Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Dispatchers and Computer

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Computers changed police work in a disturbing way. I was taught to use police instincts which you only gained by experience. You questioned what was obvious and never take what someone says at face value. It didn’t matter whether you were questioning a victim, a witness or the suspect, they all told their story that benefited them. Good questioning is now a dying art.

As an example I was training a young probationer and, to put it mildly, he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. We stopped a car and I told him before he got out of the car, “Careful. I think the cars stolen!”

He walked right up to the driver’s window with his flashlight in his gun hand!

Geez, no wonder I lost my hair. The car was an unreported stolen and later, when I asked the probationer why he walked up to the car he answered, “The computer said it wasn’t stolen!” The new generation of cops are relying on computers to tell them how to do police work.


As everyone knows computers can have bad days or maybe they just screw up. I was walking my foot beat in a dark alley when this Ford pulls into the parking lot.  The driver looks rather nervous as he walks away from the car.

I run the license and the RTO (Radio Telephone Operator or dispatcher) replies, “No want. DMV [says it’s] a 75 Chevy R/O (Registered Owner) lives in Northern California.”

Cool. I have me a possible stolen vehicle with cold plates. This car is a Ford. I track down the driver and using the academy-taught tactics, I make him lie on the ground while I point my Smith & Wesson 38 Caliber revolver at center body mass!

As I’m handcuffing him he is demanding my badge number and name. I have had so many people ask for my badge number I thought it was common knowledge. It was Policeman Badge #3845 for those of you that forgot it.

I had the RTO run the VIN [vehicle identification number] and she returns with a 75 Ford, and the license plate that’s on the car.

Oops. How can that be she just told me it was a Chevy? The RTO runs the license again and even a third time, it’s a 75 Ford registered to my soon to be dusted off suspect. My suspect hands me two forms of ID, one is a California driver license and the other is a LAPD ID card which indicates my suspect is a RTO for the same department I work for. How can this get any worse?

My sergeant comes out to the parking lot and documents the RTO’s complaint. I go to the station to try and figure what the hell went wrong! I barely get in the back door and the Watch Commander [W/C] tells me I have a phone call from the Communications Watch Commander.

Oh goody. Probably more bad news! I was about to be surprised.

The Communications Watch Commander advises me that the RTO was not in error but the computer fouled up. She also told me that the suspect RTO I stopped is a disgruntled employee and no one likes him. The Communications W/C says they will be doing an investigation on him for being in a known drug location while on a sick day. See? Sometimes the sun shines in the middle of the night. I never heard another word about the incident and I didn’t ask either.


Ok one more story about Dispatchers. I was a sergeant in Hollywood, that’s right working in the dark just before the newspaper boys deliver your paper. An ambulance “cutting” call comes out at 1640 Las Palmas. That’s just a half a block from Hollywood Boulevard. I’m sitting in my car as the RTO broadcasts another ambulance “cutting” at Hollywood and Las Palmas. I advise the RTO that it’s the same call and to cancel the second unit.

The RTO responds, “No the computer says it’s a different reporting district.”

I advise her, “It’s the same call and the computer is wrong.” I’ve just committed a sin; computers don’t make these kind of mistakes.

She again politely tells me that there two different calls.

Ok, time to stop arguing. In my best firm “I’m the Sergeant” voice I say, “I’ve worked Hollywood for 30 + years and I’m looking at both locations from the front seat of my newest model police car. Assign me the second call!”  It was the end of our discussion.

Trust the veteran who’s at scene.


Next — open microphones!   Hal

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: More on Dispatchers

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

This is where I really stick out my neck. I hope I still have the friends who were dispatchers (or RTO’s as us dinosaurs called them). First let me give you the disclaimer. I spent most of my career working in the middle of the night and a lot of those were weekends.

