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What Are Police Codes?

It is most common for individuals to think of officers calling in a combination of numbers over their dispatch radio or walkie-talkie. However, these combinations of numbers have significant meaning. These numbers are referred to as police codes, a manner in which a law enforcement officer may identify and call in a crime or suspicious activity.

Developed by the Association of Public Safety and Communications Officials, the police codes are a series of numbers that help police quickly identify and call in a specific type of crime. This type of code was developed to ensure the efficacy of communication of law enforcement officers in the field over the radio. Police codes are considered to be shorthand of common phrases used by the police. However, it has also been noted that other systems make use of police codes such as emergency response teams. These codes allow them to function more quickly and respond clearly to whatever emergency may be called in.

Police codes are formed by a short series of numbers that are memorized by police officers. Some numbers have been designated to refer to specific types of crimes or incidents. For example, a 10-4, read as ten-four, is shorthand for okay or message received. It is possible that each jurisdiction varies in its police code, and 10-4 may signify some other kind of situation other than okay.

Some police codes involve acronyms rather than a combination of numbers. For example, an APB refers to all points bulletin, and DB refers to dead body.

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