LAPD Terminology/Uniformity

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jasonpeoria911

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This is a continuation post that arose from the Hot Shots Air/K-9 feed discussion. I'll post a couple replies from that thread over here for further discussion....

from KMA367

Apart from the sometimes awful digital sound, the only thing about LAPD that truly hurts my ears is that the lack of uniformity, clarity, and consistency in the way RTOs say stuff over the air. "Back in my day" there was a very specific way that you phrased virtually everything that you said: some messages got a simple "Roger," others you would echo back the officer's message (sometimes depending on what type of unit was talking to you), and so on; every call and crime broadcast followed a precise format and sequence of information, etc. Now it's often a hodge-podge of however the particular RTO wants to say it. Of course we had only about 100 dispatchers (RTOs) back then, now there are about 600 PSRs, much harder to ride herd on that many. But times change.

from jasonpeoria911

Yeah, the uniformity at LAPD is kind of lacking. The part I hate is for the shootings and stabbings. It's rather annoying when an Officer is giving a suspect description on a shooting and then dispatcher reads back that the suspect is wanted for an ADW shooting. Well is he wanted for just shots fired or actually shooting anyone? The dispatches can be confusing sometimes also for "Shooting just occurred", "Shooting in progress" and "Ambulance shooting".

On the other hand for the stabbings, they will say "a cutting victim" or something on all stabbing incidents. Well, is the victim cut or actually stabbed? Ahh annoying LOL.

Jason
 

KMA367

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Yeah, the uniformity at LAPD is kind of lacking. The part I hate is for the shootings and stabbings. It's rather annoying when an Officer is giving a suspect description on a shooting and then dispatcher reads back that the suspect is wanted for an ADW shooting. Well is he wanted for just shots fired or actually shooting anyone?
In LAPD-ese, "Shots fired" (by itself) implies no known victim: it refers to either "indiscriminate shooting" (someone heard gunshots in their neighborhood but didn't see anything): "Hollenbeck units, shots fired in the area of 4th & Gless." I'm not sure about current procedure, but in the past a single report of shots being heard would generate an "Information only" broadcast, and no specific unit would be dispatched. Get two or three calls though, and we'd send a car.

The other use of the term "shots fired" would be for a robbery, let's say, where the crook shot AT but didn't hit anybody: "All units, a 211 just occurred with shots fired, at..."

The dispatches can be confusing sometimes also for "Shooting just occurred", "Shooting in progress" and "Ambulance shooting".
The word "shooting" means (or is supposed to mean) that someone actually is being or has been shot. To be a little nit-picky, "Shooting in Progress" and "Ambulance:Shooting" are call-types that are broadcast when a call is dispatched, while "A shooting just occurred..." would normally be part of a crime broadcast received from an officer at the scene rather than a dispatch type.

The word "ambulance" attached to any call-type indicates that an ambulance (LAFD) has also been requested... "ambulance:shooting, ambulance:traffic, ambulance:attempt-suicide" etc.

And yes, "ADW shooting" which you mention above is just plain redundant; make it "an ADW" or a "shooting" broadcast and include the type or description of the weapon in the broadcast.

Edit:Thinking about that just a little more, in this case for the crime broadcast it doesn't really matter whether the victim was actually hit or not, it's still an ADW, "an assault with a deadly weapon or instrument or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury" (PC 245, 245.1, .2, .3, .4 or .5). The weapon used is what the other officers are going to be most interested in.

On the other hand for the stabbings, they will say "a cutting victim" or something on all stabbing incidents. Well, is the victim cut or actually stabbed? Ahh annoying LOL.
For whatever reason, LAPD has always (see c1939 and 1960s/70s call ticket pieces below) used the word "cutting" as the radio call-type for any sharp-instrument crime. Reports and broadcasts will of course specify the weapon when they can, but "cutting" is the call-type they use on the air whether the victim's been stabbed, jabbed, poked, slashed, sliced, or diced. When the caller is patched to LAFD, their firefighter/dispatcher will usually question them as to the weapon and more specifics about the injury, too.

I had mentioned the sheer number of dispatchers (Police Service Representatives) as being part of the lack of uniformity problem, but a couple other factors are the CAD system, which has hundreds of combinations of call types and subtypes, where there used to be perhaps 50 or 60 that were used regularly; dispatcher turnover, always a problem everywhere and which could soon hit LAPD Comms pretty hard with the city's new early-retirement plan (there goes all the institutional history again), and the number of new officers on the street, all of whom say things a little differently, since they're not really expected to always use the precise terms and phrases that the dispatchers should. All "reasons," but none are particularly good excuses, IMHO. But then I'm old school and always listen with a trainer's hypercritical ear anyway.
 

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DPD1

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Harry, since you've obviously listened to other departments as well... How would you say LAPD ranks in comms compared to others?
 