What does that have to do with RTO’s? I’ll tell you, most of the computer systems, DMV, Wants & Warrants etc. are taken off line in the middle of the night for service and updating, especially on weekends at night. I guess the normal part of the world thinks crime only occurs weekdays, during daylight hours. Most of this story happened before the in car computers that changed police work for ever.

Back in the mid-1970’s, I worked swing shift on the weekends (low seniority) and remember an officer running a warrant check on a driver in a traffic stop. The national computer said there was a warrant “hit” on the on a driver. But, it was mandatory for dispatchers to confirm the warrant with the originating agency—in this case, it was with the Texas Department of Justice. When I called it was closed. For the weekend. The guy went free because we had no valid warrant info to keep him.

I would run a license plate and the RTO would reply, “No Want, DMV down.”  Not un-common. But after a string of “No Want, DMV’s down,” you get suspicious. I’d run a license plate off the hot sheet. It was listed as “Code 6 Charles,” in LAPD vernacular that meant “Wanted Armed and Dangerous!!” If the RTO returned “No Want, DMV down,” you knew the RTO was not running the license plate. The RTO might have been in the middle of a good mystery novel but our life could be in jeopardy. If the RTO returned, “Code 6 Charles,” you replied, “Information only.” Just checking.


I once responded to radio call of a citizen who earlier had his car stolen at gun point. A day later he found his car a few blocks away. I ran the license plate and the RTO said, “No Want, DMV down.”

I asked the RTO to re-run the license because it should return “Code 6 Charles.”   She knew she had been caught and ran the plate.

I’m guessing there was a one on one conversation with the RTO and her Supervisor.

During my tenure from 1975-2011, it was not unusual for officers to run license plates on parked cars at motel parking lots on slow night. Their hope was to find a stolen vehicle. On weekend nights, that could be over fifty plates per officer. But it was our job to do this. I’ve seen dispatchers answer, “DMV down,” but never participated in it for the reason Hal articulates here. What if a car was stolen, the driver was behind the wheel and armed? It could go to hell in a handbasket fast. This is not a good job for a lazy person.


I was trying to catch a Hollywood Business burglar who was stealing my car area blind. I was getting heat from my watch commander as well as the burglary detective. They thought I was sleeping on duty. Heck, it was Little League season and I wasn’t sleeping much during the daytime either. I was really busting my butt trying to catch this asshole but I was always just a few minutes behind him.

I responded to a business burglary alarm on Hollywood Boulevard. I immediately drove to the back and caught a guy walking out from behind a group of businesses. Ah ha! I caught him.

I checked the source of the alarm and found no evidence of a break in. He told me he had to use the bathroom and left evidence under the fire escape. I checked. Now, I’m no expert on human crap but it looked fresh to me. Steam rising!

I ran him for wants and warrants and the RTO returned “No want.” I reluctantly let him go.

A day later, I’m standing in front of the Burglary detectives desk getting my ass chewed for letting our burglar go. After ten minutes being call incompetent in front of the whole detective bureau, the detective demanded to know why I didn’t run him for warrants, as he was in the system as a “Code 6 Charles” suspect. I waited until the detective was hyperventilating. Then I calmly told him, “I did run the suspect and the response was no want!”

As I walked out of the detectives’ room I heard him on the phone to a communications supervisor. Let him chew on someone else’s ass.

Side note: My burglar and his defecating at the rear of a business was his MO and excuse for being in the alley. Fooled me.


Next, computers have changed the job for both cops and dispatchers.   Hal

Writer's Notes

Guest Post: Rural Characters, Rural Cops

By Diann Adamson


City Police—Chase Gangs out of Neighborhoods

Rural Police—Chase Cows off roads.

City Police—De-escalate situations before they turn violent

Rural Police—Disentangle Bob and Bettie after a night of distilled-partaking before they kill each other.


Wanting to offer a setting to my readers somewhat exotic, where most tourists don’t set their vacation plans, I chose Iowa. My root family has lived in the Iowa City area since the 1860’s. My family has had great characters—from a Grandfather who was in vaudeville to another Grandfather who raised hogs and read Whitman.

