‘Plain talk’ working for law agencies

Law enforcement agencies are reporting a much easier time communicating six months after the county changed the way they talk over their radios.

Since Oct. 1, 2013, all public safety agencies in Webster County have been using “plain talk” to talk with each other, instead of using what was known as the “10-code.”

Though some of the 10-codes are still being used, Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs said the transition overall has been excellent.

“I think it’s been beneficial for us,” he said. “It’s made things easier for everybody to understand.”

Before the switch, which came as a result of a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the potential for confusion existed when it came to using different codes.

“A lot of the 10-codes were not used very often, so there were always some people that had to really think about what that code was for,” Stubbs said. “Now everybody can understand what’s trying to be communicated.”

Sometimes a 10-code meant something different, depending on the jurisdiction, he said.

“Some of the 10-codes over the years had a couple of meanings,” Stubbs said. “It could have meant a chase, it could have meant narcotics, or it could have meant something else. This way it’s more standardized because you are actually saying what you are requesting.”

Lt. Chuck Guthrie, of the Fort Dodge Police Department, said he prefers using plain talk.

“It’s understandable, and people know exactly what you mean when you say it,” he said

“Everyone knew how to use the 10-code, but when you wanted to get out information fast it was difficult,” he said. “For example, 10-32 used to be someone with a gun. Now, instead of saying 10-32, we just say it’s someone with a gun.”

Guthrie said it also helps the general public understand what’s going on if they are listening to a police scanner.

“Our goal is to communicate better with the public,” he said. “If people listen to the scanner, they can still understand what we mean.”

Initially, there were challenges with getting used to not speaking the 10-code.

“You’re used to all the different codes and that’s the way you would put it out,” Guthrie said. “But we’re used to it now.”

While some codes are still being used, Stubbs said it’s doubtful that the 10-code will be eliminated completely.

“We have very few that are left, and those that are left serve a unique purpose,” he said. “Those codes still need to be incorporated.”

Among the 10-codes that remain are 10-4, which is an officer acknowledging that they have received a message.

Local law enforcement have been very open to the change, according to Guthrie.

“Everyone seems to be dealing with it in a professional manner,” he said. “It’s worked out pretty good and I think it’s been pretty smooth.”