How to Talk in Police 10 Codes

By Shea Laverty

Using police 10 codes can add some extra fun to a lively game of Cops and Robbers or a police roleplaying game. These codes are a form of verbal shorthand used to efficiently convey information, which use a combination of the number 10 plus another number to represent a statement or request. Knowing the codes themselves is only half the equation, though -- you also need to know when to use them and when to stop.

Learning Police 10 Codes

The first thing you'll need is a comprehensive list of police 10 codes. There are several code systems used in the United States, with most being some local variation on the general code. Make a list of all the codes you'll need to use for your game, and take some time beforehand to memorize them through repetition and practice. The Resources section has a link that lists all the police 10 codes.

Using the Codes

In most cases, you'll need to use the full code, such as "10-32 at 1st and Maple" to report a man with a gun at the stated location. In some cases, you can get away with the latter part of the code, such as asking for someone's location by calling "What's your 20?" Learn the proper uses for each code to avoid any confusion during the game. Make sure everyone is using the same code system as well; codes can have radically different meanings between the systems.

Refraining When Appropriate

These codes are mostly used during radio conversations only, so using them during personal conversation can be awkward. More important however, is when you're using actual short-range radios and accidentally use a police band or otherwise come in contact with emergency personnel. Don't immediately change channels if you do accidentally contact emergency personnel; explain the mistake when asked so they know there isn't an actual emergency taking place. Learn what the emergency and police channels are in your area to avoid this situation.

Using a Cheat Sheet

There are 102 police 10 codes altogether, which means having all members of your game learn the complete list could take quite a while. While learning the whole set of codes is commendable, it's much more efficient to learn the codes you need to know during the course of the game and use a "cheat sheet" for the rest. A simple card or list detailing the other codes can relieve some of the burden. Make sure everyone knows the codes that will be used the most, like "10-4" for acknowledgment, "10-20" for requesting your location and any pertinent crime codes for the game's plot.