FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
October 2018 (2)
September 2018 (3)
August 2018 (6)
July 2018 (4)
June 2018 (3)
April 2018 (1)
March 2018 (2)
January 2018 (1)
September 2017 (1)
August 2017 (1)
May 2017 (1)
April 2017 (1)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
September 2016 (1)
June 2016 (2)
May 2016 (3)
April 2016 (2)
March 2016 (1)
February 2016 (3)
January 2016 (1)
December 2015 (1)
November 2015 (5)
October 2015 (1)
September 2015 (3)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (6)
June 2015 (3)
May 2015 (2)
April 2015 (3)
March 2015 (5)
February 2015 (1)
January 2015 (1)
December 2014 (9)
October 2014 (2)
September 2014 (2)
August 2014 (2)
July 2014 (1)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (2)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (2)
February 2014 (3)
January 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (3)
September 2013 (5)
August 2013 (3)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (3)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (5)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (3)
December 2012 (5)
November 2012 (2)
October 2012 (4)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (4)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (6)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (3)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (3)
October 2011 (3)
September 2011 (3)
August 2011 (2)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (3)
May 2011 (4)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (5)
February 2011 (3)
January 2011 (3)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (4)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (5)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (4)
June 2010 (4)
May 2010 (4)
April 2010 (3)
March 2010 (3)
February 2010 (1)
January 2010 (3)
December 2009 (4)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (2)
September 2009 (3)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (5)
June 2009 (3)
May 2009 (5)
April 2009 (4)
March 2009 (4)
February 2009 (3)
January 2009 (2)
December 2008 (4)
November 2008 (3)
October 2008 (3)
September 2008 (3)
August 2008 (2)
July 2008 (3)
June 2008 (4)
May 2008 (5)
April 2008 (5)
March 2008 (4)
February 2008 (5)
January 2008 (3)
December 2007 (2)
November 2007 (5)
October 2007 (4)
September 2007 (4)
August 2007 (5)
July 2007 (4)
June 2007 (4)
May 2007 (5)

Telling People Where to Go and How They Can Get There

Losing your bearings can be a real problem when you need backup.

July 06, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

How many of us have been stuck in our tracks with no clue about which way to go? Where would we be without having someone to give us some kind of direction? Giving and taking direction are arguably two of the most important aspects of our job.

It is certainly imperative that we get to where we are needed as quickly as possible. Even if we’re not cartographers, don't possess compasses, and can't navigate by the stars, most of us have been trained in how to read to our jurisdictional maps.

But eyesight and topographical icons can be tricky things, and sooner or later everyone loses their bearings. My partner and I worked on a cardiac patient for 15 minutes while awaiting Rescue, who theoretically had only a four minute roll. Precious minutes ticked by as Rescue realized that the section of the street they were on was not connected to the section of the street we were on.

Those who do get lost can be found blaming everyone and everything from dispatchers to their maps for their navigational incompetence. And there might be some truth to their assertions. For how often have we heard fellow personnel monitoring radio traffic lamenting that the guy tying up the working frequency is lost? Instead of sitting idly by and commiserating the fact, they should get on the air and give the poor SOB some directions. The ass-chewing can always come later.

So when it comes to communicating with field personnel, the Feds said it first: Get rid of the police speak…the jargon…the radio code stuff. As a result, more and more agencies are moving toward speaking plain English over the radio. Sure, there are some police codes that should be retained such as “possible ambush" and “are you out of earshot of your detainee?” But good riddance to the rest of them.

Getting and giving directions effectively sometimes comes down to painting a verbal picture. And quite frankly, the standard “two blocks down and make a right” that we give wayward tourists ain’t gonna cut it in-house.

In Southern California, we have it easy when it comes to getting a geographical bearing. All we have to do is ask: Is it toward the mountains (East) or the beach (West)? Where the sun comes up, or goes down? Unfortunately, some people—including cops—have difficulty with these questions, especially at night.

If your informants don’t know where they’re at, ask them to read the nearest sign, even if it’s "Three year unlimited warranty!" Maybe it’ll ring a bell for you. Ask them if they have OnStar or some other manner of GPS tracking. If they’re ambulatory or can drive, get them to go somewhere that is recognizable to station personnel. With most calls, it isn’t that imperative that the officers respond right to where the problem is; oftentimes, it’s preferable not to.

There are also times when the information provided is too simplistic. While descending on a suspect who was hellbent on taking out his girlfriend and her family with an AK-47, we were advised that the suspect was "on the right side of the girlfriend’s house." Without a "You Are Here" marker painted on the street, we couldn't tell if it was the right side when facing the house or the right side when looking out of it. In these cases, it is important that field personnel ask appropriate clarifying questions.

And what can you do if you are four blocks into a foot pursuit and find yourself lost? You could run the license plate of a parked car in hopes that the car is registered to the same address. Or you can ask the desk to look up the address of the movie theater you see a block away to the east.

Once you are on scene and have to coordinate assistance, you want them there as soon as possible. Whether you use radios or cell phones, telling them to make the third right can be tricky when parallel streets are intermingled with paved and unpaved roads or alleys. Be specific. Are they to make a right turn on the third street east of the intersection, the third access road, or the third right just past the alley?

Avoid putting people in possible crossfire situations. If you’ve got people detained at gunpoint with barrels pointing due east, you will probably want units to approach from the west.

Finally, when it comes to giving directions, follow this one: Go simple, young officer.

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Training School Teachers and Administrators to Respond to Active Killers
Very few people who get into teaching have the mental, emotional, or physical fortitude to...
IACP 2018: Watching Trump's Speech to Law Enforcement
Trump slammed the Obama administration for restricting law enforcement's acquisition of...
How Police Agencies Can Help Prevent K-9 Duty Deaths
A police K-9 is not just a member of the department—they are also a family member of the...

Police Magazine