12.010 - Communications

Effective Date: 12/17/2007


The process of receiving, screening, and prioritizing calls for police service, dispatching units, and resolving the incident should be one smooth-flowing operation. Even though different phases of the process are controlled by personnel assigned to different functions, the success and speed of the operation remain the primary goals. This involves the delegation of responsibility, authority, and accountability, within specified limits, to different operational units.

Decisions must be made in matters of deployment of field strength and resources. For these decisions to be made with continuity and rapidity, they must be placed with the individuals having the most accurate information available to them. The Department expects full reciprocal cooperation between the Communications Dispatchers and all units, regardless of rank.

I. Method of Assignment

A. Watch Lieutenants determine which and how many personnel will be assigned to general field duty. This staffing and resource pool is subsequently turned over to the Communications Dispatchers to deploy during the shift.

B. Call by call distribution of field units is the responsibility of the Communications Section, with the authority granted it by the Watch Lieutenant. The responsibility and authority for taking the proper actions in any situation lies with the individual field units and supervisors. All units with these delegated authorities and responsibilities are ultimately accountable to the Watch Lieutenant and, in turn, the Chief of Police.

C. The Watch Lieutenant may, during the shift, change the strength of the staffing for special purposes by coordination with the Communications Section.

D. In all matters of deployment of field units, the Communications Dispatcher speaks as the voice of, and with the authority of, the Chief of Police, as delegated through the Watch Lieutenant.

II. Responsibilities

A. The authority and responsibility for the over-all management of resources on an immediate basis rests with the dispatcher.

B. Should the Watch Lieutenant choose to override the dispatcher's judgment as to the allocation of available resources, they assume responsibility for the proper response to all incidents within the affected area from that moment, until the control of available resources reverts to the dispatcher.

C. The selection of methods and tactics used to resolve any single incident remains with individual field officers and supervisors.

III. Radio Procedures

A. Portable radios are assigned to specific units, sections, or positions. If a portable radio is required in an assignment, one will be provided to the employee by that unit or section. Employees must return their portable radios when they are reassigned or promoted.

B. Unit radio numbers are assigned to each unit according to its function in the Department, for purposes of mobile communications. The Communications Captain maintains the list of radio assignment numbers.

C. When communicating by radio, field units shall first give their assigned unit radio number as identification. Communications between field units and Radio shall be conducted in a business-like manner, using proper language and correct procedures.

D. Field units shall keep the Communications Dispatcher advised of their “in” and “out of service” status during the entire time the mobile unit is assigned to field duty.

E. Officers comprising field units who receive a call from the Communications Dispatcher shall respond by giving their radio assignment number and their current location. If the call is received via Video Mobile Data Terminal (VMDT), officers may indicate that they are en route viaVMDT.

F. Assignments from the dispatcher shall be acknowledged without further comment unless additional information is needed.

G. Field units responding to a dispatched call will advise the Communications Dispatcher of their arrival at the assigned location.

H. Whenever a field unit goes “out of service” for any reason except in response to a radio dispatched assignment, that unit shall notify the dispatcher by radio or VMDT that they intend to go “out of service,” give the location, and briefly state the nature of the activity. The VMDT may be used to log oneself to on-view incidents and traffic stops. All coffee breaks and lunch breaks must be approved by the dispatcher.

I. Officers shall not argue with the Communications Dispatchers.

J. Violations of radio procedures or other causes for complaint, from either the dispatchers or field units, will be reported to the complainant’s Lieutenant and processed through the proper channels.

K. Lieutenants are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all complaints and violations noted are fully processed.

L. All employees of the Department are reminded of the limits of authority and responsibility within which they are assigned and that any unjustified attempts to breach them may result in discipline.

M. The Communications Section, in cooperation with the King County 800Mhz Regional Communications Board, has authority over the utilization of all Seattle Police Department 800 MHz talk groups.

