal investigation.

whippy: money found during the execution of a warrant which is retained and divided among police.

whistleblower: term given to an individual who reports misconduct or corruption of another member or members within the same organisation. In the context of policing the term used has until recently been ‘internal informer’. This has been replaced by the term ‘internal witness’.