Interesting story on NPR today about some police departments experimenting with plain English.
I've always been curious about the 10-signals (like 10-4, etc.) cops have used on the street - not about what they mean, 'cause as a crime reporter back in the day I had a lot of 'em memorized, but rather why they used them instead of just describing what they were encountering.
The two logical answers that most police agencies cite are that using a 10-signal is a lot faster than giving a normal description, and a 10-signal gives them a little privacy from criminals and other curious folks or weirdos who might be listening in on them.
I get the speed argument, but the privacy thing is a farce. When I was covering crime I had a couple of friends who drove around with police radios in their cars for fun. One guy even kept one on his nightstand, much to the chagrin of his wife. That pair? They had memorized every signal in use by their local police department, and they had even deciphered a lot of the cop slang used in idle chatter over the radio. There are lots of folks out there like these two. When the cops in that town wanted privacy they had to go to a secure channel not accessible by civilian police scanners, 'cause they know lots of folks were listening.
On the other hand, there's an argument to be made for making cops' actions as transparent as possible. It could protect the innocent who are falsely accused - civilians as well asinnocent cops accused of misconduct.
Anyway, the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Police Department is one of the expirementers. They decided to try plain English after officers and other emergency personnel couldn't communicate with one another over the radio, following a bad storm a few years ago.
So now, instead of getting on the radio and telling a dispatcher "I've got a possible 414 or a 419 at a residential property," Chattanooga cops have been instructed to say things to the effect of "I see what may be a prowler or a burglar at a house."
Instead of jargon like "...making entry to suspect domicile," Chattanooga cops are encouraged to tell the dispatcher, "I'm going inside," or "I'm walking through the front door."
Makes sense to me!
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