Police 10 Codes for Law Enforcement Officer Radio Communication

Police 10 codes
Photo courtesy of Richard W. Dionne Jr. of East Bay Newspapers in Warren, RI.

What are Police 10 Codes and Scanner Codes?

Police 10 Codes, also written as Ten Codes, 10-codes, police scanner codes and sometimes just police codes, are signals that are used by law enforcement and government agencies in two-way voice radio communication. They are numeric codes that correspond to frequently used words, phrases and messages. Ten-codes are also used by private citizens in Citizen’s Band (CB) radio transmissions.

How did Police 10 Codes Originate?

10 codes originated in the United States law enforcement community prior to the second World War. In 1940, the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APC) published the first set of 10-codes. These radio signals were invented to help reduce the use of speech on the police radio. In addition, the codes enable a certain amount of privacy to the radio transmissions, as one must know the meaning of the signals to understand the discussion. In 1974, the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials expanded use of the police radio codes to make them more brief and to standardize message traffic.

There is no truly universal or official set of police 10 codes, and the meanings of a particular signals can vary between one police jurisdiction and another. While law enforcement ten signals were intended to be a concise, standardized system, the proliferation of different meanings has rendered it somewhat useless for situations where people from different agencies and jurisdictions need to communicate. In 2005, the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began discouraging the use of ten-codes and other law enforcement radio signals due to their high variability in meaning between departments and agencies. In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may discontinue use of the signals.

Some organizations and municipalities also use other types of police radio codes. For example, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) uses “eleven-codes“, and the Port Authority Police uses “eight codes”. These were established in an attempt to have a new and unique set of signals. Police officers are in constant communication with one another. They regularly communicate with dispatch, other officers, support departments, the local jail and county correctional facilities, and many more. The codes help streamline communication and also add an element of secrecy to shield communications from the general public.

Amateur radio ham operators do not use ten-codes. Instead they use something called Q codes, which are derived from Morse code. Use of the signals are highly discouraged in amateur radio use, especially among seasoned professionals. However, they are sometimes used by novice operators.

List of Police 10 Codes

Following is a list of some of the more commonly used police 10 codes. Again, it is important to note that there is no truly universal set of police 10 codes. Usage varies between departments, states and agencies.

10-1 = Poor reception
10-2 = Good reception
10-3 = Atop transmitting
10-4 = Message received, affirmative, OK
10-5 = Relay this information to (name of person, officer, etc.)
10-6 = Busy
10-7 = Out of service
10-8 = In service
10-9 = Please repeat, please repeat the message
10-10 = Negative (no)
10- 11 = Dog case
10-12 = Standby
10-13 = Civilians present and listening
10-14 = Prowler report
10-15 = En route to the station with suspect
10-16 = Domestic problem
10-17 = Meet complainant
10-18 = Urgent
10-19 = Return to the station
10-20 = Specify location/my location is (name of location)
10-21 = Place a phone call to (name of person)
10-22 = Disregard
10-23 = Stand by on this frequency (also stands for “on scene” in some areas)
10-24 = Assignment completed
10-25 = Please report in person (meeting)
10-26 = Detaining suspect
10-27 = vehicle registration request
10-28 = arrests / warrants on driver’s license
10-29 = arrests / warrants on the vehicle
10-30 = Unnecessary use of police radio
10-31 = Crime or criminal act in progress
10-32 = gun / firearm
10-33 = emergency traffic follows, hold routine messages
10-34 = frequency open (cancels 10-33)
10-35 = Major crime alert
10-36 = what is the correct time of day?
10-37 = Suspicious vehicle (investigate)
10-38 = Suspicious vehicle (stopping)
10-39 = false alarm, premises was occupied
10-40 = false alarm, no activity, premises appears secure
10-41 = begin watch
10-42 = end of watch
10-43 = Information
10-44 = Permission to leave
10-45 = fueling vehicle
10-46 = Provide motorist assistance
10-47 = Emergency road repair needed at
10-48 = Traffic standard repair needed at
10-49 = en route to assignment
10-50 = accident
10-51 = tow truck needed
10-52 = ambulance needed
10-53 = road blocked at (name of location)
10-54 = animals on highway
10-55 = security check (has also been used for intoxicated driver)
10-56 = Intoxicated pedestrian
10-57 = hit-and-run accident
10-58 = direct traffic
10-59 = escort
10-60 = squad in vicinity, lock-out
10-61 = personnel in area
10-62 = reply to message
10-63 = clear to copy info?
10-64 = message for delivery
10-65 = net message assignment
10-66 = net message cancellation
10-67 = person calling for help
10-68 = dispatch message
10-69 = message received
10-70 = prowler, fire alarm
10-71 = gun involved, advise nature of fire
10-72 = shooting, fire progress report
10-73 = smoke report
10-74 = negative, no
10-75 = in contact with (name)
10-76 = en route / on the way
10-77 = Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), amount of time until
10-78 = need assistance
10-79 = bomb threat, coroner’s case
10-80 = bomb has exploded
10-81 = breathalyzer report
10-82 = reserve lodging
10-83 = work school crossing at ___
10-84 = if meeting ___, please advise ETA
10-85 = delay due to ___
10-86 = officer on-duty
10-87 = pickup
10-88 = present phone number of ___
10-89 = bomb threat
10-90 = bank alarm going off at ___
10-91 = pick up a prisoner
10-92 = improperly parked vehicle
10-93 = blockage
10-94 = drag racing
10-95 = prisoner/subject in custody
10-96 = psych patient
10-97 = check signal (means “On Scene” in California and other areas)
10-98 = prison break or jail break
10-99 = wanted/stolen record
10-100 = dead body
10-101 = What is your status?
10-106 = Secure
10-200 = alarm
999 = Officer down / urgent help needed

