I don’t get it

Here’s a little radio quirk I’ve never understood. It’s not specific to dispatchers or officers. I’ve heard them both do it. Lemme play out a scenario for you…

Either dispatch or an officer is putting out the description of a vehicle. The vehicle is described as a late model Honda four door and it’s “red in color”. Really? In color? What the hell else would it be? Red in shape? Red in texture?

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things that bugs me. Like asking for the next available report number. What else is dispatch going to give you? The report number for next week? Stop being redundant. You’re taking up airtime.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog reading. Thank you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

15 thoughts on “I don’t get it

  1. I honestly think the reason for this is two fold.

    1. The vehicle is described as a late model Honda four door and it's red.

    That to me seems unnatural, obviously the preferred way to say this would be "The vehicle is a red, late model Honda, four door", however when giving the description the red is an afterthought. The phrase "in color" alleviates the feeling that what you're saying is unnatural.

    2. I am not a radio operator, and have only used a walkie talkie as a child, but it seems that in general usage, radio communications add superfluous information to ensure clarity. Adding "over", or using the military alphabet to spell out things, or saying "Bread with a B" to avoid mistaking it for red or tread.

    I definitely agree with you that it seems rather obvious that if you're saying something is red, you mean the color of it, though I think it's the subconscious causing us to do this, and I wouldn't blame a cop or dispatcher for just trying to communicate without analyzing everything they say at the moment they do so.

    Very interesting thing to notice though!

  2. I teach my academy students to be concise in their report writing and radio communications. A green in color 4 door sedan is…..get this. A green sedan. Its crazy.

    In response to Brett's comments on phonetics, the use of them for clarity is not superfluous and we are going to do a little test to prove it. Say the following letters/numbers out loud.

    E. B. C. D.

    F. S.

    T. 3.

    All sound pretty similar, right? Image the crackling of the radio and background noise when hearing them. Clarity is very important in law enforcement communications. Hence the use of standard phonetics (Not military).

    Edward, Boy, Charles, David.

    Frank, Sam.

    Tom, Three.

    All very clear.

  3. How about when people say "VIN Number"??

    Or in my line of work MSDS Sheets(Material Safety Data Sheet Sheets)

    Although those can probably be attributed to people just not knowing what an acronym stands for, I'm sure the list goes on…

  4. My personal nitpicks…..

    If I put myself "in service"
    radio responds "available"

    If I put myself "available"
    radio responds "in service"

    what gives?

  5. I agree… and in my world .. no matter how its typed.. I fumble around and put it in the order I like to put it out over the air. Late model red honda 4dr…

    Year, Color, make, model, doors and anything that sticks out from it – thats not normal!

    But them again… I hate my voice over the air.

  6. I'm with Dispatcher, I put it out the way I want it. and 'in color' is never in there. i also like when the officers say, "Driver license thru IL." Yeah, that's where we are, don't tell me the state unless it's different!!
    end of rant..

  7. I try hard not to do that or say VIN number. When I'm dispatching EMS, I never, ever say "unconscious but breathing". Butt breathing? Does that automatically up the priority of a call?

    I do use my phoenetic alphabet. I have been known to combine the words we used for "V" and "W" and come out with "whisker" much to my officer's amusement. ("Dispatch meet me on two." "What the hell is WHISKER?")

    But then, I'm usually trying to beat the kings of the 10-second traffic stops. I type 90 wpm and can't always keep up. And I do make enough other errors to balance this out. I agree with you that many things end up being very annoying over the radio. Some of them are funny, and those make the dispatch Christmas party tape.

  8. The one that gets me? "At this time"

    The defendent is laying on the ground, "at this time"

    We are pursuing the subject, "at this time"

    It gets old.

  9. I spent a little time listening to the scanner to see if there were any howlers–none this day that I heard.

    Some quirks: Because we're on the state line, MO and KS cars are stopped, so the state is always specified.

    KCMO PD used 100 series to ID cars/officers. Each Patrol has a time period where their number and the hour of the day can sound identical: So, for South Patrol, from 0500-0559, the dispatcher will say, "Time: 0530" to prevent confusion.

    My favorite phrase from PD: An officer asking, "Is the air clear?" My evil little mind always thinks, "I didn't know it was foggy."

  10. I would suggest it's because of the static. If I don't understand "blue" because of background noise, I might still catch "color" which will trigger my cognizant bank of color names and find the one that most matches the sound I didn't recognize.

  11. Can you address one of my other pet peeves – "rate of speed", as in, "the car was traveling at a high rate of speed"?


  12. Don't forget "2 am in the morning".

    Because sometimes 2 am comes in the afternoon…? 😛

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