Chrys Fey, my guest today, certainly did her homework when she decided to use police call signs in her latest novel, 30 Seconds to Die.
When writers research, their stories ring more true-to-life. I’ve built this blog with this notion in mind…to help save you time, and Chrys certainly delivers with this post.
We’ve kept it short in order to include a YouTube video (excellent resource, by the way) of Cleveland dispatch when they found three women–Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight—held captive in a cellar for over ten years. The video is quite chilling when you consider what the victims experienced at the hands of a madman, but it also makes a perfect case study in police call signs.
Welcome to Murder Blog, Chrys!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Sue! I am thrilled to be here and to share a post about police call signs with your audience. I hope everyone finds it interesting.
What are Police Call Signs?
A call sign is how a police officer is identified while they are patrolling the streets in their cars and reporting to crime scenes. Whenever they talk to dispatch, they will state their call sign.
While researching call signs for 30 Seconds Before, I found that they are different from state to state, city to city, department to department. This made it difficult to figure out an accurate call sign for my character.
Sometimes you’ll see 4-character call signs. For example, Charlie-211.
The first letter “C” is for the district location, the second character is for the type of unit, and the last two are a unit identifier. Other times, you’ll see a call sign like 3-Adam-2, which is for an officer on day-shift 3 for beat 2 in sector A (Adam). But from agency to agency, the numbers and letters can stand for various things. And, of course, the beats and sectors are in different places. (Note from Sue: If you use police call signs, research which ones are used in your area.)
Different Countries, Different Call Signs
In Australia, a call sign could be ##-PS-1A. The first two numbers (##) would stand for the specific station. PS in this call sign means “patrol sergeant.” The 1 at the end is a designator in case there are multiple units on duty, and the A represents the shift. And yet, this isn’t the same format used across Australia.
How did I figure out how to create a call sign for my story?
First, I had to find out what the sectors in Cleveland are and what format the officers used for their call signs. To figure this out, there was a lot of hair pulling, aggravation, and research. I looked at the Cleveland Police Department websites and maps to determine the sectors. The hard part was learning what the call signs meant.
During my research, I uncovered a video on YouTube of a dispatch recording depicting the moment when the police rescued three women from Ariel Castro’s home. Listening to the recording, I learned that the Cleveland police officer identified himself as Adam-23 (later as 2-Adam-23).
I knew if I stuck close to that, it’d be pretty accurate, especially since it was the correct location for my story. I didn’t want to alter the call sign too much, fearing I’d get it wrong, but I also didn’t want to use the same call sign Officer Anthony Espada and his partner, Michael Tracy, used.
With over tens of thousands of officers in America, and each one with a different call sign, it’s nearly impossible to create one that’s not already in use. The one I picked, no doubt, is assigned, but it is used factitiously in 30 Seconds Before.
So what’s my character’s call sign?
Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series (Hurricane Crimes and Seismic Crimes), as well as these releases from The Wild Rose Press: 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. She is an administrator for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and heads their monthly newsletter. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press. 30 Seconds Before can be found on Amazon.
Find out more about Chrys and her books at www.ChrysFey.com.