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Before being sworn (not swearing…I’ve been doing that for years, much to my mom’s chagrin), I spent a couple of years as a dispatcher in Southern California. Between time behind the mike and time with a gun, I’ve spent nearly half my life on the air. Consequently, I have some serious pet peeves when it comes to radio traffic.
And you should, too.
Our pet peeves may not be the same, but I would urge you to take a serious look at mine and consider making it yours, as well.
Before I launch into my tirade, I must make a confession. On the very day I write this, I was guilty of committing this particular misstep earlier today.
As is human nature, I shall offer a defense and make excuses about the whys and wherefores behind my thinking at the time. That being said, however, I stand by my peeve…and it is this:
It drives me batty when I hear a fellow officer announce a traffic stop and immediately follow it up with “Code 4”. (Note: In my jurisdiction, Code 4 means “no further assistance needed”.)
Now, why would that irk me? Because it means one of two things.
Either the officer is claiming he/she is code 4 before contacting the driver/occupants or they’ve already contacted the driver before notifying dispatch of the traffic stop.
Let’s think about each in turn. The first option is calling out the stop and assuming you require no further assistance. Assumption is the bastard cousin of complacency. I don’t care how long in the tooth you are, how many car stops you’ve done, or how close to retirement you may be. If you are assuming the vehicle in front of you and the occupant(s) therein represent no inherent danger, you are inviting trouble.
However, that isn’t the option that really tips the scales against you. The second one is far worse, in my humble opinion. Stopping a car, contacting the driver and/or other occupants without notifying dispatch before contact is a recipe for disaster. Where I work we call them “ghost stops”.
What if things go south in a hurry? (And don’t even start with the excuses here. I swear to God, if you even think the words “it won’t happen to me” I’ll fly to your jurisdiction and punch you in the throat. I think by now, we all realize it CAN and WILL happen anywhere.)
If you end up shot on the side of the road or getting your ass handed to you by a car load of thugs, realize that because you were too lazy to put your stop out ahead of time, it may be hours before help finds you. Is that what you want? How about your loved ones?
Of course not.
So, give your partners the opportunity to at least start your way when you call out a traffic stop. What harm is there in having them roll by and holding up the ubiquitous “code 4” hand signal?
Got a testy dispatcher you don’t like? I don’t care. Put your stop out.
Listen, as an old school dispatcher and an 8 ½ year-veteran motor officer, I get the desire to limit one’s time on the air. Say what you’ve got to say and then shut up. This ain’t radio-free Europe. Be concise. Be clear.
But give yourself the opportunity to be in the first place.
At the beginning of this piece, I admitted to committing this error in judgement twice. Listen, I understand busy jurisdictions. I get that sometimes you have a cop that just won’t shut up. Sometimes our brothers/sisters in blue feel like it’s their one shot to deliver Hamlet’s soliloquy right as you’re stopping a car full of possible serial killers.
It’s a pain in the ass.
On occasion, it becomes necessary to take a risk (and that’s exactly what it is) when you stop the Soccer Mom and decide not to wait for clear air to put out your stop. A calculated risk can, from time to time, be an okay thing. Let’s not forget…we’re cops. We dig on the danger. I get it.
Simple statistics should tell you, however, that the more times you roll the dice, the higher your odds of rolling snake eyes.
I’ve been to nearly two dozen cop funerals. What say I don’t add to that number? Put out your stops as often as conceivably possible, before contacting the driver/occupants.
Image courtesy of Flickr and dwightsghost