Deciphering the Code: Police 10 Codes


Police 10 Codes

Listening in on police transmissions, and not sure what all those codes are you keep hearing? In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about police 10 codes and how to interpret them.

What are Police 10 Codes?

When police, government agencies, or other law enforcement communicate via two-way radios, they use a set of codes called police 10 codes. These police codes are numbers that begin with”10″ and equal words and phrases that are frequently used. Many civilians who use CB radios use a variation of the codes because of how well-known they are. If you feel you already know the codes, you might be surprised. Whether you are wanting to listen with police scanners, understand officers talking to dispatch while you are stopped, or you are interested in entering the emergency personnel services, it is best to know some of the most basic codes officers use.

How Police 10 Codes Originated

Police 10 codes have been around for several decades, mainly to help keep communication streamlined. However, it was originally to ensure secrecy. This is because the codes originated in 1940, just before World War 2 hit America. The first official set of codes was released by the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials, otherwise known as the APC. The publication helped to reduce how much police officials had to say while on the two-way radios.

These codes allow police to communicate with dispatchers, other officers, jails, correctional facilities, hospitals, and other local support with a degree of privacy. Further, people who know the codes will understand some of what the officers are saying. But many do not understand the meaning of the codes. Generally, this prevents the general public from fully understanding the discussions going on. This has changed only slightly since the original codes were published. In 1974, the APC standardized the messages and expanded the use.

An Official Set?

The big question surrounds whether or not there is an official set of police 10 codes. Unfortunately, there is not a true official or universal set. While the codes have a general meaning, the particular code may vary from state to state. Each jurisdiction needs to be able to communicate internally. But rarely do different jurisdictions need to communicate with each other. The original codes were created to give officers and other public officials the means to communicate with each other concisely. So, when different jurisdictions communicate or work together, they can create their own communication method.

So why vary the codes if jurisdictions need to communicate? Basically, the answer is fairly simple; communication must be clear and not give a measure of error. So, if answering a call, dispatchers need to be able to give directions to the police without having to refer to a list of codes. Many police organizations, including the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency and the United States Department of Homeland Security, have begun to discontinue the use of the police 10 codes. This practice began in 2005 and is becoming more common as police and dispatchers are finding it easier to use English phrases instead of codes. But the only downside to this is the fact anyone listening to the airwaves will clearly understand what is going on.

Police 10 Code Variations

Using the original police 10 codes as a base, a few variations were created over the years. Examples of these variations include the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Port Authority Police. CHP uses a variation called the 11 codes and the Port Authority uses 8 codes. Most emergency services such as the EMS and fire departments have their own variations as well.

A Quick List of Police 10 Codes

The following is the current list of the most commonly used police 10 codes. While they do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, these are the original meanings. When officers use the police 10 codes, they will sometimes not say 10. Instead, they will substitute the word “code” for the number 10. For example, instead of saying 10-12, or “standby,” they will just say “code twelve.” With that said, some codes are used regularly and people immediately recognize them. This includes code 10-4, which means the message is received.

  • 10-00 = Officer down, all patrols respond
  • 10-0 = Caution
  • 10-1 = Reception poor
  • 10-2 = Reception good
  • 10-3 = Stop transmitting
  • 10-4 = Message received, understood
  • 10-5 = Repay message
  • 10-6 = Change channel
  • 10-7 = Out of service
  • 10-7A = Out of service, home
  • 10-7B = Out of service, personal
  • 10-8 = In service
  • 10-9 = Repeat message
  • 10-10 = Off duty
  • 10-10A = Off duty, home
  • 10-11 = Identify frequency
  • 10-12 = Visitor(s) present
  • 10-13 = Weather and road advice
  • 10-14 = Citizen w/suspect
  • 10-15 = Prisoner in custody
  • 10-16 = Pick up prisoner
  • 10-17 = Request for gasoline
  • 10-18 = Equipment exchange
  • 10-19 = Return(ing) to station
  • 10-20 = Location

Police Scanner Codes

In addition to the Police 10 Codes, there are scanner codes used by both the police and emergency personnel. An example of the scanner codes includes “code blue,” which means there is an officer or bus in trouble. However, code blue can also indicate a medical emergency such as cardiac or respiratory arrest in a hospital.

  • 505 = Reckless driving
  • 507 = Public nuisance
  • 510 = Speeding or racing vehicles
  • 586 = Illegal parking
  • 594 = Malicious mischief
  • 595 = Runaway car
  • 604 = Throwing missiles
  • 647 = Lewd conduct
  • 653M = Threatening phone calls
  • 5150 = Mental case
  • 10851 = Auto theft / stolen vehicle
  • 10852 = Tampering with vehicle
  • 20001 = Hit and run – Felony
  • 20002 = Hit and run – Misdemeanor
  • 20007 = Hit and run – Unattended
  • 21958 = Drunk pedestrian on the roadway
  • 22350 = Speeding
  • 22500 = Illegal parking
  • 23101 = Drunk driving – with injuries
  • 23102 = Drunk driving
  • 23103 = Reckless driver
  • 23104 = Reckless driver
  • 23105 = Driver under the influence of narcotics
  • 23109 = Auto Racing
  • 23110 = Person throwing objects at vehicles
  • 23151 = Drunk driving – with injuries
  • 23152 = Drunk driver

First Responder Codes

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and fire departments also have a set of codes they use during their calls. While they also use some police codes, they have a small set of unique calls dispatchers and first responders use. These are also what dispatchers use to determine the level of speed and intensity with which the medical personnel respond to a scene or the hospital.

