DHS Urges Police To Drop Codes in Favor of Plain English

Department of Homeland Security officials are urging police departments across the country to replace their jumble of 10, 11 and 900 codes with plain English in their day-to-day operations. The goal of the proposed change is to improve and standardize...


Department of Homeland Security officials are urging police departments across the country to replace their jumble of 10, 11 and 900 codes with plain English in their day-to-day operations.

The goal of the proposed change is to improve and standardize communication between agencies in an attempt to prevent miscommunication and decrease response time. When multiple agencies respond to an emergency, DHS indicated confusion caused by the use of department-specific codes could cost valuable time, information and even lives.

After events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, where departments were unable to effectively communicate with one another, DHS realized the need for standardization of intra-agency codes, but what do law enforcement officials think about the proposed change? We asked Patrick Fiel, ADT public safety advisor and former senior law enforcement advisor in the Military, what he thinks about the proposed standardization.

Fiel says plain English is needed for emergencies where multiple agencies are involved. He said, “When there is an incident such as an active shooter, we need to get the word out as quickly and as clearly as possible to as many agencies and first responders as we can.”

He also added, “Not every agency is on the same frequency; operating on the same frequency is another challenge that needs to be addressed.”

Fiel says that agencies should not give up department-specific codes all together. When responding to potentially dangerous situations, he says codes are imperative to “keeping the bad guys out of the loop,” and says codes can be invaluable for internal communication.

Making plain English the standard for intra-agency communication will no doubt solve some of the communication problems between first responders, but technology is also proving itself an invaluable tool: mobile video now allows first responders to tap into campus and facility surveillance systems, giving them a better idea of what they might face when responding to calls.

Departments nationwide are increasing the use of GPS and computer systems in the patrol cars. With these systems officers are able to log their arrival and location and enter their status from the computer in the car, eliminating the need to radio codes altogether.

-- PSW Staff

Patrick V. Fiel