How they made ‘Adam-12’ vintage TV show realistic, plus learn the lingo & see the opening credits (1968-1975)

Adam-12 DVD season 4

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Premiering in the fall of 1968, Adam-12 was the brainchild of Robert Cinader and Jack Webb of Dragnet fame. Each episode was intended to portray a day in the life of an LAPD “policeman” as realistically as possible, with Officers Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (Kent McCord) facing the tragic and amusing events of day to day life in a big city.

The show would run through 1975 — for a total of seven seasons — introducing law-enforcement procedures and jargon to the general public, all while paving the way for the many police-procedural shows that followed in its footsteps. – AJW

Actors from Adam 12 Tv show

Adam-12 puts viewers on watch with the Los Angeles police

By Edgar Penton in The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan) Aug 15, 1969

HOLLYWOOD — Dialing NBC Saturday evenings transports the home viewer from his easy chair to the front seat of a prowling Los Angeles Police Department patrol car, in Universal Television’s “Adam-12.”

The new-season police procedural intends to show how 5,700 police officers keep the peace for some seven million citizens in this, the nation’s fastest-growing urban area.

Executive producer Jack Webb and producer Robert A. Cinader created “Adam-12” on the theory that home audiences would be attracted to authentic police work episodes rather than constant violence punctuated by gunshots.

Milner and McCord of Adam-12 vintage TV show

Seven years before it became fashionable, Cinader wrote an article condemning violence on television in the June 1961 edition of Weekly Variety.

“We try to represent police practices as we feel they really are… intelligent, important and exciting,” said Cinader, who also serves as strategic liaison between Mark VII Productions and the LAPD.

“Adam”‘ is the phonetic pronunciation for “A,” a two-man squad car, The numeral ’12’ designates the geographic location within Los Angeles.

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On the ‘glamorous’ life of a policeman, listen to Jack Webb: “It’ll be grim realism when you get an ‘unknown trouble’ call and hit a back yard at two in the morning, never knowing who you’ll meet… a kid with a knife… a pill-head with a gun, or two ex-cons with nothing to lose.

“You’ll rub elbows with all the ‘elite’: addicts, thieves, bums, winos, girls who can’t keep an address and men who don’t care. Liars, cheats, con men, the class of Skid Row.

“And the heartbreak: underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids.

“The old people that nobody wants, the reliefers, the Pensioners, the ones who walk the streets cold and those who tried to keep warm and died in a three-dollar room with an unvented gas heater. You’ll walk the beat and pick up the pieces,” Webb concluded.

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Stars of Adam-12

Just the facts, ma’am

Within the framework of police procedure, case histories and criminal methods of operation, “Adam-12” is factual. Though police files are confidential, Cinader is able to accumulate realistic subject matter through several sources.

Captains of each of the 16 LAPD divisions assign one sergeant to act as technical advisor on every “Adam-12” segment. The sergeant assists a writer in accumulating data on police methods, and then assigns him to a patrol car for several tours of duty.

After meeting with a sergeant, accompanying a motorized patrolman and formulating story ideas from the first-hand observations, the writer and Cinader develop each episode. A final draft of each script is then sent to the police public information division for approval.

Sound like a tough course to pursue? Perhaps, but like Jack Webb, who has successfully told the story of the LAPD’s detective division on “Dragnet” for 20 years, Cinader prefers the truisms of police operations to dramatized mayhem.

“Adam-12” stars Martin Milner of “Route 66” fame. He plays Pete Malloy, a hard-driving patrolman who learned his endless and thoroughly thankless duties on the job. His costar and partner is rugged Kent McCord, who plays the part of rookie officer Jim Reed.

Adam-12 TV show stars

To really become involved in their new series, both Milner and McCord spent many days and nights of their own time riding tours of duty with regular police officers in squad cars.

“After several rides in different cars,” says Milner, “you get a fairly good idea of how a competent policeman reacts under very tense circumstances.”

Of all the television shows on the air, only actors on “Dragnet” and “Adam-12” are allowed to wear genuine police department badges.

This unique factor can be attributed to Jack Webb, executive producer of both shows, who has gained the complete confidence of the LAPD. As an added measure of official faith, the department seal is clearly visible on every squad car used in the “Adam-12” series.

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Adam-12 TV show DVD cover

Martin Milner’s Malloy

Milner, whose folks were showbiz-connected, was born in Detroit. He got the first taste of the stage when he appeared with Seattle little theater groups at age 10. When the family moved to Hollywood, he attended acting classes and, hopefully, signed with an agent.

