Police scanner codes are commonly used by law enforcement across the world to communicate via two-way radio. By learning police scanner codes and police 10 codes, amateur radio operators can learn how to monitor law enforcement.
Below you’ll find a guide to police scanner codes, police 10 codes, and some of the most common police abbreviations you’ll find. Keep reading to learn how to use these codes to identify police activity.
As you’ll see in this guide, the scanner codes used by police are not held secret.
Any citizen with a scanner and an interest in monitoring radio transmissions can gain access to police communications by memorizing the codes in the sections below.
Types of Police Scanner Codes
Many of the codes that police use are either 10 codes or 11 codes – these are standard codes that are used for much of the regular radio chatter you hear on police radios.
However, there are also miscellaneous codes for medical emergencies and triple or five-digit codes used to reflect specific situations, such as drunk or reckless driving scenarios.
Police Reception and Standard Walkie-Talkie Codes
Police 10 codes that have to deal with general reception and communications on a two-way radio are some of the simplest police codes that you can learn.
Rather than addressing police activity, these codes are used to determine the quality of radio communications and whether communications have been sent or received.
Below you’ll find some of the most common police codes used to test communications and radio reception on two-way police communications:
|Radio Reception Codes
|Message received, understood
|Out of service
|How do you receive it?
|Any radio traffic?
Police Prisoner Codes
There are not many codes that are associated with prisoner transport or transfer. However, the two police 10 codes primarily associated with prisoners are listed in the table below:
|Police Prisoner Codes
|Prisoner in custody
|Pick up prisoner
Police Scanner Emergency Codes
Even though emergencies call for ambulances, fire trucks, and other emergency vehicles, police are often the first responders on the scene to many types of emergency situations.
Here is a table of the scanner codes that you’re likely to hear in police communications when they respond to a variety of different emergency situations from drowning and bomb threats to kidnappings and robberies.
|Police Emergency Code
|Under influence of drugs
|Possible dead body
|Attack in high hazard area
|Accident – ambulance sent
|Accident – major injuries
|Officer needs help
|Assault with intent to murder
|Assault with deadly intent
|Shooting at inhabited dwelling
|Person with a gun
|Person with a knife
|Hit and run – felony
|SWAT team call-up
Police Scanner Animal Codes
Even though most municipal areas have animal control officers that are dedicated to dealing with stray or dangerous animals in the public, police are sometimes the first person contacted when animal-related issues arise.
The codes that are used by the police to acknowledge that the issue at hand is animal-related are “10-91” codes, so if you hear “10-91” come over the radio, you’ll know an animal was somehow involved.
Below you’ll find a list of these 10-91 code variations that are used for different animal-related scenarios:
|Police Scanner Animal Code
|Animal, pickup collect
|Animal, leash law violation
Police Scanner Vehicle Codes
Since many of the situations that police have to deal with are concerned with road patrols and traffic violations, many of the police scanner codes and police 10 codes they use are specifically designated for vehicle-related activities.
Here is a table of the most common vehicle-related codes you’ll hear over a police scanner:
|Police Scanner Vehicle Codes
|Request for gasoline
|Request car-to-car transmit
|Doesn’t conform to regulations
|Office being followed by auto
|Tow truck required
|Checking suspicious vehicle
|Hit and run – misdemeanor
|Tampering with a vehicle
Police Scanner Theft and Forgery Codes
Much of the crime that the police have to deal with is involving theft, forgery, and breaking and entering. Police are often called to respond to business robbery alarms and other signs of prowler activity.
These are the codes you’re likely to hear over a police scanner if the police are investigating a theft, forgery, robbery, or burglar call:
Theft and Forgery Codes
|Police Scanner Theft and Forgery Codes
|Alarm sounding, audible
|Robbery alarm, silent
|Burglar alarm, silent
Petty Crime Police Scanner Codes
Not all of the crime that police have to deal with constitutes an emergency or serious issues like assaults and robberies. Police are also called into what are called “petty crimes” – crimes that are considered illegal, but not necessarily dangerous to the public.
In the table below you’ll find some of the most common petty crime codes you’ll hear over police scanners:
|Petty Crime Police Scanner Codes
|Threatening phone calls
Police Scanner Traffic Codes
Along with dealing with traffic violations like speeding and reckless driving, police also have to occasionally direct traffic or deal with the aftermath of traffic accidents.
Some of the traffic scenarios that police deal with are considered emergencies, such as a drunk or stoned driver.
However, there are also police traffic codes for more mundane traffic problems like a malfunctioning signal light or routine traffic stops.
Here are some of the most common police scanner codes that deal with traffic:
|Police Scanner Traffic Codes
|Signal light out
|Defective signal light
|Routine traffic stop
|Speeding or racing vehicles
|Drunk pedestrian on roadway
|Drunk driving – injuries
|Driver under narcotics
|Person throwing objects at vehicles
Police Scanner Medical Codes
Since police are often first responders, especially to the scene of traffic accidents, they are often involved in first aid response for any drivers or passengers wounded in traffic collisions.
