Where's My Backup?

Listening to your radio may just save your life

I honestly can't tell you how many times I've heard officers have to ask dispatch to repeat a call, when the dispatcher sends them to help another officer asking for help.  This really happens, and I'm sill appalled by it.  Of course this is more frequent in larger departments, which actually makes it more serious.  The reason is, larger departments are usually bigger for a reason.  That reason is obviously there's more crime.  So if there's more crime, of course, there's more danger.  Which brings me back to my point.  Why are officers not listening to their radios?

I heard an officer ask for another car the other day, and had already heard him put out the traffic stop about 2 minutes earlier.  I knew his location by paying attention to his first transmission.  But when the officer asked dispatch to send another car after he made the stop, its cause for concern.  When he did, no one answered up (I would have, but I was tied up on another call across the city).  So of course dispatch had to send a car.  The car they sent was clear and available and had to ask the dispatcher what the call was about.  This is pathetic, and is completely unacceptable.  I can understand if its a one time thing, or rare at that, but I hear it more and more.  I've even addressed it, but it doesn't seem to affect some of the same officers.

So what are the dangers?

Well aside from the obvious of fellow officers possibly getting seriously injured if not killed, these officers are creating a "relaxed" atmosphere of "everything is fine" mentality.  And the problem with that is, these same officers are getting "too comfortable" on their calls, and actually putting themselves at risk in addition to their fellow officers.

Now I'm not saying an officer should perform their daily activities in a paranoid untrusting state; however, I am saying that this is a warning sign that officers are getting too relaxed in their job duties.  We are police after all, and people shoot at us.  But let me get back to the point.  Officers need to pay attention to their radios at all times, period.  An officer should know at any given point where his or her fellow officers are inside the area they work.  Again, not only for the other officer's safety, but their own as well.

Let me give you an example.  If you knew that all of your fellow officers were tied up on a shooting for instance, would you want to make a traffic stop in a known drug area with a car loaded down with four or five guys?  Probably not.  However, if you knew that there were cars free in your area, then of course its a better bet.  I hear officers put out stops like this all the time when I know for a fact that there's no backup available at that time.  I always say to myself "Stupid."

So why won't some of these officers listen?

If you ask my opinion, its a lot of the new generation. Of course they're not all bad, but I see a lot of new "cocky" officers that think they're Superman and untouchable.  I've tried to pull these officers aside to tell them my opinion.  Most seem to listen, but a lot seem to blow it off, possibly hearing what they want of something like "Don't make me work, you're making work by getting into stuff, don't make work rookie."  But that's honestly not the message.  I've been in "on the floor, outright fights" with only one officer backing me up.  Even 2 on 1, I wasn't happy about it.

So what can be done?

Supervisors need to constantly remind officers to make safety their number 1 priority.  It needs to be drilled in their heads in my opinion.  I found myself as a road sergeant not saying things to officers, partly because I was just in their ranks, and to start preaching so to speak, I felt officers would take offense.  But after doing it for awhile and seeing officers do things that I felt were incredibly stupid, or risk taking, I said screw it and started preaching.  I realized that they can choose to listen if they want, but I'm not going to beat myself up later if something happens and I had the chance to say something.

Secondly, sergeants must pull aside rookie officers and make it clear that when they make decisions like this that they will write the officers up if it continues to happen.  The problem is a lot of the things I'm referring to aren't technically a violation in most departments; its a common sense thing.  So at minimum officers need to be told and told again when it occurs, encouraged in fact that it's "just not worth it" in certain situations.  If more officers get on board and are there to give their opinion as well, I believe it could change the "mentality" of some of these officers.

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