  • Code 10 = Critical trauma case
  • Code 20 = Acute trauma case
  • Code 30 = Trauma case
  • Code 40 = Serious case (IV started)
  • Code 50 = Basic transport (not serious)
  • Code N = Newsworthy event

Acronyms Commonly Used by Cops

Officers are also known to use acronyms while conducting police activity to further shorten communication. These acronyms are important to know because many times they will write them on the citations they hand out. Here is a list of common acronyms and abbreviations.

  • ADW = Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • AKA = Also Known As
  • ADW = Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • AG = Attorney General
  • ATF = Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms
  • B & E – Breaking and Entering
  • BOLO = Be On the Lookout
  • CHP = California Highway Patrol
  • CRT = Code Response Team
  • CI = Confidential Informant
  • CO = Commanding Officer
  • DA = District Attorney
  • DEA = Drug Enforcement Agency
  • DL = Driver’s License
  • DOA = Dead On Arrival
  • DOC = Department of Corrections
  • DMV = Department of Motor Vehicles
  • DEA = Drug Enforcement Administration
  • DOB = Date Of Birth
  • DUI = Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI = Driving While Intoxicated
  • ETA = Estimated Time of Arrival
  • EOW = End of Watch
  • FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • FTA = Failure To Appear
  • GTA – Grand Theft Auto
  • OIS = Officer-Involved Shooting
  • PD = Police Department
  • PnP = Party in Play
  • RHD = Robbery Homicide Division
  • SRT = Special Response Team
  • VIN = Vehicle Identification Number

Phonetic Alphabet

Also, numerical code is not the only type of code used in radio communication. Whether it is emergency personnel, military, or simply civilians using CB radios, the phonetic code helps clarify spelling. Indeed, the phonetic alphabet was originally designed by the IPA (International Phonetic Association) to create a standardized representation of the spoken English language. It has since been used to describe subjects, property, or locations when communicating with other people.

Military Phonetic

When it comes to spelling names or telling a dispatcher the plate number on a car, many police officers use the military phonetic alphabet. This alphabet gives names and phonetic spelling for every letter of the alphabet.

  • A = Alpha (AL fah)
  • B = Bravo (BRAH VOH)
  • C = Charlie (CHAR lee)
  • D = Delta (DELL tah)
  • E = Echo (ECK oh)
  • F = Foxtrot (FOKS trot)
  • G = Golf (GOLF)
  • H = Hotel (hoh TELL)
  • I = India (IN dee ah)
  • J = Juliett (JEW lee ETT)
  • K = Kilo (KEY loh)
  • L = Lima (LEE mah)
  • M = Mike (MIKE)
  • N = November (no VEM ber)
  • O = Oscar (OSS cah)
  • P = Papa (pah PAH)
  • Q = Quebec (keh BECK)
  • R = Romeo (ROW me oh)
  • S = Sierra (see AIR rah)
  • T = Tango (TANG go)
  • U = Uniform (YOU nee form
  • V = Victor (VIK tah)
  • W = Whiskey (WISS key)
  • X = X-Ray (ECKS RAY)
  • Y = Yankee (YANG key)
  • Z = Zulu (ZOO loo)

Civilian Phonetic Alphabet

Similar to the military phonetic alphabet, the civilian phonetic alphabet uses words to clarify letters of the alphabet when spelling words aloud. It is common to hear or speak these words while on the phone with companies to ensure correct information is passed.

  • A = Adam
  • B = Boy
  • C = Charles
  • D = David
  • E = Edward
  • F = Frank
  • G = George
  • H = Henry
  • I = Ida
  • J = John
  • K = King
  • L = Lincoln
  • M = Mary
  • N = Nora
  • O = Ocean
  • P = Paul
  • Q = Queen
  • R = Robert
  • S = Sam
  • T = Tom
  • U = Unicorn
  • V = Victor
  • W = William
  • X = X-Ray
  • Y = Yellow
  • Z = Zebra

While civilians using the CB radio rarely use the police 10 codes, it is good to know what police are saying if you are listening in on amateur radios. To conclude, police use a variety of codes, including codes for designating different units and patrols. Therefore, you may not understand completely what is going on and where, but with this knowledge, you can have a better idea.

Stringer Guide Team

Stringers Guide is your go-to source for Stringers, photojournalists, videographers and news freelancers. We guide beginners and experienced freelancers through great article content and newsgathering tips.

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