If you watched police drama TV shows like “Law & Order”, “NYPD Blue” or “Blue Bloods”, you probably have learned the most common 10 code meanings or radio lingo. Therefore you know that 10-4 means “acknowledge” or “understand” and 10-9 means “repeat”. Charles Hopper of the Illinois State Police invented the codes in 1937 when he decided police radio communications needed to be brief and standardized. Years ago, before the advent of GPS applications and computers in police cars, 10-20 might have been a frequent question meaning “what’s your location?” With improved radio coverage, reception and noise canceling technology, “unable to copy” codes 10-9 or 10-62 are used less often. This radio lingo is starting to fade away since it provides few advantages with today’s digital radio technology and has caused confusion in multi-agency situations.
The Department of Homeland Security recommended using plain language in emergency communications after the September 11 attacks. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) recommended banning the 10 codes after miscommunication incidents occurred between out-of-area agencies during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) advocates using plain speech communication as well. There is a dying breed of personnel who continue to use the codes, but they would have to agree it’s quicker to say “barking dog” rather than “barking 10-11”. Some officers might use the 10-code internally when they want to prevent the secret meaning from frightening the public. For example, they might say 10-32 instead of “person with a gun” so as not to cause a panic.
If a radio user receives too many 10-1 responses, indicating bad reception or a weak signal, it might be a good idea to get the radio checked. Ideally, the central communications technician is using the DiagnostX over-the-air radio analyzer to determine when a radio needs alignment even while it is deployed in the field. DiagnostX’s patented technology is a proactive approach to radio maintenance allowing the technician to schedule maintenance before a failure occurs. To learn more about today’s radio technology maintenance, visit DiagnostX by LocusUSA.