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What’s so hard about talking into a police microphone?

It seems that some officers are afraid of someone actually hearing them speak on the radio!

By Damon "Chuck" Wasson
PoliceOne Member

What do Batman, Dirty Harry, Wolfman Jack, Barry White, Mumbles (that’s from Dick Tracy... look it up), Mushmouth (from Fat Albert... look him up too), Sam Kenison, Marilyn Monroe, and Jessica Rabbit have in common?

Not one of them is a cop — at least not a real one — and not one of them has ever had to rely on a radio to save their life or to save someone else’s life. Not one of these folks — real or imaginary — has ever had to rely on a radio to make sure someone could hear and or understand what they were saying or trying to say. 

You, on the other hand, rely on the radio every day. It is one of your most important pieces of equipment, yet it is one of the most underappreciated and misused. 

Be Heard
I don’t know what is with cops and radios. As soon as the microphone gets keyed up, the majority of officers slip into their alter-ego and everything changes. 

All of the sudden, the voice gets exceptionally deeper, it slows down and turns into that slow, Barry White in the bedroom voice. Your inner Dirty Harry comes out. You start gritting your teeth and talking without moving your lips. 

A voice on the radio needs to be calm, clear, and steady. Instead, too often we hear a voice that’s faint, timid, and so quiet as to make it impossible to hear. Just listen to how many times in a shift the dispatcher has to say “10-9” or ask someone to repeat or clarify something that’s just been said over the radio. 

Our radios have some complicated, cop-proof parts. One of those parts is a directional microphone. It has a single button that you press and begin speaking into the actual microphone. 

For it to work properly, your mouth has to actually be facing the microphone, speaking toward it — not at an angle to the microphone, near the microphone, or in the general direction of the microphone.

The microphone is a pretty advanced piece of communication equipment and as long as you are using it correctly it will pretty much work as designed. If you whisper toward the microphone — instead of speaking directly into the directional microphone — that’s what we on the other end will hear.

Be Clear
If people have issues hearing or understanding you when you talk to them in person, can you imagine how much harder it is for them to understand you when you talk to them by speaking in, around or to a microphone? The easiest way to solve this is to speak slowly, enunciate your words and hold the microphone at least three inches away from your mouth. You are not a rock star and you don’t need to “eat” the microphone, there are only a few of us that need to hear you, not several thousands. 

Yelling louder and/or the fasterinto the microphone does not make the radio traffic get tothe dispatcher faster, nor does it make them understand you any better.

The dispatcher knows you’re in need and they are always trying to get help as quickly as possible, but they need to comprehend what you want and need to respond appropriately. 

Be Competent
Learning how to use a radio should be addressed and worked on during field training, not after bad habits have been ingrained in your working persona. If you use the radio equipment as it is intended, your fellow officers and dispatchers can hear you, understand you, find you, and can get their to help you. 

When you’re in the middle of a storm is not the time for me to be guessing what you just said hoping that I am heading toward you and not in the opposite direction because your alter ego has taken over your radio. 

Radio use is not rocket science. It is, however, something that quite often becomes your lifeline, your main piece of equipment used to summon assistance and information. 

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