Phonetic alphabet and rank in LE?

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#1
Why does LE use a different phonetic alphabet than the military?
It seems to me that most LE agencies try to structure themselves on Military lines but use a different alphabet, Paul-Papa. Mary-Mike etc. Why is that? If you want to be Military, use what the Military uses.
It must be hard for officers who are ex-Military to switch back and forth during critical situations and I think using only one would help to eliminate confusion.
As to ranks, same same, LE uses ranks such as Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major etc. just like the Military, but God Forbid if you address a man with as many stars on his collar as Patton as General. That throws their panties in a wad real fast.
What if one has only 2 stars on his collar but the guy next to him has 4? Obviously the 4 star ranks but what do you call them? With my Military training from years ago, you address them both as General.
If you want to be Military, follow along with it all and don't get so pissed when called General. Sgts. and Lts. have no problem with it but don't call the Chief General.
This all stems from me witnessing a crime and getting interviewed at the station and me calling a man General. 2 stars, then one with 4 later. General
They did not like it but what do I know of their structure? Old training struck in. Chief of Police and Asst. Chief I learned later.
When I referred to them both as Generals, they both puffed up and I was wondering if I had buttfucked their Bulldogs?
Confusing.
 
Nov 17, 2011
2,779
3,111
113
#2
Why does LE use a different phonetic alphabet than the military?
It seems to me that most LE agencies try to structure themselves on Military lines but use a different alphabet, Paul-Papa. Mary-Mike etc. Why is that? If you want to be Military, use what the Military uses.
It must be hard for officers who are ex-Military to switch back and forth during critical situations and I think using only one would help to eliminate confusion.
there are different phonetic alphabets...

the one we are most familiar with is the NATO alphabet (alpha bravo charlie, ect)

however, especially on HAM bands....you will hear all sorts of shit.

most people use NATO or the old ARRL alphabet (adam baker charlie david, ect).........and sometimes people straight up make up their own.

really not confusing to me....as i listen for the first letter only anyways.....

i mean, if someone says "Sierra Echo Nancy David November Uncle Delta Edward Susan"......im able to understand that pretty easily
 

308pirate

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 25, 2017
3,035
597
113
#5
there are different phonetic alphabets...

the one we are most familiar with is the NATO alphabet (alpha bravo charlie, ect)

however, especially on HAM bands....you will hear all sorts of shit.

most people use NATO or the old ARRL alphabet (adam baker charlie david, ect).........and sometimes people straight up make up their own.

really not confusing to me....as i listen for the first letter only anyways.....

i mean, if someone says "Sierra Echo Nancy David November Uncle Delta Edward Susan"......im able to understand that pretty easily
When you're under some level of stress, communication is harder when you hear non-standard shit on the radio.

I learned that in the Navy and re-learned it when I learned to fly, particularly when I got my instrument rating. The last thing I want to do when I'm shooting an ILS to minimums in light to moderate turbulence is figuring out what the fuck I just heard in my headset.
 

ArmyJerry

Staff Sergeant
Nov 22, 2012
5,132
3,200
113
#8
your first mistake was getting involved with the popo. there is no upside at all.

Why does LE use a different phonetic alphabet than the military?
It seems to me that most LE agencies try to structure themselves on Military lines but use a different alphabet, Paul-Papa. Mary-Mike etc. Why is that? If you want to be Military, use what the Military uses.
It must be hard for officers who are ex-Military to switch back and forth during critical situations and I think using only one would help to eliminate confusion.
As to ranks, same same, LE uses ranks such as Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major etc. just like the Military, but God Forbid if you address a man with as many stars on his collar as Patton as General. That throws their panties in a wad real fast.
What if one has only 2 stars on his collar but the guy next to him has 4? Obviously the 4 star ranks but what do you call them? With my Military training from years ago, you address them both as General.
If you want to be Military, follow along with it all and don't get so pissed when called General. Sgts. and Lts. have no problem with it but don't call the Chief General.
This all stems from me witnessing a crime and getting interviewed at the station and me calling a man General. 2 stars, then one with 4 later. General
They did not like it but what do I know of their structure? Old training struck in. Chief of Police and Asst. Chief I learned later.
When I referred to them both as Generals, they both puffed up and I was wondering if I had buttfucked their Bulldogs?
Confusing.
 
Likes: 308pirate
Nov 17, 2011
2,779
3,111
113
#9
When you're under some level of stress, communication is harder when you hear non-standard shit on the radio.

