In America, radio listen YOU!

Listening to the police radio is an interesting (and legal) experience.  In one sense it makes sense that they let citizens listen in as a check on police abuse.  I’m surprised though, because if upstanding citizens can listen in for fun or for university projects, criminals can listen in to see if they’re about to get caught and can act accordingly.  If I were the police, I’d be using a scrambled radio system so bad guys wouldn’t know what I’m up to, although that might decrease the happiness of cantankerous old guys.

Listening to the DC Metro police radio, (, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.  half ‘football’ codes: “738, we have a 5082 on F street” and half clear communication: “two suspects, black males, one in black jacket and bluejeans, one in jacket and blue jeans.”  I didn’t hear any chatter about donuts.

It’s a pretty good system, combined with the in-car datalinks, it’s pretty spare on communication.  I’m amazed that the traffic on the voice loop is manageable for such a large city, but there’s probably a lot of communication with the datalink which cuts down on the voice traffic (i.e. license checks, etc.)

There must be some sort of tracking for where the cars are, so they can intelligently dispatch, but there may not be—which increases the cognitive load on the police officers, who have to listen to the radio calls for issues in their area.


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