KMA367

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You asked for it, DPD1

Harry, since you've obviously listened to other departments as well... How would you say LAPD ranks in comms compared to others?
I'm terribly biased of course, with my wife and I having worked LAPD Communications for 40+ years combined, but overall I think they do a very good job for such a large city. As I know I've mentioned before, after LAPD I worked for South Bay Regional Comms (then in Redondo Beach with 7 PDs and 7 FDs) and then for little Grass Valley PD up north, who had a total of 11 officers. So from the biggest to one of the smallest dispatch centers in the state. LAPD's dispatching was far better squared away than either of those. But then, they'd been doing it for decades longer.

Anyway, it's not really a communications issue, but probably the biggest problem is simply not having nearly enough officers in the field to dispatch the calls to. When it's busy, a unit may have up to five (non-priority) calls in its "stack." If you're caller #5 you may be waiting hours for them to show up, and if you're the RTO, you've pretty much lost that unit for a good part of the shift... except they can be "re-toned" for a priority call if needed; but then all their still-pending calls get delayed even longer, or else dumped back into the division's queue. Very frustrating at both ends.

I was tempted to compare LAPD communications with other similar-sized departments like LASD and CHP, but it's like apples and oranges. Over the years every department establishes procedures for handling calls (not just the radio part) based on their overall policies and priorities and "way of doing business." What works well at LAPD Communications wouldn't at all fit into LASD's ways of doing things, or CHP's, and vice versa.

The terminology thing just happens to hit a nerve with me since it's become pretty loose compared to the tightly-prescribed word-for-word terminology and "basic operating procedures" that were drilled into us, and enforced (for the RTOs, but seldom for the officers) in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. But that's really a minor personal irritation rather than a problem for them... the dispatchers and officers seem to understand what each other are saying even if it's less formal and rigid than in the past.

They've got a terrific system, technically, which is very flexible to immediately meet changing needs, e.g. more than enough all-purpose consoles at the two dispatch centers which can be reconfigured on-the-fly if, for instance they suddenly need more radio operators or more call-takers, and maybe except for an extreme emergency that may some day happen, they've got plenty of radio frequencies.

The two biggest shortcomings, in my opinion, have to do first with a bizarre equipment issue, and then a specific procedure that's been handed down from "upstairs" - (Comm Div itself can make only minor tweaks in how calls are processed, or internal stuff like where people sit, break schedules, etc).

The unfathomable, to me, equipment "feature," which arose when they moved into the new dispatch centers in 2002 and 2003, is that the radio dispatcher (RTO) can no longer hear his/her units' transmissions whenever another operator is broadcasting on her frequency - which happens a LOT as any regular listener knows. There's apparently some arcane technical reason for this, but to me and most of the people actually working there, it's a huge officer-safety issue. And it's not a matter of "push-to-talk, release to listen" as in the units' radios. The RTO's incoming audio is from the UPLINK frequency (e.g. 509.7375 for Central Div), and the outgoing broadcast goes via the DOWNLINK side (506.7375), so they're not sharing or crossing paths. When the new consoles were installed in 2002, they were told that the vendor (whom I won't name, but their initials are Motorola), simply "couldn't" set it up the way it had been done ever since LAPD went two-way in the 1930s, where the operator could ALWAYS hear her units whether she or any other RTO was broadcasting. If I were still working there I probably would have been fired by now, as it's something I would have grabbed onto like a bulldog and never let go of. And I'm a really, really laid-back guy. Rumor a while back was that the vendor might try again to fix this back to pre-2002 "side-tone" and "mute" capabilities, but nothing's happened yet, as far as I know.

The other thing in my opinion, a procedure that ties directly into that equipment fiasco, is the overuse of multicasting so many questionably-appropriate (again IMHO) calls on so many frequencies. This has a long history, and one specific incident has probably guaranteed that a fair amount of it will continue forever, but I think it's way overdone. To use my earlier comparison, LAPD is quite different from LASD and CHP, in that all of LAPD's divisions are geographically right up against each other and share miles of common borders (see pdf at http://lapdonline.org/home/pdf_view/40022 ). It makes sense to broadcast most urgent life/property threat calls on adjacent divisions' frequencies, in the not-uncommon event that they may have a unit right on top of a borderline call. But the impression I've gotten over the past few years is that the pre-selects are often entirely overdone for many call-types. This is directly related to the officer-safety issue above, in that the RTO for a division becomes quite literally "deaf" to all her units whenever any other operator is transmitting on his/her frequency. When it's busy, there are often multiple back-to-back hotshot calls going out over any given frequency, rendering those officers' radios totally useless for as much as several minutes if they have an urgent - or even routine - message to transmit. Their only option is to hit their "Emergency/help" trigger, which most coppers aren't inclined to do unless the stuff is really hitting the blades and they need help like they never needed it before. Or I suppose they could go back to their car and type in what they need :roll:

LAPD's PSRs are, in the main, very good at what they do, despite those drawbacks and their new CAD system, "Premier", which went online in 2007, and is commonly described as being clumsy, apparently requiring longer or more complex commands to do many routine tasks. Getting hired is a very tough hurtle to begin with, between the application process (including a "do you REALLY know what you're getting yourself into" form, similar to this one from 2002, but probably revised somewhat since then, then testing, and the background check.

