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What does PR mean in cops?

PR is an acronym that can have different meanings in relation to law enforcement and policing. The most common meanings of PR in the context of cops are Public Relations, Probationary Recruit, Police Recruit, Probationary Reserve, and Police Reserve. Let’s explore each of these in more detail:

Public Relations

One of the most common meanings of PR in relation to cops is Public Relations. The public relations unit or department within a police force is responsible for managing communications and the relationship between the police department and the general public. Some of the key functions of the PR department include:

  • Media relations – Communicating with the media, responding to media inquiries, holding press conferences, sending out media releases etc.
  • Community outreach – Conducting community programs and events to build trust and engagement with the public.
  • Crisis communications – Responding and managing communications during crises, scandals or high profile incidents.
  • Social media communications – Managing the police department’s social media accounts and messaging.
  • Internal communications – Keeping police officers and internal staff informed about relevant public relations issues.

Maintaining positive public relations is vital for any police department. The PR unit plays a key role in building community trust, promoting initiatives, handling sensitive communications issues, managing the department’s reputation, and liaising with the media.

Probationary Recruit

Probationary Recruit (PR) refers to a newly recruited police officer who is on probation. When a candidate successfully passes the recruitment process and police academy training, they are appointed as a PR before being confirmed for full duties.

The probationary period provides time for the new recruit to receive structured on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced officers. The duration of the probationary period varies between police departments but is usually 12-18 months.

Some of the key purposes of the probationary period include:

  • On-the-job skill development – Learning practical policing skills like conducting investigations, self-defense, evidence gathering, making arrests etc.
  • Adaptation to police culture – Understanding the values, practices and unwritten rules of the police force.
  • Evaluation – Assessing the PR’s competencies and suitability for the role of a police officer.
  • Socialization – Settling into the police department, building camaraderie and establishing rapport with colleagues.

During probation, the PR’s performance is closely evaluated by supervisors. If the PR meets requirements, they are eventually confirmed as a permanent police officer after probation ends. However, probation may also be extended or a PR can be terminated if performance is unsatisfactory.

Police Recruit

Police Recruit (PR) is another term used for a newly hired probationary police officer in some departments. Police recruit means the same thing as a probationary recruit – i.e. an officer who has freshly graduated from the academy and is on probation.

In some police forces, the full term used is “Probationary Police Recruit” to emphasize that the officer is both a recruit and on probationary status. In other departments, police recruit is used as shorthand to mean probationary recruit. So PR can stand for police recruit or probationary recruit – both indicate a rookie cop on probation.

Probationary Reserve

A Probationary Reserve (PR) is an entry-level volunteer reserve officer with a police department. Reserve officers are volunteers who supplement the work of the full-time police force.

When a candidate is selected for the reserve officer program, they first have to complete academy training and a probationary period as a PR before transitioning to a regular reserve officer position. The probationary period serves similar purposes as for probationary recruits:

  • Further skills training
  • Evaluation
  • On-the-job experience
  • Cultural integration

Reserve officers usually work part-time, and the time commitment increases once PR status is completed. Probationary reserve officers provide a valuable source of extra manpower and community engagement for police departments.

Police Reserve

Police Reserve (PR) also refers to probationary reserve officers in some police departments. The terms probationary reserve and police reserve are used interchangeably to denote reservists who are undergoing on-the-job probation.

Once the probationary period is successfully completed, the police reserve may simply be referred to as “reserve officer” without the probationary designation. So PR indicates either a probationary recruit or reserve, depending on whether the officer is a regular full-timer or a volunteer reservist.


To summarize, PR has several common meanings in the policing context depending on the status and type of officer:

  • Public Relations – PR unit handles communications and public image
  • Probationary Recruit – Newly hired police officer on probation
  • Police Recruit – Another term for a probationary recruit in some departments
  • Probationary Reserve – Volunteer reservist undergoing probation
  • Police Reserve – Also means a probationary reserve officer

So when you see PR in relation to cops, it generally refers to the probationary or public relations functions. The specific meaning can be inferred based on whether the context refers to regular officers, reservists, media communications or a recruitment/training program.


Here are some references used as sources for this article:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2018). Police Recruitment and Retention for the New Millennium. Retrieved from
  • Rahr, S., & Rice, S. K. (2015). From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals. New Perspectives in Policing Bulletin. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, NCJ 248654.
  • Durr, M. (2021). Community-Oriented Policing Explained. Police1. Retrieved from
  • Morison, K. P. (2017). Hiring for the 21st Century Law Enforcement Officer: Challenges, Opportunities, and Strategies for Success. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
  • Palombo, B. (1995). Academic Prerequisites for Police Recruits: A Concept Whose Time Has Come. The Police Chief, 62(10), 27–30.

Summary Table

Term Definition
Public Relations Unit that handles communications and public image of police
Probationary Recruit Newly hired police officer undergoing probation
Police Recruit Another term for probationary recruit
Probationary Reserve Volunteer reserve officer on probation
Police Reserve Also refers to a probationary reserve officer