Do You Know What These Police Codes Mean?


By: Beth Hendricks

7 Min Quiz

Image: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Sometimes, it just takes too long to say things you really need to say. Instead of texting, "talk to you later," we abbreviate it "TTYL." Rather than saying that we think something is funny, we might respond "LOL." We abbreviate temperature with a "°". We use an ampersand "&" when we're making a list. We even shorten "commercial" when we're typing a URL, like For decades we've looked for ways to shorten what we need to say ... in a way that the recipient will understand what we mean.

So, why should law enforcement be any different? Police officers spend all day communicating with one another, talking to dispatchers and relaying information to other departments such as fire and paramedics. Often, these conversations are urgent. Sometimes, they are a matter of life or death. That means this communication has to be quick and effective. Enter 10-codes. 10-codes are a system of numbers that correspond to different words and phrases understood by both parties. You've heard someone say, "10-4," before, right? "10-4" is the code for acknowledging something someone else says. Simple as that.

But, there's a whole world of 10-codes out there! Maybe you're a CB radio fanatic or you just like listening to police traffic on a scanner. Now's your chance to test your recall of 10-codes. See how many of these police abbreviations you know, from 10-1 to 10-106! 

A police officer on a call that he or she would consider urgent would use which of these codes?

The code "10-18" is one that police officers use to signify that something they are dealing with is urgent. That could include things like a burglary in progress or a serious car accident.


You just heard a "10-17" over the radio. What does it mean?

A "10-17" is police code for meeting a complainant. A complainant is typically the individual who placed the call to police in the first place, alleging that something criminal has occurred to them.


Perhaps the most recognizable of all police codes, this one means "OK." What code is an acknowledgment of something said?

The code "10-4" is an acknowledgment or "OK" by someone listening to confirm a statement made by someone else. The popularity of this code has bled over into the mainstream, where you can hear truckers and regular people using it in conversation.


An officer who is making a pit stop for a meal or a bathroom break might signal that he or she is which of these?

An officer who's "10-7" is out of service for one reason or another. It could be that they've stopped to get food or make a bathroom stop. Telling dispatch they are "out of service" lets dispatch know they can't take any calls until further notice.


If you get pulled over by a police officer, they might request a "10-27" on you. What is a "10-27?"

Ugh, getting pulled over is the worst, but don't panic if you hear an officer signal a "10-27." This is a way of communicating with dispatch to collect information about you based on your driver's license details.


An officer trying to get information about weather or road conditions might signal one of these. Which is it?

In most places, a "10-13" is an officer's request for information about weather or road conditions. Some departments have their own codes, like New York City, where a "10-13" means that an officer is in need of backup.


A "10-73" might be used in communicating with a fire department. What is a "10-73?"

If a police officer uses the code "10-73," there's a good chance he or she is talking to someone at the fire department and getting a "smoke report" on an existing fire being handled.


Dispatchers might issue a 10-code to get an officer to return to a prior location. What's that number?

If an officer is issued a "10-19," this is code for them to return to some prior location. This code is typically accompanied by specific directions, such as "10-19 to the station" or another important spot.


It's a code officers hope to avoid, a "10-32." What does it represent?

Officers who see or approach a man with a gun might alert other officers and dispatchers by signaling a "10-32," simply a "man with a gun." This is an effective way to communicate the seriousness of the current situation.


Police officers frequently detain suspects and use which of these codes to communicate that move?

A dispatcher who hears an officer signal a "10-26" knows that officer has detained a suspect or person of interest. In many departments, this code also means that the officer needs expedited attention from dispatch or other officers.


You might find a "10-56" near a bar. What does it mean?

A "10-56" is the way officers communicate they're dealing with a drunken pedestrian. While this would certainly be common around bars or clubs, a "10-56" could happen anywhere ... if you've ever seen "Live PD."


When an officer retires or passes away, this is the signal used to illustrate that. What is it?

One of the lesser-known 10-codes, "10-42" is used to indicate an officer's "end of duty." This may be due to their retirement or, in more emotional cases, used by other officers in a type of ceremony after an officer's death.


A "10-11" means that an officer is dealing with a non-human scenario. What is involved?

We don't think there are any codes for dealing with aliens or alligators, but maybe there should be! In police lingo, a "10-11" means that an officer is dealing with a situation involving a dog, typically an aggressive one.


It could be a bank robbery or a home invasion! Which police code indicates a crime is currently in progress?

A "10-31" would certainly be a situation where additional officers are necessary because it means there's a crime currently in progress. This code alerts other officers to speed to the alerting officer's location.


What's happening when an individual reports a "10-14?"

It might be most common for a dispatcher to advise officers of a "10-14," when a caller makes a report of a prowler. A homeowner, for example, might call 911 to report this suspicious situation.


This police code frequently occurs on the side of the highway. What is it?

An officer would signal a "10-46" if he or she has stopped to help a motorist. That could include anything from helping to change a tire to delivering a baby (yes, officers, are still confronted with that sometimes!)


A "10-51" is probably called for after a motor vehicle accident. What does it signal?

An accident that renders at least one motor vehicle unable to be driven would cause a police officer to call out a signal "10-51." This is a way of signaling that a tow truck is needed to assist.


Mooooo, get out of the way! What code would an officer indicate if there's livestock on the highway?

