Scanners and Pursuits

This is a discussion on Scanners and Pursuits within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I was driving south down the local major divided highway, and on the northbound side I saw two State Troopers in pursuit of a vehicle ...

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Thread: Scanners and Pursuits

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    Member Array SigHawk's Avatar
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    Scanners and Pursuits

    I was driving south down the local major divided highway, and on the northbound side I saw two State Troopers in pursuit of a vehicle that was obviously not stopping. I quickly pulled out my iPhone and used my police scanner app to listen to what was going on. Before I knew it, I was hearing the exact locations of where officers were setting up spike strips, and I was also hearing where certain officers were posted in case the suspect exited the highway. Then I heard that the suspect was taking specific actions (I won't mention them here) that caused headquarters to call off the pursuit.

    I have two questions.

    1) How do you all feel about the public (and potentially the bad guys) having access to police scanners and the vital information that may be broadcast on those scanners?

    2) How do you all feel about pursuits being disengaged for whatever reason? I've heard of both ends of the spectrum for reasons why you might call off a pursuit. In some areas, if the suspect refuses to pull over after more than a minute or two, you call it off. In other areas, you almost never call off the pursuit for any reason.

    LEO and non LEO comments are welcomed.
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    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
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    Unless you are a super villain from Gotham, I suspect 99.9% of criminals are too dumb to use such a thing. Even if they did, if they are already being chased by the cops it is going to be hard to listen and make decisions based on information being broadcast. if they didn't have a better plan already than to engage in a car chase with police, I doubt having a scanner would have helped them plan any better.
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato

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    Member Array SigHawk's Avatar
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    adric22,
    I agree it seems unlikely that a BG would use a scanner or scanner app in his escape plan. But I wonder if it bothers LEOs that the general public has access? i'm sure there are ambulance chasers and police car chasers out there that could occassionally get in the way, hoping to see a shootout or something.
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    I'm sure it bothers LE that unencrypted telecommunication might be monitored for illicit purposes. However, since the dawn of wireless telecommunication about 90 years ago, the security problems of transmissions have been recognized, and generally accepted as an unavoidable limitation. Digital encryption is the current approach to secure radio communication, but the added expense limits its adoption by all agencies, especially smaller ones.
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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    1) I have no problem with public and media having scanners. When my department switched to a new radio system we even made some radios (receive only) available to the local media for a while. As far as vital information goes, nothing really important would go out "in the clear". For tactical type units we did have encrypted channels available and for just sensitive stuff I could send messages to the mobile data terminal in the car or cell phone/nextel.

    2) I have mixed feelings about pursuits. My department lost a number of officers in fatal collisions resulting from pursuits We also had a case where a friend of mine did not break off when instructed to and the vehicle he was chasing hit a van (outside our jurisdiction no less) and killed a family.
    In jurisdictions where there are known no or limited pursuit policies BG have an incentive to run. If they stop they are going to jail. If they take off they go home. Tough choice there. And a fatal collision can occur in the first fifteen seconds of a pursuit, so I don't think putting a time or speed limit on a chase makes sense either.

    I think departments should sit down and decide what offenses they are willing to risk our lives for to make an apprehension. And then if they start chasing someone for one of those offenses they should be able to pursue until they run out of gas in their cruisers. If the criteria are met and an officer starts a pursuit I feel they should be able to continue it as long as they feel it is safe to do so.

    Having been in the passenger seat of cruisers during several pursuits ( we were not in pursuit, we were following in case there is a bailout. That was our story and we are sticking to it. Depatment policy forbade being in pursuit with a civillian in the car) and having worked literally hundreds if not over a thousand pursuits on the radio, I can tell you that they can be fun, exciting, and terrifying or comical at any given second.
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    Anything broadcast into open air (cell phone calls, PD radios transmissions, etc.) are open to reception by anyone as there is no resaonable expectation of privacy, thus no warrants or wiretapping protocal required. If PDs don't want anyone listening in, they need to use encrypted systems--and forget about those silly 10- codes.
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    At my last duty station before retiring I used to listen to a scanner a lot. It was interesting to hear what was going on in town first hand then read the newspaper the next day to see if they were allowed to write about the previous nights activities. Also the local EMS was on the same frequency and during tornado season it was beneficial to know where the storms were.
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    VIP Member Array Secret Spuk's Avatar
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    mcp1810 Kudos, and RIP to your Bro's.

    I lost one of my close friends, and brother officers to a persuit accident. Fact is a police officer is far more likely to be killed in a auto related incident than he or she is to die as a result of a shooting. IIRC auto accidents are the leading cause of on-duty officer deaths. (not injuries)

    As far as the scanner's? I fail to see the big deal. So the public knows what were saying... I think it serves to keep the department and it's officers honest when they know the public, and the press can hear radio messages. The 10- codes, or other police radio messaging serves to say a whole lot in a little bit of time. Thats the purpose... not to be secret. Brevity. Instead of saying "9-6-1-2 report to the station house at your eareliest convenience." The dispatcher says 9-6-1-2 10-2". Instead of saying " Oh Boy-Charlie respond to a family dispute @ 123 Alexander ave" They say "Oh-Boy Charlie 52 @ 123 Alexander ave" Anywat it works out for the better in my experience.

    My department is one that does not allow persuites except on rare occasion. But we patrol a very dense urban population. Any persuit would cause grave danger to the public at large, and to the officers involved. I personally believe this is a good policy for this department. However, if the subjects under persuit hace commited a crime so serious, or if their escape pose a serious threat to the public a persuit may be authorized.

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    "Thats the purpose... not to be secret. Brevity. Instead of saying "9-6-1-2 report to the station house at your eareliest convenience." The dispatcher says 9-6-1-2 10-2".