Police Scanner Codes

Following is a list of police scanner codes. In some cases, numbers are used:

5150 = Mental case
10851 = Auto theft / stolen vehicle
10852 = Tampering with vehicle
20001 = Hit and run – Felony
20002 = Hit and run – Misdemeanor
20007 = Hit and run – Unattended
21958 = Drunk pedestrian on roadway
22350 = Speeding
22500 = Illegal parking
23101 = Drunk driving – with injuries
23102 = Drunk driving
23103 = Reckless driver
23104 = Reckless driver
23105 = Driver under the influence of narcotics
23109 = Auto Racing
23110 = Person throwing objects at vehicles
23151 = Drunk driving – with injuries
23152 = Drunk driver

In other cases, colors are used, such as:

  • Code Blue = Bus, Cab in trouble
  • Code Red = Alarm activated
  • Code Purple = Gang Activity

Use of the Phonetic Alphabet in Radio Communication

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language.

The Phonetic Alphabet is used by police officers, private investigators, military and even civilians during radio communications. These individuals use the alphabet to ensure clear communication, such as when communicating a description of a subject, a tag number, or a street address. It is often used on radio communication.

Phonetic Alphabet: Military

Officers may use the military phonetic alphabet when talking on the radio. Use of the military phonetic alphabet helps ensure all parties understand the correct spelling of names, streets, buildings, etc. Following is a table explaining the letters of the phonetic alphabet and their pronunciation:

A = Alpha (AL fah)
B = Bravo (BRAH VOH)
C = Charlie (CHAR lee)
D = Delta (DELL tah)
E = Echo (ECK oh)
F = Foxtrot (FOKS trot)
G = Golf (GOLF)
H = Hotel (hoh TELL)
I = India (IN dee ah)
J = Juliett (JEW lee ETT)
K = Kilo (KEY loh)
L = Lima (LEE mah)
M = Mike (MIKE)
N = November (no VEM ber)
O = Oscar (OSS cah)
P = Papa (pah PAH)
Q = Quebec (keh BECK)
R = Romeo (ROW me oh)
S = Sierra (see AIR rah)
T = Tango (TANG go)
U = Uniform (YOU nee form
V = Victor (VIK tah)
W = Whiskey (WISS key)
X = X Ray (ECKS RAY)
Y = Yankee (YANG key)
Z = Zulu (ZOO loo)

