While perusing the comments on the APCO International Open Forum a few weeks ago, I noticed a request:
“We are in the process of writing a general order for our agency regarding dispatch checking on officers who aren’t assigned to a call but have been in service for a currently unspecified length of time—probably 30 minutes. Does any agency have a policy like this that we can use as a guideline?”
Some of the responses:
“We don’t have a policy per se. But as a rule of thumb, I will check on officers either via MDC message or just ask them for a radio or status check, or I call them and then tell them to disregard.”
Would that be thumbs up or thumbs down on the officer’s part when being asked so many times for a status check? If I were one of their officers, after receiving a call on the radio and then being told to “disregard,” I’d do the same thing right back to the dispatcher to show them what I thought about that status check.
I did like this response:
“Does your CAD system prompt you for such a response and show which officers you need to check on? Has anyone asked your vendor if this is possible? Does anyone feel that this feature is even important?” (CAD companies, are you listening to this?!)
“Most agencies use a dog timer in the CAD and set it for every five to 15 minutes for a check in while in service but unassigned.”
Dog timer? Is this a system used to check the status of K9 units and officers? Does it bark when it does off? In all my years, I’ve never heard of a dog timer. And setting it for every five to 15 minutes?!
And what about the poor law enforcement officer working the night shift who starts to do the 0330 hrs head bob? Instead of driving around and putting the squad car in a ditch or head-on into a tree, they decide to go to a safe place for a quick 10-minute nap. They get cozy, drift off for a couple of minutes, and then, the radio blares out their call sign, requesting a status. Now that officer has to try to sound awake to respond and has a few choice words for the telecommunicators before clicking on the microphone (or maybe not) and acknowledging their status. (No, the officers never tell dispatch they’re sleeping.)
What’s a night shift officer to do? But it may not be just a night shift issue. I’ve heard stories of day shift officers falling asleep, parking behind stores with their in-car cameras on and not moving for two hours.
The Serious Side
OK. So I’ve poked fun at this and knowingly upset some people, but law enforcement and firefighter safety is a very important issue.
A lot of the responses to this post noted that their agency has no set policy and that it’s left up to the telecommunicator to check the statuses of their officers. Again, too much responsibility placed on the telecommunicator. God help the telecommunicators who forgets to do a status check and something happens.
People, don’t make regular status checks an accepted practice; make it a policy. To me, an “accepted practice” is just an incident away from a lawsuit. I applaud the author of this forum post and their agency for making this into a policy because when “it” hits the fan policy, it comes down to “Was the policy followed or not?” I hope this individual will share their policy after it’s developed and implemented.
This policy must be uniform, covering all shifts and assignments equally. There should not be different policies and attitudes for day-shift officers, night-shift officers, drug enforcement, and so on and so on.
But how long should the time between status checks really be? This time frame should be discussed with and agreed on by everyone. And by everyone I mean staff, patrol, detectives and telecommunicators. We want everyone to go home after the shift is completed—with or without a “dog timer.”
Be safe out there!
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of APCO International.
Tell it to Radiohead
Got a question for Radiohead? Wanna sound off about an issue? Put it in an e-mail to PSCeditor@apcointl.org.
Posted with permission of APCO International from Public Safety Communications, Vol. 77(4), July 2011. www.apcointl.org and http://psc.apcointl.org.