Police Dispatcher Training Tip: Phonetic Alphabet

What is the Phonetic Alphabet?

The phonetic alphabet is the way that a police dispatcher spell words over the radio to the officers in the field. The phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in the alphabet and used to spell words in messages transmitted by radio or telephone.

Alpha Bravo Charlie on spoon - Police Dispatcher HQ

A Police Dispatcher enjoying a yummy spoon of Alpha Bravo Charlie

These words are from an approved list and then substituted for letters. For example if you were to spell POLICE in the phonetic alphabet it would look like this: Papa – Oscar – Lima – India – Charlie – Echo. The phonetic alphabet that I use at my workplace is as follows:

  • A = Alpha
  • B = Bravo
  • C = Charlie
  • D = Delta
  • E = Echo
  • F = Foxtrot
  • G = Golf
  • H = Hotel
  • I = India
  • J = Juliet
  • K = Kilo
  • L = Lima
  • M = Mike
  • N = November
  • O = Oscar
  • P = Papa
  • Q = Quebec
  • R = Romeo
  • S = Sierra
  • T = Tango
  • U = Uniform
  • V = Victor
  • W = Whiskey
  • X = X-ray
  • Y = Yankee
  • Z = Zulu

Why would a Police Dispatcher use the Phonetic Alphabet?

The reason that a police dispatcher would use this is to avoid confusion over common sounding letters (like “n” and “m” and “b” and “d”). This could be extremely important when an officer is asking you to run a license plate, if they said it without using the phonetic alphabet then there is the possibility of mishearing a “N” for a “M”. That could be the difference of  in finding a stolen vehicle or not finding one.

Police Dispatcher Tip

One thing that everyone that wants to become a police dispatcher can do before they get hired is learn the phonetic alphabet. It’s not that hard to learn and will help a great deal during training. There are two things that are very important when learning the phonetic alphabet and they are practice and saying it out loud.

Obviously it goes without saying that practice is important when learning a new skill so I won’t go into why that’s important. Saying the letters out loud is equally important. It’s important because when you start saying it out loud you will gain confidence and confidence is so important when becoming a dispatcher. The common thing that all new dispatchers go through is that they sound very unsure of what they are saying. This doesn’t make the police officer in the field very comfortable is you sound unsure of what you are saying.

When I started learning the phonetic alphabet I made it a game and played this game with my kids. I would spell words for them to decipher while we were driving, almost like the game “eye spy” but with spelling the word instead. My kids loved this game and I learned faster by playing it. The best thing about playing this game was that I found a way to include my family in my learning and made a great memory that I will cherish for a long time. Not to mention that my kids started to pick up the phonetic alphabet too.

 

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