A friend of mine in a field related to law enforcement recently told me that RAP sheet stands for ‘record of arrest and prosecution’.
This certainly sounds unlikely, but a bit of Googlation indicates that this is a widely accepted etymology.
Nebraska State Patrol website:
The public may request a Record of Arrest and Prosecution (RAP) for individuals. The RAP sheet includes finger print based arrests and resulting dispositions. The person of interest must have been fingerprinted when arrested in order for the information to appear on the RAP sheet.
State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, FINGERPRINT BACKGROUND CHECKS
The DOJ uses this information to compile records of arrest and prosecution, known as “RAP sheets,” for individuals and disseminates the information for law enforcement and regulatory (employment and licensing) purposes. RAP sheets are based upon fingerprint submissions, and therefore positively identified biometrically; a process by which a person’s unique identity is confirmed.
CJIS, Information Security Awareness, Training for Texas
III provides the FBI’s RAP sheet (Record of Arrest and Prosecution) and contains information reported by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the country.
As I expected, the OED says that the rap in rap sheet is the same as the word meaning “criminal accusation, charge”. This in turn is a particular meaning of rap meaning a blow or stroke, which dates back to the 14th century at least, with various spellings.
Still, I didn’t tell my friend she was wrong. These backronyms have a life and validity of their own. If various US law enforcement agencies have a record that is really called Record of Arrest and Prosecution, and they get called RAP sheets, then it is fair to say that RAP stands for Record of Arrest and Prosecution, regardless of etymology.