I work little to create my characters, I know my characters. I embrace their dialects, nuisances, elations and irritations. My protagonist, Lillian Dove in the Lillian Dove Mystery series, works to discover what life may have been like should she never have taken a drop of alcohol at the age of twelve. Living in Frytown, at the age of thirty-six, she finds herself enamored by the Chief of Police, sought after and seduced by playboy Jacque Leveque, Detective of Major Crimes, while pushed close to insanity by her convalescent mother, Dahlia Dove, queen of denial and the trigger to most of Lillian’s angst.

The Frytown Police may be rural but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold to high standards. Dispatch Operator Donna Stockman uses State Police Codes as well as offers personal advice: (Admit to Mayhem, first book in series)

Garth Davis, rookie parole officer, rescued me from Donna’s interrogation by calling to ask for a ten-zero. Donna said, “You asked for one not more than fifteen minutes ago, Garth. What’s up?”

He groaned. “Ah, Mary Beth cooked meat loaf last night.”

Donna’s voice now sounded like a naughty finger. “I should call Mary Beth’s mother and tell her to start teaching that girl how to cook, or we’re going to have to hire a new rookie.”

SupposeSecond book in the series, SUPPOSE,  widens the criminal element from Frytown to Davenport, from local police to Federal Agencies. Lillian is accused of a crime by someone from her “dysfunctional past,” blackmailed, pulled deeper into games played by good guys (FBI) and bad, taking her to a breaking point where she has to decide to join or die playing it safe.

I stared at the shed where I’d been kept. Setting it on fire wasn’t beyond my thoughts. I twisted around. Pane’s house could use a good smokin’ too. I wasn’t about to go back inside and wait. What if hearing that his shipments were being stopped, Cole came back to hide at Pane’s?

I wanted to go back upstairs and take a shower. I stripped, throwing my underwear in the bushes. Shook out my jeans as best I could and tugged them back on.

Better? Of course, I could no longer smell myself.

I went over to the lawnmower. Leveque left the keys in the ignition. I started up the machine and headed down the road at a rate of maybe fifteen, twenty miles an hour.


I use paradoxical themes in my work—humor-tragedy, good-evil, love-hate, because I think human behavior is full of irony. I want readers to worry for the protagonist but then laugh with her when she finds herself in awkward situations.



Diann AdamsonAward Winner at the Midwest Book Festival and Nominated for a Clue Award in Suspense, DJ Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and the mystery/science fiction trilogy Deviation. Author, instructor, she is also Vice President for the Central Coast Sisters in Crime and Membership Director for Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles.

She also reviews authors and their work on Le Coeur de l’Artiste which can be found on her web page:

More Street Stories

Dispatcher Appreciation Week



The Thin Gold Line


Between the Thin Red Line, the Thin Blue Line and the Thin White Line lies the Thin Gold Line. This narrowest of lines represents those who are rarely seen but always heard and appreciated. The calm voice in the dark, the heroes behind the scenes, the Golden Link that holds it all together:



By Thonie Hevron

The week of April 10-16, 2016 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Appreciation week, also known as Dispatcher Appreciation Week.  Dispatchers answer most of the incoming calls to public safety departments, assess and route the 911 calls, take appropriate action (some centers provide EMD-Emergency Medical Dispatch which means a dispatcher will direct the caller in first aid techniques to mitigate problems until the arrival of fire-fighters/paramedics) and relay important information to officers in the field. There is so much more they do: keep locations of patrol units in their heads as well as updated on the computer, provide confidential information when needed, recall bad guys’ dates of birth, listen for a tone in an officer’s voice to indicate trouble or need or whatever…

Telecommunicators Week began in California in 1981 and quickly grew to national recognition. Just ten years later, Congress designated the second full week of each April as a time to remember the critical role that dispatchers play in keeping us all safe.