IV. Special Event Authorization

A. Personnel shall follow the below procedures when planning special events.

1. Contact the Communications Section at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled event to coordinate use of talk-group assignments. Planners must clearly indicate whether or not the talk-group is to be staffed. If a non-staffed talk-group is used, the supervisor must ensure that all officers working the event understand that the talk-group is not monitored and that they must switch to a regular, monitored talk-group in order to contact police radio.

2. A complete copy of the Operations Orders, including assignments and anticipated sequence of events must be forwarded to the Communications Section Captain at least 72 hours prior to the date of the event. This is particularly important when a monitored talk-group is requested since it generally necessitates overtime hiring.

3. Names, serial numbers and unit call signs must accompany the Operations Orders to facilitate timely logging of units into CAD.

4. If post numbers are used, they must not be duplicated. Duplication creates confusion not only for dispatchers, but also for officers who may need to respond to emergency or help situations.

V. PSOPS-N1 Radio Channel

A. PSOPS-N1 (equivalent to the MARS frequency), is the primary channel for handling Priority Alarms. PSOPS-N1 should not be used for other types of multi-agency response incidents unless the MARS and the other PSOPS channels are already in use.

VI. ST OPS 5/Zone 1 Operation

A. ST OPS 5 channel on Zone 1 will only be used under the following conditions:

1. Communication with dispatch is lost due to your radio being out of range, and,

2. There is a need to communicate with other officers in the immediate area, and

3. There is a communications car monitoring.

B. The ST OPS 5 channel will not be used:

1. Car to car, or,

2. When normal operations are available.

C. While on the ST OPS 5 channel, officers must remember that all two way communication with the dispatcher is lost and the Emergency Activation Button on the portable radio will not function.

D. Because it is a simplex channel (line of site), it will not be recorded by the Communications Section.

VII. Miscellaneous General Offense Report (MIR) and Disposition Procedures

A. Total MIR and disposition reporting of all primary police actions is required except for routine patrol, on-view traffic citations, and follow-up (secondary) action conducted by follow-up units. Such reporting is required of any officer or employee of the Department who handles a police incident.

B. MIRs and dispositions will generally be initiated and completed by the officer via theirVMDT. Officers in vehicles not equipped with a VMDT will give their MIR and disposition to the dispatcher via radio.

C. All police actions must be reported, and the Communication Section advised as follows, via radio or VMDT as appropriate:

1. The nature of the incident,

2. The location of the incident,

3. Time the complaint was received or the on-view incident occurred,

4. Time logged out of service,

5. Time of arrival at scene,

6. Time returned to service, and

7. Disposition of incident.

VIII. Aggressive Dispatching

A. An expeditious dispatch to high priority calls for service is necessary for the Department to accomplish its mission. This procedure describes how high priority calls for service will be dispatched when insufficient resources are immediately available.

B. The Department’s response time goals are less than 7 minutes to all precedence 0 and 1 calls; less than 15 minutes to all precedence 2 calls and less than 30 minutes to all precedence 3 calls.

1. If a high precedence (0 and 1), or precedence 2 call cannot be immediately dispatched, the call information will be broadcast over the appropriate talk group(s) and the dispatcher will ask if any unit(s) can be clear to respond. This gives all units the opportunity to volunteer and assist in a response, such as Traffic, K-9, CPT, ACT, SWAT, Detectives, Prisoner Vans, etc.

2. For high precedence (0 and 1) calls, if no units immediately volunteer to respond, the dispatcher will determine which units are on low precedence/paper calls and request they respond. The dispatcher will not hesitate to free and assign units who are on downtimes (e.g., 931, 932, out-car), or other non-emergency situations. If the dispatcher receives unreasonable resistance, the Chief Dispatcher and Sector Sergeant should be notified immediately.

a. If the dispatcher is still unable to assign units, a Precinct Supervisor (Sector Sergeant or Watch Lieutenant), will be advised over the air and the dispatcher will continue to search for units to respond.

b. Dispatchers should always consider the option of cross-precinct dispatching. This should be done in conjunction with the Chief Dispatcher who is responsible for notifying the affected Precinct's Supervisors once the call has been assigned.

c. If assignment of the call is still unsuccessful, the dispatcher will update the call to show no units available (NUA). This shall only be noted once all of the above steps have been taken. The dispatcher will continue efforts to assign the call.

