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Police Codes and Abbreviations!

March 14th, 2023 police codes and abbreviations

What are Police Codes?

Police codes and abbreviations are used to exchange information between police officers over radio systems and devices.

These codes vary among states, counties, and agencies – though there is some degree of overlap, particularly among the most used police codes. Abbreviations typically remain constant throughout the US. We will review these abbreviations later. For now, let’s take a moment to learn more about some widely used codes – known as 10-codes.

“10-codes” are a widely used form of police code.

Examples include:

  • 10-0 – use caution
  • 10-4 –  acknowledged
  • 10-13 – advise weather / road conditions
  • 10-69 – message received
  • 10-36 – current time
  • 10-77 – estimated time of arrival
  • 10-1 – poor reception / weak signal
  • 10-999 – officer down

You are likely to encounter some police codes during your police officer exam.

For example: they may be used in the paragraph comprehension part of the written exam. They may also be mentioned during the police interview test. Whilst candidates are not expected to know all police codes, they should know the most common examples, why these codes are used, and what advantages these codes have.

Are Police Codes the Past?

Given that police codes vary between states, counties, and agencies, there has been debate about whether police codes should be standardized at the federal level – making the codes the same for all parts of the country. This argument has gained considerable traction in recent years, with leading officials in law enforcement backing the move.

There is even talk of removing police codes altogether, the argument being that they only add confusion among police officers who would prefer to use simple, plain language. However, other officers argue that there are several disadvantages to using plain language.

Among these disadvantages include:

  • Communicating in plain language is not as short.
  • Officers communicate in different ways, and this may lead to accidental miscommunication between officers.
  • Police codes allow some degree of privacy in communication between officers that is largely inaccessible to ordinary members of the public. Therefore, safety increases with the use of these codes.

Given the widespread use of police codes and abbreviations throughout the United States, the codes are unlikely to be phased out any time soon. Even if they were, many officers would continue to use the codes because that’s how they’ve trained and practiced their craft over many decades.

Irrespective of which police academy you intend to join, you will likely to learn and practice the police codes that relate to your police department.

Police Abbreviations

Police abbreviations are also widely used and are often linked to their own police code.

Below, we have put together the most widely used police acronyms that law enforcement personnel are expected to know. Note that all police abbreviations below are examinable on the police test, and may also be mentioned during conversations with the oral board panel.

Police AbbreviationMeaning
ACAnimal control
ADWAssault with a deadly weapon
APBAll-points bulletin
ATLAttempt to locate
B&EBreaking and entering
BKGBooking
BOLOBe on the lookout
CCWCarrying a concealed weapon
CPComplaining party
CSUCrime scene unit
CTCourt
DBDead body
DOADead on arrival
DOCDisorderly conduct
DUIDriving under the influence
DWIDriving whilst intoxicated
EDPEmotionally disturbed person
ETAEstimated time of arrival
FTAFailure to appear
GOAGone on arrival
GSRGun shot residue
GTAGrand theft auto
LKALast known address
LNULast name unknown
MPMissing person
ODOff duty
PCProbable cause
PIPersonal injury
POSSPossession
PVParole violation
QTSecrecy needed
SOCScene of the crime
ROReporting officer
ROFReport on file
RPReporting party
UTLUnable to locate

Communicating like a Police Officer

Every profession has their own language, their own ability to communicate with one another. The same is no less true in law enforcement.

Though you should learn codes and abbreviations for the purposes of the police exam, you should try to learn how to communicate on the basis that it will improve how you operate as practicing law enforcement officer i.e. your professional performance. After all, at some point you will need to learn these police codes and abbreviations. What better time than now to start learning these abbreviations and codes.

Learning these abbreviations will not only consolidate your professional communication skills, but it will also enhance your performance during the police exam – particularly during the oral board exam where you can include these abbreviations and codes sparingly to quietly impress the interview panel. Very few candidates will bother to use the codes and abbreviations. It can make all the difference during the interview exam to include these, and to stand out in a positive and different way. Just make sure you use the correct code or abbreviation!

Police codes and abbreviations are important. Commit these to memory and you go one step further toward your goal of operating as an professional member of law enforcement in the United States.

Found this article police codes and abbreviations helpful? Learn how to master communication skills and every other part of the police officer exam with our self-paced online course. All the exclusive features you need to excel at the 2023 police officer test.

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