Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Intangible

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

INTANGIBLE definition: Unable to be touched or grasped; not having a physical presence

An architect can point to a building or structure he (we are using the editorial “he” here, no disrespect to females). A contractor or plumber can lay claim to any number of projects. Even a factory worker can point to an X count of widgets at day’s end.

There are service persons by the score-waiters, clerks, doctors, lawyers, nurses and the list goes on. But what of the description, “First Responders?”

The law enforcement officer (LEO), aside from arrests and tickets, usually has only his personal satisfaction in providing the daily chores that make up his life. LEO’s must and should take motivation from the service they provide. From finding a lost child, recovering a stolen vehicle or property, and/or settling a dispute ad infinitum. The satisfaction of looking back at shift’s end and knowing that he made a difference in someone’s life (hopefully a good one).

He must take pride in whatever it was he did or didn’t do to resolve the situation; to take from that whatever he needs to bring him back day after day, to provide the fuel that feeds his enthusiasm and drives him no matter how jaded or disillusioned he has become. To prove, if to no one but yourself, that you are a person of character. Then, and only then have you accomplished something.

CHARACTER definition: The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. I prefer, ‘doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’

Part II


Have you ever experienced a LEO being introduced to a stranger and watched how guarded he is until told that the other person is or was a LEO? You would’ve seen a complete personality change right before your eyes. There is almost a “formal rule” or ritual that both parties go through, probably done unconsciously. If you doubt me, read law enforcement blogs or Facebook police pages.  Aside from the usual kidding you will notice a sincere sense of mutual respect and love, yes love. You’ll see an almost elaborate politeness, a sense of warrior meeting warrior.

Civil war painting-unknown battle
Civil war painting-unknown battle

In July 2016, I wrote, “I’ve been to see the Elephant.” This term was common to the Civil War wherein the young soldiers tried to put into words the horror they had witnessed. An unspoken, “we have been there, passed the test and I recognize you for who and what you are.”

Granted not all LEO’s go through this ritual but enough for me to notice. Other than the military no one besides LEO’s are that closely bonded.

I have heard too many eulogies, read to many End of Watch (EOW) notices and heard to many tales of friendship and daring-do to wonder why we don’t reach out—right now—to our old friends and partners and tell them of our feelings. Tell them you appreciate all the times together and tell them as only one man can tell another, “I love you, man.”

It was Shakespeare who told us we were a “BAND OF BROTHERS,” are we not? 

Better they hear it now than before it’s too late. Tell them now.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Dispatchers

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

From Hal: Thonie, here’s part 1 on Dispatchers. I have another 1 or 2 parts to finish. I’d like a dispatcher’s point of view from the other side of the microphone. Are you game?  –Hal

Why, yes. Yes, I am!–Thonie

Ok, I might be stepping on a landmine, but here goes my take on dispatchers or RTO’s (Radio Telephone OperatorsThis is what my first dispatcher title was when I started at San Rafael PD in 1975), later called PSR’s (Police Service Representatives). They were my lifeline. If I needed help, who do you think I called first? That’s right my RTO—no one could get me help faster. Once during a foot pursuit in the olden days (no radio on your hip) I ran through a parking lot behind a strip club as it was closing. I knew I had changed directions twice since my last broadcast. I asked a patron to call the police and tell them what direction I was going. I heard him say, “I thought they were the police.”


No, he didn’t call the police for us. This is why dispatchers do “status checks” after a designated period of time; depending on the call but usually about four minutes. After the mid-70’s my agencies had portable radios so it was easy to ask an officer who just checked out on a domestic if he was okay or needed more units. Traffic would be: “1L30, your status?”

A satisfactory answer would be, “Code 4,” which means, “sufficient units on scene.” An unsatisfactory answer would be, “Send me another unit,” or no answer at all. For the first, another unit would immediately be assigned, usually they’d volunteer. For the second, a two-man unit or two cars were sent to the physical address where the officer checked out. If we were lucky, the officer had his portable turned down and didn’t hear the status check. Sometimes, back-up units drove up on the officer fighting for his life. That’s why we do status checks.


Now some of our RTO’s were very good. As an example, you should hear the North Hollywood Bank Robbery broadcast. That had chaos written all over it, but some very seasoned RTO’s handled it as true professionals. Just imagine over twenty very excited cops yelling in the microphone at once.


I made it a point to be friendly to my RTO. I always said “Good Morning” when I cleared for my start of watch. I knew that the RTO had the ability to determine what kind of night I was going to have. Did I want to spend the night getting all the crappy calls or just my share?

