NYPD radio horseplay results in discipline
'Stepping' on others' transmissions, long a sign of disapproval, now resulting in suspensions for some
By Joseph Goldstein
The New York Times
NEW YORK — The police radio is an officer’s lifeline to the rest of the patrol force. A hoarsely shouted call for a 10-13, code for an officer needing assistance, will summon waves of uniformed backup.
But police officers have occasionally turned to the radio for more sophomoric pursuits, using it to heckle fellow officers and commanders. There are officers who will whistle or quack like a duck to show their disdain for whoever preceded them on the airwaves.
But the more common expression of disapproval, within the New York Police Department, involves a practice known as “keying the microphone,” or “stepping on someone” — essentially tying up the channel by repeatedly pressing the talk button. It is a dangerous practice that could unintentionally silence an officer’s sudden call for help. The Police Department appeared to be on the verge of eliminating the practice three years ago, when it replaced the last of its old radios with new ones that are assigned and traceable to individual officers. The message was clear: officers who persisted in horsing around on the radio did so at their own peril.