Yesterday, the Sonoma County dispatchers celebrated twenty years of April Dispatcher Appreciation get-togethers. The venue was Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park and the event was well attended. My estimate was over one hundred dispatchers, retired and active-duty, as well as managers and department heads.

the usual suspectsHere is a mug shot of the usual suspects: Kathleen, Daralyn, Kathrina, and Jan are seated. I’m standing next to Natalie and Carli. Here are the faces of the women who calmed the mother of the dead baby down enough to get an address (not all calls are on landlines), who woke the fire-fighters up for the inferno next door, and the dispatcher who stayed on the phone with a young caller who heard an intruder in her home.

I’ve been through a lot with these women. There’s a bond that transcends distance and time. All but three are retired now. During the luncheon, someone brought up Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Natalie asked the table, “How many of you have trouble sleeping?” To a person, we all raised a hand. It was a little humbling to realize that we all have scars from the job. But we live with them and temper the ghosts with fun memories of camaraderie, blowing off steam, and the knowledge of a job well done. The general public will never see these things and that’s just fine by us. We know we did what we were supposed to do—trained to do.

If you don’t notice when you’re on the phone with us, that’s fine with us.


More Street Stories

Friday Night Links 4/12/2013 — Let’s Kick Off Dispatcher Appreciation Week!

Friday Night Links 4/12/2013 — Let’s Kick Off Dispatcher Appreciation Week!.

Post borrowed from Melissa Kositzin

Check out her blog at Wandering Voiceless

Friday Night Links 4/12/2013 — Let’s Kick Off Dispatcher Appreciation Week!

On time and under budget this week… Here we go.

Next week — April 14-20 2013 — is Dispatcher Appreciation Week. Okay, I know it’s actually called National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. Sue me. Here’s some background on “our” week.

Today I attended Sonoma County’s Dispatcher Appreciation Luncheon in beautiful Healdsburg at the Healdsburg Golf Course. Every year this luncheon is put together by a small group of dispatchers representing every agency in Sonoma County. They find a venue, plan a menu, and arrange for door prizes for all attendees. In years past, they’ve had various speakers on the program; this year we played two rousing games of Family Feud with dispatch specific questions — that’s right, they sent out a questionnaire ahead of time to build the “top x” answers. As a special treat this year, they also had raffle prizes. Bonus: I won a 2010 World Series baseball, which I gave to Prince Charming. THANK YOU SONOMA COUNTY DISPATCHERS! 

So, in honor of my fellow dispatcher cohorts, whom I deeply appreciate, all links this week will be dispatch related.

First up, there’s a fabulously funny gal running around facebook who goes by the name of “Diary of a Mad Dispatcher.” Her real name is Kristin Kitchen and she is a dispatcher in southeast North Carolina. She and her team of trusted friends/co-workers post a lot of cartoons like this one:


… but she also posts give-aways, discussions and Q&A. She also has a blog. I find her to be articulate and passionate about our profession. She’s a great ambassador.

In honor of Dispatcher Appreciation Week, she was interviewed by The Badge Guys. You can find the interview here and here  – yes, it’s two parts! Part 2 includes a video about Roseville PD dispatch  (in Northern California), and in it Kristin discusses the stress and uncertainty associated with being a dispatcher. It’s a great read.

As a bonus link, The Badge Guys also recently posted a column about dispatcher stress. Go take a look at that, too; it has really good information about “the silent killer.”

In 9-1-1 Magazine there is a page of NPSTW resources, and Barry Furey talks about how, “… we’re saving the world, one caller at a time.” 9-1-1 Magazine is one of my go-to resources for all things dispatch-related.

Finally, we’re gonna wrap it up with a video about the Newtown dispatchers winning an award for their work during the Sandy Hook incident.

So, yes, although I don’t talk about it too much, I’m very proud of my job. Hopefully, I’ll be writing more about it soon.

Have a great weekend… and take some time next week to thank your local dispatcher, eh?

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