Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cop Talk

We had just finished shipping off a mentally ill homeless woman to the hospital and were chatting with a couple of local cops.

Down here at the healing place, we don't really have a lot of interaction with our brothers in khaki. As most of our residents have jobs, the po-po don't get a lot of calls for service in our district. We do see them occasionally on MVAs on the surface streets and we do get the occasional shooting/stabbing/beating and we work with them then, but for the most part, both parties are busy and are doing their jobs.

Last night, things were slow for us and there wasn't too much going on in cop land either. As a result we started talking about staffing, crime and budget issues. We wisely stayed away from contract negotiations and possible wage concessions, two areas that our two bargaining groups rarely can agree on.

I started to move the discussion into the area of my "favorite" assistant county administrator. When I mentioned his name, I saw the deputies hand move to his duty belt and fiddle with some type of electronic device. When he removed his hand from the belt, the device was blinking green.

My curiousity was aroused and I had to ask him what that device was. He told me that the device was a wireless microphone and transmitter that recorded audio for the dash mounted video camera He said that the device continually records audio and broadcasts it to the patrol car.  It is required to be on any time he is making contact with a customer on an assigned incident.

Now, I am thinking he turned it on while we were talking, thus the flashing green LED. He reassured me that it was on unitl he turned it off  and that the flashing green led signifies that the device is not recording. He also pointed to another pouch on his belt, this one located next to the wireless mic. This one, he says, is a digital voice recorder and it is used to record audio when he is farther away that the 1000 ft range of the wireless mic or when he is inside a large building.

This deputy educates me as to the protocols in communicating and working when every word can be monitored. Here are a few highlights:

1. If you are talking with a deputy and he points to his belt,  it is not an obscene gesture.  He is merely pointing to the audio recording device and letting you know that you are being recorded. When he turns it off, the green LED flash and it is safe to say dirty words and tell slightly ribald jokes.

2. If a deputy has a complaint against him and his recording device(s) are not turned on, he faces discipline unless there was an exigent circumstance as to why it wasn't on.

3. If you don't want to be video recorded, don't stand in front of the cruiser.

4. Firefighters and medics should not make spontaneous statements of a questionable nature in the vicinity of a deputy when working a scene. Statements like "What is that asshole assistant county administrator doing here?" and  "Lookit the head on that one"  cpuld be misconstrued . Plus, you never can be sure where those statements might end up.

5. Although the recordings usually absolve our deputies of any wrong doing, the deputies don't like them as they feel they are intrusive and at times inhibit their ability to do their job. It was explained to me like this:
"Every once in a while, you come across somebody who just doesn't understand English unless you throw in a motherfu^&%@ or an asshole or two at them. Sometime these people get their feelings hurt and file a complaint.  Of course the recording will pick that up and then bing, pow, kablowie, a day off will be in order."

6. Deputies have been spanked, some hard, as a result of "hurting someones feelings" verbally.

The deputy told us that a belt mounted digital video recorder is on the horizon. They can't wait.He also educated me on the various documentation required for traffic stops and interaction with "customers". Frankly, I was surprised at the level of monitoring the deputies have and at the amount of BS they have to put up with while doing teir job. 

It is a wonder that anyone wants to be a cop. A tip of the helmet to you my khaki-clad brothers.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Thank God it's not my department but the San Jose Police just purchased a large amount of head mounted video recorders. Its gone from the day of trust the police officer to if its not recorded it didn't happen.

    I appreciate your visit to my site Cpt. and I will frequent yours. It's well written and very interesting. But now you can add that the boys in blue, not just tan, are interested. I too am West of Texas, would love to chat more.

  2. Wow we would loose ALL of our staff with those recorders!! Ahem... even, I daresay, dispatchers!

  3. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    It looks like, more than ever, the police have to have some quality of spirit that used to be reserved for saints!

    Thanks for investigating,
    Ann T.

  4. We're heading in the same direction in the fire service. Apparatus with GPS, cameras, and recordings of headset and radio traffic are already in service.

  5. Did this entry trigger a bunch of thoughts and memories of news stories about cops over the years especially stories involving allegations of mistreatment of (alleged) miscreants by officers. Sometimes the tape cleared officers, and sometimes it condemned them. A little different was a recent guilty plea by a purse snatcher who snatched the purse in front of two marked KCPD units with their dash cams going! The crime and subsequent arrest was caught on tape. Thank God for dumb criminals.

    Re: police unis. I have always lived with the blue line. Here in the KC metro, everyone is in the very dark navy blue trousers and blouse, except for the two Kansas Citys which wear light blue shirts. It seems to me that the dark blue would be wicked hot...

    Most cops really care about their job and have astonishing patience. I am thankful for them every day.

  6. Oh Captian...I just saw the "Bleed Cubbie Blue" link. Why put yourself through this torture? I feel kind of obligated because I'm local, but you do not have to endure this.

    And regarding cameras, I don't think the Chicago po-po could do it. Those bad words just slip out way to frequenly, and it seems like recent episodes involving police and video have not been flattering to the force, as in the case of the giant drunken cop caputed on video beating the crap out of a 100 lb. bartender; ooops.
    Yes, bad apple and thank you men and women in blue (light and dark and khaki).

  7. Mr. Police Man & Observer - Around here, for the most part, the city departments wear blue, sheriff's usually wear khaki or tan. There are some exceptions.

    All the fire agencies wear dark blue, top and bottom.

    Gia - I've heard one or two "potty words" come over the air over the years, usually background noise when someone is using a microphone mike rather than a headset. I am sure someone pulled the tapes, just for fun.

    Mrs. B - Next year is our year. I became a fan when I went to Wrigley with some relates and sat in the middle of a large group of toothless folks from the southern part of your state. They swilled Old Style (I think)all afternoon and got into several fights amongst themselves. Although many threw up, none passed out. At least none for more than one or two innings. And still, the beer vendor kept COMING TO MY SEAT!!!! I knew I was at home. Go Cubs.

    The bartender thing. Well, there is that.

  8. An extremely insightful post about something that we should have already figured out without being reminded. Maybe I am just speaking for myself, but this was a great heads-up post. Got me thinking about what I've said around LEOs, and I doubt I would have noticed their motion to call attention to the recorder... wondered what dumb things I have done in front of a cruiser, etc.

    Wow. Wake up, Grumpy!!

    Thanks, Capt.