Law Enforcement Around Tulsa Keeping 10 Codes

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 9:09 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Police departments and sheriff's offices in northeast Oklahoma are bucking a national trend to get rid of police speak or 10-codes.  Officers use phrases like 10-4 to mean okay or 10-20 to mean location.  But, departments all over the country are ditching those codes.  The Dallas Police Department did so just this week.

For Tulsa Police Corporal David Crow, on the force for 15 years, speaking in 10-codes is as natural as breathing.  Police officers have been using them since 1937 when there was only one radio channel.  Officers needed to be short and succinct so they didn't clog up the airwaves.  Many believe it's still efficient.

"For our department, it streamlines the amount of time we need to be on the radio," said Tulsa Police Cpl. David Crow.

Over the years, each agency has developed little differences in its 10 codes.  For instance, a 10-37 might mean officer down for one department and for another; it could mean I need a tow truck.

These differences have made it hard in recent years when agencies must work together on big scenes.  It became obvious after the 9-11 attacks when many first responders had a tough time communicating.

It happened again during Hurricane Katrina and that's why FEMA now requires agencies to switch to plain speak or regular English during big disasters.

Tulsa-area agencies all do that.  But, many say using 10 codes for daily calls, is safer for the officers.

"There are a handful of codes that stand for you're with a wanted person or that's a stolen car you're dealing with and if they did plain talk, everyone would understand because it's just English and everybody would understand and it would alert them," said Tulsa Police Cpl. David Crow.

The Homeland Security Department wants to ditch 10 codes altogether and while some agencies have made the switch, others, like Tulsa Police say the disadvantages of switching, for now at least, outweigh the advantages.