Not all of my co-workers felt the same way. We had one Hollywood officer who hated the RTO’s and the feeling was mutual. Dispatchers cultivate the nuances in language, diction and mood of their officers. This isn’t taught in a book, but with any luck by a seasoned trainer who knows the voices of their team. Often, a dispatcher can pick up on stress before other units can. They knew him by voice and they could check the officers assigned to each patrol car by the computer when you logged on. He wondered why he got all the crappy calls! Duh.

Some cops could hear the RTO’s giggling and talking when there was an open microphone and they called it a knitting circle. I knew several dispatchers who knit. Knitting isn’t inherently funny. However, in down-time, especially after a busy night, dispatchers need the “pressure relief valve” that officers (and firefighters, and medics and corrections officers—it’s a standard in first responders) have. Think about this, that North Hollywood Bank Robbery call—what had the dispatcher been doing just before the officer called out the armed robbery? Doesn’t matter. Her reactions had to go from zero to sixty in warp speed to take care of business. She did a great job, by the way.


I knew that they had a hard job and I sometimes tried to give them a smile. Hal, this is usually very appreciated. Dispatchers are pleased to have a connection with their officers. Hopefully it’s pleasant and as in your case, funny. Often after finishing a radio call, the protocol was to say “clear.” I often said “transparent” just to see if they were listening to me.

Once, the RTO asked me to repeat my message three times before she got it. Dispatchers are usually sharper than that.

Part two, next Sunday

More Street Stories

A New Effort to Bring Care to First Responders in Need

1stAlliance seeks to ensure those who need care get they care they need

Article re-printed by with permission from the authorAdobeStock_102706188

By Karen Solomon

More than 240 million calls are placed to 911 each year in the United States alone: 240 million instances in which a first responder can be emotionally and/or physically injured. It happens more often than people realize. Once a first responder is traumatized by what he or she experiences, where do they turn to heal their wounds? Should they be burned in a fire or struck by a bullet or knife, what happens next? It’s a question they often ask themselves.

In my experience too many of injured and traumatized first responders will sit alone in front of a computer looking for someone to help them. They will seek someone who understands and won’t look upon them as if they are weak, who knows how to get them what they need without broadcasting it over the radio. It’s not an easy task. When they are in crisis, it becomes frustrating to the point that some will give up. Some will commit suicide.

Firefighters, peace officers, emergency medical technicians, corrections officers and dispatchers too often find themselves standing over an abyss of turmoil from which they can’t walk away. We’re going to change that. We’re going to find them the help they need. It’s a simple concept: A central database that doesn’t store any of their information and can point each and every one in the right direction.

What We’re Doing

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputies Steven Hough and Jeffrey McGill know what it’s like to experience a critical incident and find themselves without the proper assistance to recover. They longed for a collaboration of the first responder resources scattered around their country, and a way to reach the people who need those resources. I joined them to form 1stAlliance, and from there a database was born.

Thanks to a collaboration with another injured officer, Bourne Massachusetts Officer Jared P. MacDonald, 1stAlliance is a 501(c)3 charitable organization whose sole mission is to provide a way for first responders to find their way out of the darkness.

On June 1 of this year will be launched: a free, confidential way for first responders to find emotional, financial and spiritual assistance. If they’re in immediate crisis, they’ll be provided with a 24/7 resource to call. If they’re not in immediate crisis, they’ll be able to enter some basic criteria and be matched with resources that match their needs. They can take their time selecting the best fit. But, most importantly, they’ll have a starting point.

This endeavor is not a short-term bandage. We have partnered with Avatar Computing and plan to develop this into a free, downloadable app over the next six months. Avatar has been incredibly generous and will be redesigning both sites, logos and assisting with the long-term development of the organization. We’re also collecting suicide statistics, and we have a five-year plan to provide baseline data that can tell us a story about what’s happening to our first responders.

We also want to hear about the PTSD experiences of first responders. Those stories help us understand where we should focus our efforts. Our goal is to find out what first responders need most, identify those resources, and present them in a simple, confidential manner. No judgement. No fear of reprisal.


It’s important to note that we aren’t competing with the established organizations. We are instead providing a vehicle for more people to find them. We have nearly 100 vetted resources in the United States, Canada, and Australia that are trained to assist first responders. What became a quiet national project is blossoming into a global endeavor. Through the chat forums that will be installed this summer, providers can collaborate best practices and ideas on a global scale, all with an eye to improving the quality of life of those that serve us.

If you’d like more information, please feel free to visit our website or contact me at This project has been funded to date through private donations and we continue to seek long-term corporate partners.

We are also providing free informational cards to any individual or department that would like to hand them out to their members. These cards bear our logo and the website and are a handy reminder that you are never alone. Simply visit our website and we’ll find you a safer outlook.

Do you provide services to first responders? Register for inclusion in the database here. If you’re a first responder, bookmark our site, share your PTSD story with us or let us know when someone completes suicide. Our success is your success.

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