You wouldn't think it would happen frequently enough to warrant its own code, but apparently it does! A "10-54" is an officer's way of alerting others that there are animals in the roadway. It could just be a deer, of course, but we prefer to think of it as a herd of cows.


An officer's approach as a "10-40" indicates what type of arrival?

A "10-40" is a signal for a silent run, meaning that the officer should appear at the scene without lights or sirens on his or her vehicle. This might be done to avoid alerting a potential suspect or simply for a non-emergency situation.


You probably know what a "10-4" is, but how would an officer indicate a non-affirmative answer?

A "10-4" is used as an affirmative to acknowledge something being said. On the other hand, a "10-74" is used in place of saying "no" or "negative" in regard to a comment made by someone else on the police radio.


We're fascinated by high-speed chases on television, but how does an officer indicate he's involved in one?

A "10-80" is used by officers to indicate they are involved in a chase. Of course, that could be a chase in a vehicle on the freeway or a foot pursuit with a subject who has taken off on them.


Sometimes, things come up! A "10-85" lets everyone else know what?

An officer who has been delayed can issue a signal "10-85" and then offer the reason for the delay, if necessary. Delays are a natural part of the police officer's job and this allows them to communicate that clearly.


The traffic lights are out at a busy intersection. What signal indicates an officer is directing traffic?

Have you ever seen a police officer in the middle of an intersection directing the flow of traffic? If so, he or she has likely signaled a "10-58" to let others know they are facilitating the flow of traffic.


A "10-16" is probably a fairly common occurrence in dealing with people. What does it represent?

Oh, the domestic situations that officers find themselves refereeing. These can occur at home or in public, but typically involve people in a relationship or those who live in the same residence.


A friend might ask your "ETA." A dispatcher might ask an officer for the same, using which code?

In police code, a "10-77" is a way for an officer to indicate his or her "estimated time of arrival." After all, why say you'll be somewhere in 15 minutes, if you can sound cooler by saying, "10-77 15 minutes?"


An officer who says, "10-22," over the radio is telling you what?

In police talk, a good way of saying "never mind" or "disregard" is to use the police code known as "10-22." This might be used when originally asking for backup, but later changing your mind.


If a transmission comes through and an officer doesn't hear it, he or she might request for it to be repeated by using which code?

"10-9" is a good way for officers to let others he or she is communicating with know that they didn't hear what was said. A "10-9" indicates that an officer needs the previous transmission repeated.


It's all fun and games until an officer signals a "10-94." What does that represent?

If an officer signals a "10-94" in your presence, watch out! There's a drag race happening nearby. There are some venues where drag racing is deemed acceptable, but public streets and highways aren't part of them.


Which of these will be signaled when police encounter a deceased person?

A "10-79" isn't just about alerting radio listeners to the presence of a deceased person. It actually means that a coroner should be notified. In some police departments, a "10-79" is used to signal a bomb threat.


A bank alarm going off has its own police code. Which one of these is it?

A "10-90" is a way for dispatchers and police officers to indicate that a bank alarm is in the process of sounding. Of course, it could be a false alarm or a legitimate one, but it has to be checked out either way.


When officers call for a "10-28," what are they looking for?

"License and registration, please!" We've all probably heard those words. A "10-28" is the code police officers use to obtain further information on a driver's vehicle registration.


A fight at a restaurant or a concert might be explained with which of these police codes?

It's not limited to a restaurant or a concert, of course, but a "10-10" illustrates that a fight is in progress ... somewhere. Officers may need additional hands on deck in this situation or extra squad cars to transport transgressors.


Does anyone copy? A "10-1" might indicate which of these?

Just like we experience, "Can you hear me now?" moments on our personal smartphones, police officers may not be able to copy when communications come through over the radio. They can issue a "10-1," indicating a weak or poor signal.


Police officers don't send texts letting others know when they've arrived somewhere. Instead, they issue which of these signals?

A "10-23" is a police officer's way of letting others know when he or she has arrived at a given location. So, instead of saying, "I've arrived at the stadium," they might say, "I'm 10-23 at the stadium."


What is an officer asking for when they issue a "10-36?"

Hey, sometimes even police officers lose track of time. Signaling a "10-36" is a way for a police officer to ask someone listening on the radio – likely a dispatcher – what the correct time actually is.


When a police officer wraps up an assignment, he or she lets dispatch know by issuing which of these?

A "10-24" lets dispatchers know that an officer is finished with his current assignment. This is important because it means that an officer is free to attend to other matters that might warrant their attention.


This code indicates a wreck has happened, but only property damage is the result. What is it?

As you might imagine, officers have many different codes for responding to motor vehicle accidents. Typically, a "10-50" indicates that a wreck has occurred, but hold the ambulance – only property damage resulted.


A "10-57" is indicative of which type of accident?

We've already discussed that there are many codes for handling accidents, but a "10-57" is a special kind that deals exclusively with a hit-and-run accident. This occurs when someone is involved in a wreck, but flees the scene before police can arrive.


This quiz is over and you might be "en route" somewhere else. How does a police officer indicate he or she is "en route?"

Police officers can indicate they are traveling from one place to another by issuing a "10-76." This lets dispatchers and other officers know that the police officer speaking is "en route" to another location.


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