Now the following training info is all at least four years old, but I suspect it's not terribly different today. AFAIK there are a couple current and/or retired PSRs or Comms-knowledgeable police ofcrs who drop in here occasionally, and hopefully they'll set me straight on any errors or changes, but...

The last I heard, training began with six weeks of classroom for orientation, protocols, procedures and radio-position simulation; this was followed by 18-20 weeks working radio positions one-on-one with an instructor, then two weeks by yourself on the radio but with the instructor monitoring you from a "mirror" console and able to step in immediately if necessary. You either made the cut, got up-to-speed with some intense tutoring, or got dropped. After you pass that, there came a couple more weeks of classroom again, this time for the call-taker positions, again followed by one-on-one with an instructor on 9-1-1 and non-emergency-line phone consoles.

Once you get through all that you're cut loose on your own, and rotate daily between the various positions (to keep your radio, phone and other skills sharp and current). I believe the probationary period for PSRs is 18 months, including the training phases, (or else it's 12 month AFTER you finish the training, but I think it's just the straight 18 months). Figures I've seen in the past indicated that it's about twice as hard, statistically, to get hired and complete probation as a PSR as it is to make it as a police officer. Sounds about right; in the 60s/70's our washout rate for new-hires was about 2/3, and that was before any of this formal training and high-tech equipment came along.

Class dismissed. Hey... wake up, you there in the back!
 
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DPD1

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Thanks Harry, very interesting... And funny, you brought up the two negative issues that I as a casual listener over the years, have always scratched my head over. In fact, it's bothered me so much that I basically didn't even bother trying to listen to LAPD for years after the digital switch. I was amazed to find out by listening to a CHP simulcast years later, that they were still doing both the things you mentioned. And just the other day I heard a pursuit interrupted three times by broadcasts for stuff that was all the way on the other side of town... Came right over the top of everybody like they weren't even talking. I'm kind of amazed this is still happening after all this time. With all the people that come and go in that department, you would think somebody would at some point listen to that and go... 'Uh, why are we doing that'?
 

KMA367

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With all the people that come and go in that department, you would think somebody would at some point listen to that and go... 'Uh, why are we doing that'?
Oh, there are plenty of people in there, or passing through, who say that, but like any good bureaucracy there are always other (and usually higher-up) someones who reply "because we've always done it that way" :)

There have been some really innovative and radio-savvy Captains & Lts (and PSRs, but they don't really count much in the big picture) in Comm Div who've fixed some things and tried to fix others. The institutional problem is that any significant radio procedure change that might affect anyone outside Communications Div itself, like patrol, Air Support, detectives, ITA (the radio/technical folks), etc has to be discussed, argued, fine-tuned and run up and down through the whole Organization Chart and signed off on before Communications can put them into effect.

Take the multicasting, for example; if someone suggests that it be cut back, the Van Nuys Captain's likely to rise up and say "Oh no you don't... we have a six-mile border with West Valley, and two freeways that we share, the same thing with North Hollywood to our east, and Hollywood to the south, so don't you dare stop putting their hotshots and crime broadcasts on our frequency." Then the WVal, NHwd and Hwd Captains chime in with the same objection about their boundaries, and before you know it they end up with a chain of divisions and even more multi-selects than before.

Oh... don't forget the four bureau-wide Traffic divisions: their T-cars and motor officers work every division in the bureau, so they need to hear every hotshot anywhere in their bureau. And probably the adjoining bureaus too, "just in case."

Maybe a slight exaggeration there, but not much. Gives me a headache just thinking about it.
 

tman4000

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Harry

Thank you so much for all this info, this answers so many of my questions. One last question I have is while you explained the connected hotshots, what is the explanation when you hear one not on the borders. For example when listening to West LA, you always hear Hollywood, Pacific and Wilshire's calls, which as you pointed out are on their borders. But every once in a blue moon I'll hear one for Northeast, or 77th street or Southeast. Makes no sense, its not daily, is that an accident on that 911/board operator to click the W. LA button in their computer? Or is there some rhyme or reason?

Also, do the PSR's have a protocall when it comes to earthquakes? Those of us who listen to LAFD know after the slightest tremor, their dispatchers start broadcasting a long statement about there being an earthquake, the dept. in eq mode, instructions for apparatus, captains, divisions, etc, etc. Does LAPD do anything similar?

