Why are the police called "12" in certain areas?
It derives from the term 10-12, a CB radio code which means that visitors are present and one should be discreet. 12 is the police. Shouting "TWELVE" will warn the presence of an officer approaching the scene of some illegal activity.
CB radio terminology and 10-codes are code words used to represent common phrases in voice communication, particularly by law enforcement and in Citizens' Band (CB) radio transmissions. The use of 10-codes originated in the early 1920's, when public safety radio was in its infancy and officers rarely had to communicate with officers outside their own department.
The most commonly used 10 codes are 10-1 Receiving Poorly; 10-4 Ok, Message Received; 10-7 Out of Service, Leaving Air (you're going off the air); 10-8 In Service, subject to call (you're back on the air); 10-9 Repeat Message 10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By (you'll be listening); 10-20 "What's your location?" or "My location is..." Commonly asked as "What's your 20?"
Of interest, police are using a new tool known as LEEDIR (Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository) to help them use smartphones as tools to gather evidence. Find out more from the Sacramento Bee.