How do police and dispatchers keep from talking over each other?


I live in a large city and listen to the police scanner sometimes. The back and forth seems very orderly considering there are thousands of police and crimes happening everywhere.

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There is different channels, they can be reserved for specific activities and there are open channels like the one you listen to that are for general communication between the police and their department dispatcher.

They are trained to keep coms clear and only communicate required information. Multiple squad cars can communicate directly to each other using a different radio.

If something is communicated in a pinch they can use codes to let people know something important. Each department has their own set of codes and the meanings are anything from a “shots fired” to a “I’m headed to lunch”.

It’s not uncommon to hear cars talk to each other normally though.

You can search up “police 10 codes” on Google and put your city name in it and I’m sure you’ll be able to learn some and understand some more things when listening to the scanner.

Alternatively, if your a gamer you can find some cool roleplay games and you’ll learn alot.

*edit typos and formatting.

One or more main channels, as well as many tac channels (tactical channels) specifically for certain uses.

In general though, dispatchers aren’t just on a single frequency, and radio discipline is not hard to learn.

In most places if someone speaks while the dispatcher is transmitting he or she will hear it in their headset, that way they will know if a unit needs their immediate attention. In the old days it was usually done via a leased phone line from the repeater to wherever the dispatch communication center is. Now a days it’s probably done via microwave backhaul, fiber or other out of band link.