The Virginia State Police has joined the ranks of law enforcement agencies across the nation to drop the use of the 10-code communication system in favor of “plain talk” or everyday English, says the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. Last week, phrases like 10-8, the code for clear, or 10-46, the code for disabled vehicle, were dropped. The ever-popular – and universal – “10-4,” the code used to indicate acknowledgement, is still used, however. Virginia State Police Maj. Robert Kemmler said the deployment last year of troopers to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina illustrated the advantage of using plain talk. “Their 10-codes didn’t match ours,” Kemmler said, referring to agencies in Mississippi and Louisiana where Virginia troopers helped maintain order. “We kind of had to come up with, or use, common language on their radio system because they didn’t understand what we were talking about.”
Across the country, law enforcement and fire agencies are shifting toward plain talk instead of communications code. The use of plain talk on an everyday basis will reduce the risk of an officer or other first-responder’s being injured, said Chris Essid, Virginia’s Interoperability Coordinator. He described a situation in which a Maryland state trooper radioed a report of a car crash to a local agency’s dispatcher. The 10-code the trooper used, Essid said, didn’t hold the same meaning for the local dispatcher who took the call. In her jurisdiction, the code used by the trooper represented an officer in need of help. The dispatcher sent several local officers to the trooper’s location and found him working the crash. Using different codes “could really create a serious situation where someone could get hurt,” he said.