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Stupid Case File for September 27, 2005

That's a 10-4 on Plain Language for Cops

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The days of hearing "10-4" and other law enforcement jargon on the police radio are coming to an end.

Emergency responders around the country must switch to using plain language by October 2006, as part of the National Incident Management System, which was developed to help different agencies work together in response to emergency situations.

"It makes so much sense," said Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, whose department is planning on using plain language starting next month. "Common language is common language."

Signal and "10 codes" were originally implemented by law enforcement agencies and emergency responders primarily to keep talk on the radio brief. Although many of the codes are the same for different departments, there are no standardized definitions, which could lead to confusion when different departments work together.

In September 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified governors of the development of the National Incident Management System, and that complying with that system would be required to secure federal emergency preparedness funding.

In August, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing compliance, issued a directive requiring the use of plain language, or at least a good-faith effort to implement plain language, by October 2006 to be eligible for homeland security grant money.

Owensboro Police Chief John Kazlauskas said his department has been taking the necessary steps to meet the requirements, which include having each member of the department complete a test on the system.

"It seems very simple, but getting everyone to use the same specific word for an incident can be complicated," Kazlauskas said. "It's going to be a learning process for people who have been using 10 codes for their whole careers."

Stupid Criminal File Editor Commentary
10-Codes and Signals were created and used for many purposes. First, it kept the radio traffic brief. Second, the layman wouldn't necessarily know what he code meant. Why couldn't we come up with standard codes, rather than plain language? It's rather hard for cops around the country to learn how to say something specfic consistently, versus using codes. Here's a good example: MAN WITH GUN, commonly referred to as a 10-32. Now let's say there's a guy in a lobby of a building who has a gun. There are cops in the lobby. The radios blare "ALL UNITS, REPORT OF A MAN WITH A GUN IN THE LOBBY". Do ya think the criminal with the gun is going to know what that means? Of course, it warns the guy they're looking for him. OR, the guy can could hear "ALL UNITS, REPORTED 10-32 IN THE LOBBY". Chances are, the bad guy might not understand 10-32. Which odds would you prefer?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s obvious the good Sheriff has not been in a patrol car for a long time.Having been in the military, been a police officer and now a Federal Agent, I feel 10 codes are not some soooper-seekrit language used by LE and Military types. They are published all over the place and even on Wikipedia. Any one can look them up these days with no effort. The military was far more confusing in that acronyms and abbreviations were used extensively. Units had developed their own codeword’s and by far, the radio protocol I used in the Marine Corps was much more confusing than in my LE career.
That said 10 codes were essential to my department during busy times. At peak hours and on weekends, you had to fight for radio space and by God, if you didn’t get your transmission out fast, we were all cursed you, loudly. Some idiot using Plain Language and droning on about his situation inevitably got in the way of an officer who stumbled onto something and was trying to get dispatch advised of his situation.

Furthermore – I want the Fed weenie that is mandating plain language to be standing across from the 6’4” biker who has warrants for attempted murder, carrying a concealed weapon with a previous history of assaulting Police Officers and mental illness when that plain language transmission is called out over radio. “Be advised, use caution on that subject, he’s wanted for attempted murder and carrying a concealed weapon. Also be advised the subject has a history of assaulting a police officer and mental illness. You back up is on the way to your location for the arrest.” Or the dispatcher can just say, “10-0 for that 10-29, 10-96 10-64, 10-24 is 25 your 20.” The guy across from you has no idea that the cavalry is coming to lock his ass up for a long time and you don’t get your beat up or worse in the meantime.

It’s obvious the time has come for a standardization of the codes, not their elimination.

April 25, 2008 6:51 AM  

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