Milner eventually left school after one year of college to concentrate on his dramatic career. Almost immediately, he was signed for a feature role in “Life With Father,” starring Irene Dunne and William Powell.

Almost as suddenly, Milner was struck by an attack of polio, and was confined to bed for almost eight months.

Upon recovery, he completed a variety of film assignments before being drafted. He managed to get a leave of absence during his two-year stint to play a role in “The Long Gray Line,” starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara.

Martin Milner - Adam-12

In 1957, Milner married television actress and singer Judy Jones. That same year he won a part in the Hecht-Hill-Lan- caster production “Sweet Smell of Success’ and also portrayed a rags-to-riches producer in “Marjorie Morningstar.”

Milner hit the popularity jackpot with “Route 66.” Although constantly on the road, from coast to coast, the role gave him the opportunity to perform comedy and drama.

After guest-starring parts in “Run for Your Life,” Milner received star billing in motion pictures before taking up “Adam-12.”

When asked whether he thought he could become popular by portraying a uniformed policeman on a weekly basis, Milner replied, “I don’t really know. The main reason I wanted the part of Officer Malloy was to face the challenge it presented.

“After riding next to a police officer for almost 130 hours, I wanted to see if I could play the role of a man who faces death every working hour as serenely as the men who actually wear the badge.”

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Know your cop code: What the abbreviations and jargon on Adam-12 mean

Every follower of TV’s law-and-order shows knows that “DOA” means dead on arrival, that a suspect who’s “clean” is carrying no weapon and that “smack” means heroin. But what does “hinkey” mean, what’s a “390W”‘?

One more way in which the series Adam-12 strives for realism and authenticity in its portrayal of police work is by using standard abbreviations and jargon common to most police forces, and a series of code numbers and letters for radio communication between squad car and dispatcher that police employ for speed and efficiency.

Adam- 12 itself is code to designate the patrol unit of Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed.

Here are some other coded communications to listen for when watching Adam- 12:

Code 1 — Acknowledge your call.
Code 2 — Immediately (no red lights and no siren).
Code 3 — Emergency (red lights and siren).
Code 4 — No more help needed.
Code 6 — Out for investigation.
Code 7 — Out to eat.
Code 8 — Fire verified.
Code 20 — Notify press of newsworthy event.
Code A — Regular uniform.
Code B — Rain. Motorcycle officer in police cars.
Code C — Summer uniform permitted.

Stars of Adam 12 on set - 1969

The number codes used most frequently include:

211 — Robbery.
311 — Indecent exposure.
390 — Drunk male. 
390W — Drunk female.
415 — Disturbing the peace.
459 — Burglary.
484 — Theft.
484PS — Purse snatching.
501 — Drunk driving felony.
502 — Drunk driving.
507 — Minor disturbance (loud radio, piano, etc.).
586 — Illegal parking.
586E — Blocking driveway.

Sharon Claridge - Radio operator LAPD for Adam-12 TV - 1973

Also helpful in police work are the abbreviated terms used in communications:

ADW — Assault with a deadly weapon.
Back-Up — Assist other unit.
Clear — Available for calls.
DB — Dead Body.
DMV — Department of Motor Vehicles.
Duce — Drunk driver (502).
ETA — Estimated time of arrival.
GOA — Gone on arrival.
GTA — Grand Theft, Auto.
Hinkey — Nervous or Suspicious.
Hot Shot — Important message.
Make — Identification of Suspect or vehicle.
Narco — Narcotic user.
Package — File or record of person.
PR — Person Reporting.
RTO — Radio telephone operator.
Run One — Broadcast a description.
Want — Wanted for warrants.

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Adam-12 vintage TV show opening credits/intro (video)

YouTube video

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Comments on this story

8 Responses


  2. Why did the cops sometimes leave the patrol car and call the station in the police call box instead of just calling the station on the tac2 frequency on the car radio?

  3. This was cool. I didn’t pick up code 5 which I think is like investigating not sure. Also PC. Probable Cause. Never got the distinction between theft and burglary. Have to look it up. I assume something taken off property. Example was Reed filling out forms for the guys missing door.

  4. Just FYI, a 311 is not indecent exposure. It deals with cold pornography. PC 314 is indecent exposure.

  5. I have just discovered Adam-12. The interaction between Reed and McCoy is so real. Did they get along ok off the set? Also what is KMA? Didn’t see that on the list you published.

  6. Narco is the vice cops not the user or pushers.

    Hot shot is not important message. To my recollection it is a drug laced with poisonous material. Usually a pusher getting vengeance on a user.

    Never saw anything on BO. Used like a non functioning radio. O has to be operating or operational?

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