Listening to LAPD has been a blast! I've listened to police agencies up and down the state, and aside from the multi broadcasting issue during busy times, LAPD is the best. Their PSR's sound so professional and clear, the lingo is kept to a minimum, and this whole business of the 911 calltaker also broadcasting and updating is interesting as with other agencies one radio controller broadcasts everything and there is a lag from the time the call taker hears it, imputs it and then it gets read and broadcast by the radio operator. You can't get the full detail and scope like you can with LAPD, esp when multiple calls on same incident come in.
 

KMA367

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Harry

Thank you so much for all this info, this answers so many of my questions. One last question I have is while you explained the connected hotshots, what is the explanation when you hear one not on the borders. For example when listening to West LA, you always hear Hollywood, Pacific and Wilshire's calls, which as you pointed out are on their borders. But every once in a blue moon I'll hear one for Northeast, or 77th street or Southeast. Makes no sense, its not daily, is that an accident on that 911/board operator to click the W. LA button in their computer? Or is there some rhyme or reason?
I saw your separate thread-starter about this a week ago, tman4000, and was trying to both gather some info and then put my thoughts together before replying, but just didn't get around to it. I could probably come up with a better excuse if I tried a little harder.

The frequency-selects are preprogrammed into the system for most call-types and subtypes, but sometimes an operator may have a reason to add other divisions to a broadcast, such as a particularly serious crime where there's a good suspect description. Some broadcasts (critical missing persons, officer-safety-related stuff etc) will usually go out citywide on all divisions' frequencies.

I'll take a stab at the N/E and 77th Div calls coming in on WLA, and one reason may be the bureau-wide traffic divisions. I'll try to do this so it's somewhat comprehensible (maybe it would help to have the bureaus/divisions maps in front of you):
  • First thing is that the West Traffic Division freq is often "tied" to West LA... whatever is broadcast on one freq you'll hear on the other, both the RTO and the units.

  • In general, hotshots and crime broadcasts go out on the division of occurrence, the traffic division for that bureau, all adjacent divisions, and Air/K9.

  • Here's the convoluted part: Northeast Div (in Central Bureau) borders West Bureau (Hollywood Div) along Normandie and thru Griffith Park. 77th St Div (South Bureau) also borders West Bureau (Pacific Div)... for all of 700' on La Brea between 62nd Pl & 64th St, just south of Slauson.

  • Therefore, my supposition is that some call-types in Northeast and in 77th (as well as Rampart and Southwest, which border Olympic and Wilshire, respectively) may also bring up the "adjacent" West Traffic frequency; if WTD is tied to WLA you'll thus hear them on the WLA frequency.
Clear as mud?

Also, do the PSR's have a protocall when it comes to earthquakes? Those of us who listen to LAFD know after the slightest tremor, their dispatchers start broadcasting a long statement about there being an earthquake, the dept. in eq mode, instructions for apparatus, captains, divisions, etc, etc. Does LAPD do anything similar?
There's not really anything comparable to LAFD's Earthquake Emergency Mode where the units do systematic drive-throughs and "windshield surveys" of their districts. There's a very good narrative of LAFD's doing that during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, with a particularly good summary on the last page, at The Northridge Earthquake, Battalion 15 Activity Report for January 17, 1994

A significant earthquake will usually cause the department to go on Tactical Alert to free up as many officers as possible for response to disaster scenes. In a Tac Alert they stop handling routine calls, minor traffic stops, Code 7s, and do only "police work of major importance," as defined in §030 at "http://lapdonline.org/lapd_manual/volume_0.htm#030"

On-duty officers may be held over beyond their normal EOW time (which by itself is called a Modified Tactical Alert), and if it appears that it's going to be long term deal the department will go on "Mobilization" which is 12-hour shifts, days off canceled, etc. Beyond that, there's really no Comm Div Earthquake Plan that I'm aware of, and major earthquake-related deployments may be directed from the City's EOC more than from Communications Division.

If either of the dispatch centers is disabled in a quake, the other one can run the entire city, and if both go out of business, AT&T's equipment will automatically route incoming 9-1-1 calls to the correct stations, who will each do their own dispatching, theoretically on the Division Simplex/Fallback frequency. I don't know if they've ever done a full-fledged drill of that though. The Comm Centers are designed to withstand at least an 8.3 quake, and all systems to operate independently (water, power, mechanical, radios, etc) for 72 hours. Exercise, break and lunchrooms too, I imagine :)
.
 
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DPD1

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Interesting... They showed the main command center under city hall on TV the other day. I assume there must also be a new fancy bunker in the new headquarters as well?

I remember during Northridge that a pay phone nearby was still working, which I thought was interesting. I had read that would happen, but I was amazed it actually worked.

I have to admit... When it comes to radio, I prefer Pasadena. I don't know, the traffic on LAPD makes you kind of numb after a while. At least it does to me.
 
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