We have procedures officers in the field are supposed to follow on the radio.  They are designed to allow the quickest, most efficient transfer of information possible.  It really gums up the works, and creates needless stress, when radio traffic is not conducted according to those procedures.

Last night, the 4th of July, was one of those nights that will have me cursing the name of a particular unit for a long time.  Those in the know will probably figure out who I mean just from their own knowledge of the departments and personel involved, but I’m not going to name names (or unit numbers!) (even though my “about” blurb says the guilty will be hung out to dry!  It is my job, so I have to be minimally diplomatic in this rant.  I may still hear about it from upper echelons).  I’m going to hope it’s simply a training issue, and not a case of “I’m the most important thing on this radio channel, and you better be able to handle what ever I do regardless of how many other things are going on!”.

How can any unit in the field not realize that there are 20-25 units on the same radio channel, it’s a national holiday, it’s hot as hell, and their dispatch center is a small room in the basement of the jail building?  Are you not listening?  You just key up and start talking?  Really?

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

“Visalia, (unit number), 10-38”  (which means ‘dispatch, I’m making a traffic stop, and I need you to enter it into the computer’)

If I’m on the phone, or doing something else (It’s not just radio work) I stop what I’m doing and  respond, “(unit number) Visalia, go ahead”.  (While I’m saying that, I’ve quickly typed the following into the computer:  {:SI,(unit number),TS,}  (no brackets) and now I’m waiting for the response to finish.  The unit has my full attention)

Then the unit goes ahead and says “Visalia, (unit number) (they might say 10-38 again, or maybe not) (location), California commercial (license plate number)”

I’ve typed the appropriate command into the computer to enter the call, and read back pertinent license plate info.  Easy-peasy. Quick, accurate, efficient.

That’s not the way it went on one of the busiest nights of the year.

There was a unit on my radio, the channel with the most units on duty at the same time, who seemed to think that regardless of how many units I just spoke to, took their traffic, or handled requests to make phone calls for them, if the radio was quiet right then, well…  the dispatcher must not be doing ANYthing at all!  He/she/it just keyed up and started talking, not giving me a moment’s notice to configure the computer to accept the information he/she/it is giving me.  I wear a wireless headset, to allow me the freedom to move around the room but still be able to monitor the radio.  I have filing to do, faxing to do, other dispatchers to help, and sometimes you just need to get up and move around a bit!  The point is, I may not be directly at the console when the radio starts talking in my ear.

So what happens when a field unit makes a traffic stop and just keys up and rattles off the information without following proper procedure?  He/she/it has to repeat it!  There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over!  This happened repeatedly last night with one particular unit.  When he/she/it cleared, they keyed up again and rattled off information they wanted included in the call as they cleared the traffic.  Once again, not ready to copy because I’m, oh, I don’t know, doing the dozen other things that might require doing at any given moment in dispatch!, I make him/her/it repeat.  It did not seem to sink in to him/her/it that they were pretty much the only unit I was making repeat nearly every transmission.

The operating procedures are not random rules to make an officer’s or deputy’s life complicated.  They exist to allow the smoothest operation of the team that is dispatch and field units.  When units fail to follow them, it slows down everything.  It raises the stress level in a job already famous for stress related issues.  It’s simply a pain in everyone’s ass!

If this continues, I may have to write a memo!  (and that’s something I’ve only done once or twice in my 19 year long career)

oh, and today is my 19th anniversary at Tulare County Sheriff’s Department as an Emergency Dispatcher II.  Happy Day…  and it’s my day off!