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Ten-Four No More? Law Enforcement Agencies Are Phasing Out Old Radio Codes

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2010
2 pages
This paper guides police agencies in transitioning from the use of the 10-code (e.g., "10-13" as a code for officer in trouble) to the use of "plain language" in radio communications about incidents to which police are called to respond, so as to facilitate radio communications across jurisdictions.
Although the 10-codes emerged to provide efficient and coded messages among police officers in their radio communications, they were not standardized, meaning the codes differed in meaning among jurisdictions. Agencies must be able to communicate effectively across jurisdictional lines, and using plain language in communications facilitates clarity in radio communications. There are essential components for a successful transition to plain-language communications. First, law enforcement executives must develop a plan that outlines the necessary steps. Second, each agency should be allowed to keep a small subset of agency-specific codes that are understood by officers, but not by the public. This is necessary for incidents which police decide should be hidden from offenders and the general public who might overhear police radio communications. Third, some existing plain language can become standardized; for example, "stolen car" may be referred to as a GLA (grand larceny auto) or some other term in adjacent jurisdictions. In outlining issues to consider, the paper advises that for plain language to be effective, it must be comprehensive and compulsory, meaning that agencies must use it for all radio transmissions, not just during mutual-aid events. In outlining the benefits of using plain language in radio communications, the paper advises that in addition to making communications clearer across jurisdictional and agency radio communications, it may reduce the anxiety experienced by many new officers, who are required to memorize codes; it should also reduce their training time. 2 resources for more information

Date Published: October 1, 2010