The noun "cop" (first attested meaning "policeman" in 1859) is short for "copper" (first attested meaning "policeman" in 1846). "Copper" in this sense is unlikely to derive from copper buttons or shields worn by early policemen. Rather, dictionaries derive it from "to cop" (first attested meaning "to grab" in 1704 and meaning "to arrest" in 1844).
It does not stand for "constable on patrol" or "constabulary of police".
What about: copulation?
constable on patrol
There are so many options for this one. The one I learned when I was a child was because of the latin term 'capere', meaning to 'catch something'. Since a lot of our terminology originated from the Latin tongue, this is the story I've always clung to.
I have heard a few other options when I worked with the police department a few years ago. One was about the police officer's badge was made out of copper, so they were aptly named 'cop' but this just doesn't seem to be accurate. Why would anyone slang a name from the badge? To me, that's a nonsensical leap.
I've also heard the constable on patrol thought process, which could be accurate because of Americans' love for acronyms, but let's K.I.S.S for today! Smiles!
These previous answers are all well and good for the Brits, but odds are that you are from America. During Prohibition, many citizens opted to be police officers who were fully capable of bringing the laws into their own hands (Citizens On Patrol). My Grandfather was one of these; he was responsible for finding out who was bringing liquor into the US, and gathering a group of COPs to take them down (as the police force was very weak back then).
It is an acronym (a word formed from the initial characters of a term or phrase) for "constable on patrol."
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