Codes vs. Plain English: Which do you think is better in police and radio communications?

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) requires the use of plain English in police and fire communications. But I know some in the public safety community do not agree that this change should be made. Anyone in law enforcement, the fire service, etc, care to explain their position on the issue?

11 Answers

  • <R>
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    This is a great question.

    As an academy student, we are required to learn all of the codes. Some of them are ridiculous. For example "11-15--Ball game in the street." Now why in the world do we need a code for that? How often is that actually used?

    BUT, there are some codes that should be kept because they are useful. For example, here, 10-16 means "prisoner." So if you are alerting your cover officer that you are about to arrest somebody, you'd say something like "let's 10-16 him." This gives the other officer time to get in place and hopefully the suspect won't understand and have time to react. But if you were to say "Let's arrest him," that might present a problem.

    And there are some that are good just to use shorthand and keep those who might hear from immediately recognizing. For example, "11-44--Coroner's Case." If you've got 4 dead bodies, you might say something like "11-44 times four." The casual listener probably won't get that. Its just a lot better than saying, "We've got four dead bodies."

    So in my opinion, it would make sense to preserve the codes which are really useful for officer safety and expediency. We should standardize them nationwide and actually make them confidential. That way the crooks wouldn't know what we were talking about. (Yes, they might find out but at least they probably won't be published everywhere) This might mean we would have to change them for everybody. But it would only be a few really important ones.

    For codes like "11-14--Dog Bite" or "11-60--Investigate Water Leak", we should definitely use plain English.

    Source(s): Police Academy Student
  • 1 decade ago

    As an employee of a law enforcement agency, I would have to say that plain english is ideal for most instances. Fighting crime is a multi-agency effort, and there are many instances that the city police department, county sheriff's office and state police could get into a chase or other situation that could involve all agencies involved communicating via radio. If each agency uses different codes for different crimes/directions/descriptions/etc, it will be difficult for them to communicate, resulting in inefficiency.

    One example of this would be an officer from Houston, Texas visits Dallas, Texas on vacation. During his trip, he witnesses a gas station being robbed. Since he is sworn in the state of Texas, he is required to do something to hinder or stop the felony crime. If he pulls his gun (which hopefully he is carrying off-duty just for situations like this) and orders the suspect to the ground and then dials 9-1-1 on his cell phone. The suspect may begin to resist at that point, resulting in the officer dropping his phone: if he's yelling "I need cover, code 3, at Loaf N Jug, north 32nd and Carefree Circle," into the phone on the ground, there's a chance that the operator may have no idea what "cover, code 3" means. Simple english would be a much more effective form of communication in a situation like this.

    Source(s): AAS Criminal Justice, BS Public Administration, 2 years law enforcement.
  • 1 decade ago

    I'm not in law enforcement, but I can give you an example of why plain English is better.

    During the DC Sniper rampage back in October 2002, agencies all over the Washington-Baltimore metro area were working together to solve the case.

    One Maryland state trooper called in a 10-50 code, that for his department was something innocuous, like a fender-bender. However, to Montgomery County Police this code represented 'officer in trouble', and so dozens of units rushed unnecessarily to the scene.

    Either codes needed to be nationally standardized, or emergency services should use plain English. Of the two, I think plain English would be easier to implement, rather than having millions of personnel memorize new codes.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Numeric codes have been used since forever in police agencies. They work very well and I see no need to change that practice. I especially like 10-10 (coffee break) and Code 7 (lunch break).

    As far as the alphabet is concerned some agencies used the international system: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and others use the old out dated system: Adam, Boy, Charlie, Henry, etc.

    Both work, but I prefer the international system as it is far superior.

    Source(s): Retired military and retired law enforcement
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  • 1 decade ago

    As long as I can remember,law enforcement has used numeric codes.For example,10-50 at most departments means accident.I think that this is a good idea,and I don't see this changing any time soon.Some departments have different numeric codes.Somewhere else,10-50 may mean fight or officer in trouble.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    yes, agree with that

  • 1 decade ago

    yes, i agree

  • 1 decade ago

    not agree with that

  • 1 decade ago


  • 1 decade ago

    no, i am not agree

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