I know… it seems like a no-brainer. When you get out of the patrol car, let your dispatchers know where you are. Recruit officers have this drilled into their heads by their FTOs, and we know it makes sense. After all, you never know what may happen at any given moment, and in the middle of a fight is not a good time to start trying to give dispatch you location.
However, we are all big, bad police officers, and at some time or another most of us have been impatient with the radio traffic. Not wanting to wait for radio time (and besides, I can handle myself, right?) we have gotten out with that pedestrian or stalled car without calling it in. And most of us have gotten away with it.
But, what happens next time? Maybe next time, we don’t get away with it.
Case in point. A couple of our POP (Problem Oriented Policing) units go hunting for a local drug dealer that we have charges on. In-and-out of various apartment complexes they go, and then suddenly, there he is! They see him, he sees them, and it is off to the races. (Kudos to the sergeant for running him down, by the way.)
The units call out the foot chase, and patrol units start responding. Dispatch tells us the apartment complex, and the POP units are calling out directions and landmarks. The only problem is, dispatch had the wrong location. Police officers from all over two districts were enroute to an apartment complex that was several map grids north of the actual location. I don’t know who made the error, but either the units failed to notify dispatch of their location prior to the chase, or dispatch failed to update CAD. Regardless, we had to find them by GPS (which, ain’t always accurate!)
Ok, try this one. I work a shoplifting case: local drunk walks into a 7-Eleven and runs out with a beer. The suspect in this heinous crime was last seen (45 minutes ago) running away toward a nearby park. I decide to drive through the area and see if I can spot anyone matching the description.
A certain corner of the park is the occasional home of some urban campers (aka transients). Near this area of the park is a house. I decide to knock on the door to the house. Fortunately, I called out my precise location, because inside the house is my suspect, who has decided that fighting with the police is a far better choice than simply being given a notice to appear. Within a minute of knocking on the door, I am taking the suspect to the ground, while his three buddies start inching closer. Now was not the time to try to call out my location. Since dispatch knew where I was, the calvary knew where to go, and things didn’t get any worse.
Remember, your partner may have to come looking for you. So, cut him some slack, and tell dispatch where to send him beforehand.
Richard is a police officer with a medium sized, central Florida department, and previously worked for a Metro-Atlanta agency. He has served as a field training officer, court officer, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, watch commander, commander of a field training and evaluation program, and general pain in the butt to management-types looking to cut training hours.