    No shor5ter then "See Sarge ASAP."
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    Member Array Gunsmoke16's Avatar
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    Most departments are now going to systems (our local uses Kenwood Nexedge Digital) that cannot be picked up by scanners/applications and such...unless it's a very expensive scanner or a similar police type radio with the correct coding inputed to allow it to intercept the information. There are thousands of different types of coding combinations that are virtually hack-proof. Good luck on hearing them in the future. Problems with them seem rampant though and have heard of several bad situations where the officers could not transmit when needing help or information relayed. The more complex it is, the more problems they have.

    Our local departments and THP will pursue, but most city departments have a policy in place to reduce/hang back if it encroaches into populated areas like city limits crowded with traffic. Sometimes they will be terminated by a shift Sgt. or
    person in charge, often after the local agency "hands it off" to the TN Hwy Patrol or THP that will catch them using combinations of strategic placements of other local units to shut down/block roadways and the radio, allowing them to "get ahead" of the suspected bad guy. Very rarely do they ever get away and usually they either stop or crash (TD) their vehicle, if the lead chase car doesn't call for the most worn out cruiser to come forward to be sacrificed by using the Pitt maneauver to spin the car off the road and block it or crash it before it gets into a school zone and possibly kills an innocent person.

    Working security and dealing with LEO on various matters, I can understand their problem here of protecting the public, stopping the BG and not hurting themselves. Bottom line is that you have role-played the scenarios and "know" that you are coming home at the end of the day to your family; what the BG does is a decision he has made for himself that he will have to answer for. Same as for any security officer and handgun carry or CWP or CCW permit holder...if you don't have the will to win, you can be defeated-no doubt must enter your mind, you must be sure and follow through.

    As for scanners, some still work and often the most interesting stuff we used to listen to locally was the fire department calls and the ham radio guys chattering when the weather is bad. You quickly learn the places that have bad road problems, funny stuff and such. Sometimes you might be able to save someone if they are broken down and asking for help by sending assistance. This happens sometimes in our local Great Smoky Mtns National Park. Just this last year a gentleman broke a leg and a hiker with a hand-held 2-meter saved him. I have great respect to ALL of our local EMS, Fire and LEO's that keep us safe. May God Bless You.

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    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    "Thats the purpose... not to be secret. Brevity. Instead of saying "9-6-1-2 report to the station house at your eareliest convenience." The dispatcher says 9-6-1-2 10-2".

    No shor5ter then "See Sarge ASAP."
    That assumes the reason for going to the station is to see the Sergeant. It could be to pick up a ride along or any number of things.

    Would you say that "Possible wanted or stolen is indicated and you should use caution until we can make a positive identification." is just as short as "10-60"?
    Or "Please check for wanted or stolen status and run a registration check on...." is as short as "10-28, 10-29..."?

    Lots of departments also had status codes for things they did on a routine basis. Instead of "Hold me out on a traffic stop at......" we just used "Code fifty four". Half as many syllables.
    It's brevity and clarity. When you have a department with a thousand sworn officers or say thirty thousand like NYPD including officers with all kinds of accents you can waste a lot of air time trying to figure out what people are saying. Ten codes and status codes reduce that problem.

    And of course I think the biggest endorsement for ten codes and status codes is that the feds want everyone to drop them and use plain english for everything.
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    I don't care much about scanners, they would be of little use to BG's during a pursuit, and if people are entertained by it, so be it. The really juicy stuff is never put out over the air anyway.

    As far as 10 codes goes- I never liked them much. I prefer plain language. The reason is, if Spuk, MCP and myself (all from different departments) need to collaborate on something, we will all be clear as to whats being done. My department doesn't use 10 codes, nor does a lot of Ohio. The buckeye Sheriffs assn. has there own system too. It takes a long time for radio talk in 10 codes to sink into my head, simply because we do not use them whereas Spuk might be going 100mph with 10 code talk.

    After 9/11 all emergency and public safety radio systems are supposed to be standardized to greatly improve communications. Plain language is a big part of that.
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    After 9/11 all emergency and public safety radio systems are supposed to be standardized to greatly improve communications. Plain language is a big part of that.
    It hasnt happened yet. There is a lot of difference between 10 codes even in my county. The Sheriffs use a different set than the city PD, less than 2 miles away. Although other citys in the county use the same as the Sheriffs, the State Police has some that are the same and some different, the Game and fish is different and even the Forestry Serivce LEO's which are Federal are different. It can be interesting at times listening to the conversations going on with the 10 codes and between agencys,sometimes its hard to keep track.

    I kinda like the plain English talk myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    It hasnt happened yet. There is a lot of difference between 10 codes even in my county. The Sheriffs use a different set than the city PD, less than 2 miles away. Although other citys in the county use the same as the Sheriffs, the State Police has some that are the same and some different, the Game and fish is different and even the Forestry Serivce LEO's which are Federal are different. It can be interesting at times listening to the conversations going on with the 10 codes and between agencys,sometimes its hard to keep track.

    I kinda like the plain English talk myself.
    Yes, its the same here. Once in a while we have to get on the state wide band and I almost always have to tell them to use plain talk.
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    We switched to plain english earlier this year except for a handful of discreet signal codes. Some of the older guys still use all the old codes which makes it interesting sometimes when talking to us new guys. Good thing I pick up things quick. Cell phones are used for sensitive information, and we also have unit to unit comms that don't hit the repeater.

    In NY it's a misdemeanor to have a police scanner installed in your vehicle, punishable by 6mos or $1k fine. A cell phone app in use while you are operating your vehicle will likely also cause you some grief. Not that it would deter a real criminal but it will stop most people from a chase thrill if they were so inclined.
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