The police are also called to the scene of drug overdoses, fights, domestic violence, and other situations which might require medical intervention.
Below you’ll find the police scanner codes associated with medical emergencies:
|Police Scanner Medical Codes
|Call a doctor
|Condition of patient?
|Good condition (patient)
|Serious condition (patient)
|Critical condition (patient)
|Dead condition (patient)
|Possible dead body
|Advise if ambulance needed
|No ambulance needed
|Critical trauma case
|Acute trauma case
|Serious case (IV started)
|Basic transport (not serious)
Do Amateur Radio Operators Use Police Scanner Codes?
While some novice radio operators might use 10 codes or police scanner codes over ham radio, this practice is heavily discouraged by more seasoned operators.
Instead of 10 codes, amateur ham radio operators use a different set of codes known as “Q codes.” These codes are derived from Morse code and help differentiate amateur radio operators from police radio operators on open frequencies.
It isn’t illegal for ham radio operators to use police codes. However, it is an easy way to single yourself out as an amateur radio operator. (Source: eInvestigate)
What Are Police Scanner Codes?
Police scanner codes are a series of shorthand codes based on letters and numbers that are used by law enforcement officers to quickly and discreetly pass information along two-way radio bands.
Using police scanner codes can help conceal law enforcement activity from criminal elements and also allows police officers to communicate effectively with each other and with emergency dispatch while on the job.
Where Did Police Scanner Codes Originate?
Police scanner codes date back to just before World War II in the 20th century. Police scanner codes were originally invented by the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials. (Source: WikiHow)
Why Do Police Use Scanner Codes?
Police scanner codes are used for several different reasons. Here are just a few of the reasons that police have for using code on radio transmissions instead of regular speech:
- Discretion: Using code allows police to communicate via radio without transmitting the details of their movements and activities to those who are unfamiliar with the codes. Most average citizens do not know police scanner codes or listen to police radio.
- Reduced radio chatter: By using a specialized code to communicate via radio, police reduce the amount of unrelated radio chatter that would otherwise clutter police lines of communication. This results in less distracting and more clear radio communications.
- Speed: Communicating in a shorthand code allows police to communicate more quickly than they’d communicate in regular speech. This reduces response time and police reaction times in emergencies that require their help.
Can You Listen to Police Scanners in the US?
It is perfectly legal to use a scanner to listen in on police radio frequencies as a hobby. There are only a few specific instances where this practice might be illegal or discouraged:
- In vehicles: It is illegal in most areas for radio operators to both carry a police scanner in their vehicles and operate a police scanner while driving.
- To intercept police activity: When police scanners are used by citizens to intervene in criminal activity without legal authority, this practice is called vigilantism. The punishment for vigilante activity varies from situation to situation depending on what actions are taken, but it is almost always illegal. (Source: LegalMatch)
- To aid in a crime: If police scanners are used by criminals as a tool to commit crime, suspects can be charged with an additional crime for the act in several states such as California, New Jersey, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Nebraska. (Source: Zip Scanners)
Listening to police scanners can be entertaining and informative. However, it’s important to ensure that you’re doing so in a legal manner to avoid direct confrontations with the police.
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Can You Listen to Police Scanners on a Ham Radio?
Specialized scanners can be used to monitor police radio activity, but the average ham radio cannot pick up police communications.
The reason for this is that amateur ham radios and police two-way radios typically operate on two different frequency bands that are mutually exclusive.
There are a few exceptions where a ham radio may be able to pick up police scanner communications (Source: Field Radio):
- Extended receive coverage: Some more advanced ham radios might have extended receive coverage that allows them to access analog public safety channels used by police and other law enforcement.
- Digital signals: Many police departments are swapping over to digital communications rather than radio communications. In this case, a ham radio that is set up to intercept digital signals will be able to access these signals.
Even if you have a ham radio that is capable of intercepting police scanner codes and police 10 codes, some police departments have moved to using encrypted frequencies. This makes it even more difficult for amateur radio operators to intercept their communications.
Police Scanner Codes Are Secure Communications
Since the average citizen on the street doesn’t monitor police communications via two-way radio, this makes them a fairly secure mode of communications for the police to use to keep their conversations to themselves.
Knowing police scanner codes and police 10 codes can open amateur radio operators up to a whole world of real-time information about local police activities.
Topics Covered - Index
- Types of Police Scanner Codes
- Police Reception and Standard Walkie-Talkie Codes
- Police Prisoner Codes
- Police Scanner Emergency Codes
- Police Scanner Animal Codes
- Police Scanner Vehicle Codes
- Police Scanner Theft and Forgery Codes
- Petty Crime Police Scanner Codes
- Police Scanner Traffic Codes
- Police Scanner Medical Codes
- Do Amateur Radio Operators Use Police Scanner Codes?
- What Are Police Scanner Codes?
- Can You Listen to Police Scanners in the US?
- Can You Listen to Police Scanners on a Ham Radio?
- Police Scanner Codes Are Secure Communications