by Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
I’ve given you some of my true stories of the good and bad dispatchers. They can all be verified by listening to me talk in my sleep.
I was not brought up in the computer world but was dragged into it by my employment and my kids. I think my first experience with a computer was an Atari 2600 and playing Space Invaders. My kids beat me regularly.
Before computers in the cars you received radio calls by voice from the dispatchers. On a busy night in Hollywood it went something like this: I’d pick up the microphone and in my ‘please don’t give me all the crappy calls tonight’ voice say, “6A65 Morning Watch Clear, Good Morning.”
The RTO responded, “Good morning. Stand by for five calls.”
The RTO would then pause to give you time to get out my #2 Ticonderoga pencil and a 3”x5” note pad. The RTO would then read off the five calls. I had to write down the time, address and nature of the call. High priority calls came first. That 3”X5” note pad was your log (or DFAR as we called them in the LAPD; DFAR stood for Daily Field Activities Report).
Often at code-7 you would transfer your notes to the DFAR. On real busy nights you spent a ½ hour after end of watch completing your DFAR. That was on your own time, by the way. I wished I’d taken short hand in high school instead of print shop. I heard that some officers that didn’t like RTO’s would make them repeat the calls a second and third time—not my style. I knew where my next call was coming from.
After handling the first high priority call you notified the RTO and tried to move on to the next call. Well, if another high priority call came in the RTO gave that for you to handle first. Some nights it went like this for most of the night. That was why we sometimes handled loud party calls three to five hours late. Hell, the party giver had almost sobered up by the time we showed up. That was Hollywood in the 70’s.
Sometime around the mid 80’s they started putting computers in black and whites. They were called MDT’s (Mobil Digital Transmitters or terminals). A marvelous piece of technology when they worked. Somehow putting a computer in a hot car is asking a lot from a machine invented by a geek. I don’t know what caused the problems with the MDT’s other than most cops resist change. Some old timers refused to even turn them on and others vandalized them. The fact was, an officer either adjusted or rode the pine bench (desk).
The RTO now gives you your five calls by transmitting them to your MDT. I missed her sweet voice as she destroyed the next two hours of my career! Like them or hate them computers are here to stay. Adjust or go the way of the Dodo bird.
Computers had some drawbacks as anybody knows who ever accidently deleted that nice letter to Aunt Millie before you sent it!
Next: How computers changed police work forever! Hal