Friday, April 24, 2009

LAPD Code 3 Policy Revised

The LA City Council today formally approved the LAPD's new Code 3 policy, which gives all officers discretion in deciding when to respond to a call with lights and siren. Until today, the rules under Chief Bratton's administration had dispatchers assigning one patrol unit a Code 3 response based upon the nature of the 911 call (or request from field units/allied agencies). Other units, including back-up units to emergency calls that already had one unit responding Code 3, were required to respond Code 2 (no lights or sirens). Earlier this month, a council committee had approved changes to the policy.

So, effective immediately, it's up to individual officers to decide what calls will be handled Code 3 and multiple units can respond to the same call Code 3, as well. So, starting tonight, expect to see a lot more LAPD black and whites blasting around the city Code 3.

I remember listening to my scanner 20 years ago (when I had an old Sony brick that I bought from Sporty's Pilot Shop and could only tune in to LAPD's 154.830 HOTSHOT freq.) and being terrified/horrified at the number of seemingly life-and-death level calls that the LAPD dispatchers would send out "Code 2 High" or even Code 2. Back then, it seemed the only thing that warranted a Code 3 response were actual shootings in progress. Otherwise, everything was a much slower response.

When Chief Bratton a few years ago liberalized the Code 3 policy to include pretty much every serious crime you'd expect a cop to respond to with his lights and sirens turned on, I thought that was a huge improvement. Now, if you called 911 in LA, you would get at least one unit running hot (and fast) to come to your aid. This improved response times, raised morale within the department and has helped residents overall.

Allowing more units to respond to more calls more quickly = a good thing overall. It eliminates the dangerous practice of "Code 2.5," which has officers basically driving in an emergency manner without their warning lights activated.

But mark my words: This new policy will be frozen the minute the first LAPD unit responding Code 3 to some bullshit call gets involved in a serious accident--with either civilians or fellow officers. Part of the problem is leaving things like this up to the discretion of patrol officers plays directly into the few bad apples among thousands of good ones theory. This whole thing will be undone by one or two boneheads who drive like the idiots they are.

Ironically, the City Council and LAPD brass pushed for the change because the cost of litigating cases that stemmed from accidents involving LAPD units going Code 2.5 has hit $11 million in the past three years. Only two council members opposed the change--one of them, Ex-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks. I don't really care for Mr. Parks as a councilman and he wasn't a great police chief either, but he's clearly on the right track here and knows what his former officers are capable of. He's rightly worried that putting the greater responsibility of emergency driving along LA's busy streets directly in the hands of the rank-and-file is a recipe for disaster.

Let's just see how long it takes for one to happen.

photo: flickr


Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back!

While I agree that there may be some officers who abuse this, I was wondering overall why the citycouncil would find concern with this for the following 2 reasons:
1.) Literally at any given moment there is a least a LAFD fire truck and ambulance screaming code 3 somewhere in the city, when you get a strucutre you know how that goes up exponentially, and several times a day.

2) Aside from some divisions in the city, the large majority of the city never gets that many calls that are on the priority that need more than one LAPD unit code 3.

So that said, again, when I first read this in the papers last week, I was confused. Let them all go code3. I feel like Parks is just trying to be difficult in the face of the overwhelming support Bratton is getting that he didn't enjoy.

Code6Charles said...

Thanks for the comment!

Here are my thoughts on the issues you raise.

1.) As for the LAFD (and LACoFD, for that matter), I think the Code 3 mindset is slightly different. With the exception of structure fires--where every guy wants to get there as fast as possible--the code 3 runs for the average LAFD call are by comparison, done at a leisurely pace. To wit, when the first unit on scene of a structure fire reports "nothing showing," the remaining units all immediately discontinue their code 3 responses. Most rigs practice good intersection safety and the mindset (and a good one) is that it's not your emergency that you're responding to, so don't make it yours. I know that's how I treated code 3 driving when I was in EMS. Additionally, while the ambulances and engines move fast while going code 3, it's nothing compared to the speed reached by some cop burning ass in his speedy Crown Vic. Further, I'd argue that the fire guys have more practical experience driving Code 3 than the average LAPD copper. That's because there are assigned drivers for each rig in the FD, while the PD guys are all trained to drive code 3 but none of them do it with regularity.

The other issue is adrenaline. Typically, the LAPD is responding code 3 to calls where either the public's life could be at immediate risk or a fellow officer's. That alone can increase the pulse and blood pressure of any cop who's going code 3. I've seen some insanely FAST code 3 driving by LAPD officers in the past few weeks, that would be instantly fatal wrecks if it came to that.

That aside, I actually think the scariest code 3 drivers in LA are the private ambulances contracted to serve the LACoFD. Those assholes are basically completely untrained in code 3 driving and are all hoping to get fire jobs and drive like complete maniacs.

2.) I agree that Parks hates almost everything Bratton does on principle, but I stand by my assertion that people like Parks know that they're only one yahoo away from serious litigation. Bratton is a genius at hyping the successes of the LAPD and getting it good play in the of all he's basically got the department's back at all times, but can self-criticize when necessary. But he knows as well as anyone that in a force of nearly 10,000 uniforms there are a bunch of bad apples.

As an LA resident, I'd love to have a black and white roll code 3 to my house if I need one, but as an LA driver, I hope I'm not the guy who gets nailed by a cruiser doing 75 mph through a red light.


GovtFlu said...

Every now and then almost every dept re-visits their code 3 policy.. they always find that officers will roll unauthorized code anyway, and get caught doing so by supervisors.. who are reluctant to write up fellow officers.

At the most one would get chewed out... Rolling code can at times be a bigger PITA because people don't always yield right, there are ALWAYS half dozen non driving numbskulls who stop where they are, directly in front of you, with a death grip on the steering wheel deathly afraid to budge no matter what curse words you yell from the PA.. and since you're NEVER EVER supposed to pass on the right code 3, it means shutting down to ninja around the suddenly paralyzed road-blocks clogging the roadway.

Might as well authorize code 3s, it protects the officers and city from "failure to yield" collisions.

There are CVC sections re: emergency vehicles that apply.

Just a fan said...

It's just lovely...I live off a big Blvd. in the valley... no wonder I have been hearing more sirens.

When I talk on the phone out of state to ppl, they hear these sirens all the time and think I am living in the jungle.

viagra online said...

Excellent I guess the code 3 works better because it's almost sure they are gonna get the guy, but usually this make some dangerous situations, you a hostage situation for example, but we must trust them they are trained for that..
Excellent post, thanks for sharing.