Phonetic Alphabet: Civilian

Following is a version used by civilians:

A = Adam
B = Boy
C = Charles
D = David
E = Edward
F = Frank
G = George
H = Henry
I = Ida
J = John
K = King
L = Lincoln
M = Mary
N = Nora
O = Ocean
P = Paul
Q = Queen
R = Robert
S = Sam
T = Tom
U = Unicorn
V = Victor
W = William
X = X-Ray
Y = Yellow
Z = Zebra

Other Types of Signals

Departments may used coded names to specify a particular geographic area, such as Patrol 1, Patrol 2, etc. For example, Patrol 1 might be associated with a particular beat, or a particular city, town, etc. You might also see the use of a special designation for supervisors, motorcycle units, swat teams, or even marine units.

Departments may also use coded names for different segments of their department, such as Squad 1, Squad 2, etc. These may be used to indicate what particular group is responding to a call, or what squad is on the scene of a crime.

Acronyms Used in Police Work

Officers may also use acronyms to shorten communications. Following are some of the  commonly used acronyms (we’re still building this part of our list, so if you know of any others, please leave a comment below):

  • ADW = Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • AKA = Also Known As
  • B & E – Breaking and Entering
  • BOL = Be On the Lookout
  • DL = Driver’s License
  • DOA = Dead On Arrival
  • DOC = Department of Corrections
  • DMV = Department of Motor Vehicles
  • DEA = Drug Enforcement Administration
  • DOB = Date Of Birth
  • DUI = Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI = Driving While Intoxicated
  • ETA = Estimated Time of Arrival (also used in general to mean “how much time”)
  • FBI = Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • FTA = Failure To Appear
  • GTA = Grand Theft Auto
  • PD = Police Department
  • VIN = Vehicle Identification Number

Read more in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten-code.

Also, learn about Police Drones, the latest in Law Enforcement and Investigation Technology.


    • The most common use of the ten code 10-89 is bomb threat. However, some departments may assign a different meaning to it. For example, Norfolk, VA assigns the meaning “Request Additional Chief” to the 10-89 code.

    • They are looking for vehicle registration information for a particular vehicle. Not sure about the z5. It may be a special code used by a particular department that provides additional information on the purpose of the request.

    • Although the meaning may vary between jurisdictions and departments, the phrase “go south” is a slang term that generally means to go downward or lower in value, or into a worse condition or position. Cops may use the term to describe a situation that is about to get out of control by saying, “things are about to go south”.

    • It means that the situation might get bad or is going bad. Thats what it meant for us anyway. I was a federal officer for Dept. Homeland Security.

  1. I heard some police radio traffic where the codes 715 and 630 were used. I can’t find what these mean, does anyone know?

  2. I watched the film Triple 9 and was wondering why that code isn’t on this list. Is 999 truly the universal code for Officer down? Can you let me know?

    • Depending on the context or location, 313 may have different meanings:

      313 may refer to the area code for Detroit.
      313 may refer to dispatch, as in “313, please repeat last message.”
      313 may be a slang term used by a particular police department.

      In most cases, it is likely referring to dispatch.

  3. You wouldn’t happen to know the 10 codes for Ft Myers, FL? I read the list you have published here on the site, but I see codes that are listed but mean different things here.

  4. I would say they are “codes” not meant to be mean known by all.. Like football or military, you don’t want the other team to know exactly what you are saying.

  5. […] Friends app.  It reduces the semiregular rapid crossfire exchanges of “What’s your 20?” amongst ourselves.  Having never grown up with implied or explicit expectations of […]

  6. The other day i heard an officer run a background check on someone and I over heard dispatch say 32 red white but otherwise clear and the person was free to go. However, I have never heard this code before and cannot find it anywhere. It was a california University officer. Any idea on this code i cant locate anything like that.

    • That particular code does not sound familiar and we weren’t able to find anything on it. It may be part of a coding system that is proprietary to California universities, or more than likely, to that particular university.


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