3. Precedence 3 and 4 calls of an investigative nature are to be dispatched or pended to the district car when at all possible. If the district car is unavailable the call can be assigned to another car within the sector.

4. Depending upon the type of call (not of an investigative nature), dispatchers can sometimes more effectively handle lower precedence 3 and 4 calls by broadcasting the information when units are not available. This will give Patrol and other units (e.g., CPT, ACT, SWAT or Traffic), who are nearby the location or have recently been through the area a chance to clear the call. Examples of appropriate calls to be handled in this manner would be area checks for mischief, minor hazards, etc.

IX. Radio Calls Signs

A. Patrol Sergeants

1. Watch 1, 2, or 3 followed by the sector letter (e.g., 1N –1st watch sergeant of Nora sector)

B. Patrol District Units

1. Watch 1, 2, or 3 followed by sector letter and beat number (e.g., 3S3 – 3rd watch unit in Sam sector, beat number 3).

2. Additional units assigned to the beat shall be identified by the watch, sector, beat and a number 1 through 9, identifying the # of extra units within the sector (e.g., 3S31 – additional 3rd watch unit in Sam sector, beat number 3).

Note: The use of double beat cars is no longer allowed. For example, 3S23 would identify an additional unit assigned to the S2 beat, not a unit covering both beats S2 and S3.

C. Umbrella Units

1. Units assigned to cover entire sectors or with no designated beat(s) shall be identified by the watch, sector, a zero and a number 1 through 9 (e.g., 3N01, 3N08). Units assigned to extra patrol for the sector will use numbers 01 through 06 and be available for 9-1-1 calls. Unmarked, surveillance or dedicated pro-active units will use numbers 07 through 09 and be available for emergency calls only.

D. Uniformed Walking Beat Units

1. Walking beat officers shall be identified by watch, sector and a two-digit number 51 through 59 (e.g., 3E51, 3E55). Walking beat sergeants shall be designated by the watch, sector and the number 50, (e.g., 3E50).

E. Uniformed Emphasis Units & Sergeant

1. Patrol officers assigned to special emphasis (e.g., gang suppression, target areas), shall be designated by the watch, sector and a two-digit number 61 through 69 or 71 through 79, (2M62, 2M79, etc.). Emphasis unit sergeants shall be designated by the watch, sector and the number 60 or 70, (e.g., 2M70).

D. Uniformed Bicycle Beat Units & Sergeant

1. Bicycle officers shall be identified by watch, sector and a two-digit number 81 through 89 or 91 through 99 (e.g., 2U83, 2U94). Bicycle unit sergeants shall be designated by the watch, sector and the number 80 or 90, (e.g., 2U80).

E. Patrol Wagons

1. A patrol wagon shall be identified by the sector, watch and the number "10" (e.g., 3K10, 2D10).

F. Mobile Precincts

1. The mobile precincts will be designated as MP1, MP2 and MP3. They will not utilize a watch or sector designator.

G. Off Duty or Unassigned Personnel

1. Off-duty personnel using SPD radio will identify themselves by using their employee serial number preceded by the alpha designator “VICTOR” (e.g., V5348). Employees not assigned a radio unit number who have need to use SPD police radio are also required to identify themselves using their employee serial number preceded by the alpha designator “VICTOR”.

H. Special Event Radio Assignment Numbers

1. The Seattle Police Department regularly allocates staffing for special events and provides radio support services for units involved. Special events include large gatherings, V.I.P. security, special command operations and events such as Seafair, Hydroplane Races and other City activities. In order to minimize confusion and attain uniformity and standardization for radio operations and later reporting of special event resources, units are to be assigned using the following alpha designators: A – ADAM; I – IDA and Y – YOUNG, and the numbers 1 through 200. The numbers 1 through 5 may also precede the designator (e.g., Y25, A120, 5A75, 3Y130). Sergeants shall be identified by using the alpha designator preceded by a number 1 through 20 (e.g., 3A, 12Y).