Cops to talk ‘plain’

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Law enforcement officers around the state and across the country have recently been called upon to help in areas outside their own jurisdictions. It is that assistance in unfamiliar areas that may be behind the push to change jargon used by officers to a more universal language.

The use of “10” codes has been used since the 1920s and has proved valuable to law enforcement officers, however, with city, county and state boundaries often crossed to aid other agencies, some officers could be confused about codes used in other agency settings.

Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said the change in language for dispatching officers in any given agency is already taking place in his department.

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“This is going to be a required change,” Smith said. “We are already making changes in the way we communicate with officers in our own department and with other agencies.”

Smith said changing to “plain talk” just makes sense when crossing territorial lines.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Smith said. “When you’re working with other officers and other agencies, it could be confusing if they use different 10 codes than what we use. The less confusion you can have an any situation, the better things will be.”

Smith said the law will soon require every agency to go to a plain talk way of communications and the changes already underway in his department will put them at the front of the pack.

“People have already been making noise about this change because everyone is supposed to go to plain talk,” Smith said. “It’s been talked about for a long time, but it’s really coming now. We have already made changes in anticipation of the required move. We no longer use 10 codes exclusively. We are making changes before they are required.”

Smith said the move to new frequencies has already been mandated by law and made the move to plain talk easier for the department.

“Luckily, we got a grant that paid for 90 percent of the cost to change our frequency,” Smith said. “With that move we began using more plain language when we communicate between departments.”

Using plain language can help to create clearer communication across jurisdictional and agency lines. In addition, it may reduce the anxiety experienced by many new officers who have to memorize codes. It should also reduce training time for new officers. Plain language is encouraged by the Department of Homeland Security, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.