I learned that in the Navy and re-learned it when I learned to fly, particularly when I got my instrument rating. The last thing I want to do when I'm shooting an ILS to minimums in light to moderate turbulence is figuring out what the fuck I just heard in my headset.
i dont disagree.....

but how many times is an officer radioing the phonetic alphabet under stress...and how many times are they just running a tag?
 

mijp5

Gunny Sergeant
May 7, 2009
4,316
1,333
113
#13
Yup. There is the military phonetic alphabet and about eighty or a hundred wrong ways.

I've never even been in the military but I work in telecom and when calling other carriers, you have to read out the circuit ID. You wouldn't believe the butchery I hear.

End of rant.
O as in obama
I as in ice cream
X as in xylophone

I’ve heard it all too on the phones
 

Skookum

Knuckle Dragger
May 6, 2017
541
415
63
#15
The current standard military Phonetic Alphabet only goes back to 1957. The one that most police agencies use is much older.

I like the military one better, but it wasn't here first.
 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#17
Yeah it is phucked up.
Come up with one or the other, then everyone is understanding it.
Jerry, I don't usually get involved with the PoPo and avoid them if at all possible.
This was where a Communist Homeless Bum walked out from the curb in the middle of the block in front of a Lady I know trying to pull a,"You ran me over," scam and collect some money.
I wouldn't leave anyone alone to fight that and it was very obvious to me what went down. I was right behind her and it could have been me except the Communist didn't want to butt horns with my old Dodge Ram. That one would hurt bad with the bumper on my truck.
To the Lady's credit, she didn't slam on the brakes, just rolled to the side of the street and stopped.
I pulled off in front of her and she waited until I got out of my truck and got to her car before she got out. Calm, cool, and collected, thinking, and she knew damn well what was up.
Between the two of us, the PoPo knew too so I was glad I was there and could help her. He has a history of this same act.
Neither of us got too excited as to helping him out as he laid in the gutter moaning and groaning and cussing.
I named him Sour Sewer on the spot, damn he was ripe, and used that name all the time I was being interviewed. FM
 
Feb 15, 2005
110
33
28
Mission, KS
www.donttouchme.com
#21
The current standard military Phonetic Alphabet only goes back to 1957. The one that most police agencies use is much older.

I like the military one better, but it wasn't here first.
Oh that explains it. And why my local cops carry revolvers and ride horses. They could change.

The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (NATO Alphabet) is newer because it's better. It's all science and shit. And with a good percentage of cops being ex-mil, why the hell everyone hasn't changed over I'll never understand.
 
Likes: Foul Mike

Skookum

Knuckle Dragger
May 6, 2017
541
415
63
#24
Oh that explains it. And why my local cops carry revolvers and ride horses. They could change.

The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (NATO Alphabet) is newer because it's better. It's all science and shit. And with a good percentage of cops being ex-mil, why the hell everyone hasn't changed over I'll never understand.
It is actually hard to re-learn. I was in the military first, and my agency uses the military alphabet, so I didn't have to immediately re-learn it. However, I have been assigned to a few task forces with local and state guys and had to use thier alphabet. I fucked it up every time.

I will say though, that I much prefer "10-code" it makes it so easy to communicate simple messages. You can literally put out a paragraph's worth of info with just a few numbers that everybody is well familiar with. The one thing I have really come to cringe at though, is "Roger" instead of "10-4". Some of the prior military guys slip up and say that sometimes. For some stupid reason, that really is like nails on a chalk board to someone who is used to 10 code. I usually catch myself yelling at the radio, "ROGER!...WHO THE FUCK IS ROGER!!?"
 
Last edited:

Unknown

Gunny Sergeant
Sep 17, 2009
3,058
127
63
Pacific Northwest,USA
#25
My agency used the name alphabet for radio calls. I never bothered to ask why, but my first guess would be that there are more people going into LE who were NOT in the military, and names are easier for people to recite under stress. Our C-com didn't bent out of shape if someone said Mary, Mike, Mango, Mark, or whatever. They were more concerned that people push the mike button BEFORE they start talking. You might be surprised at what goes on over the air waves under stress...then again, maybe not. We were to say our call sign followed by "copy" rather than 10-4, or "Roger".

I'm sure that someone, somewhere had what they believed to be a logical reason for setting things up one way rather than another. As long as I could communicate with C-com (central communication) and them with me, I didn't care why they wanted things done one way rather than another.
 

Strykervet

Resident Phoenix Eye and Dim Mak Instructor
Jun 5, 2011
2,500
709
113
42
Pierce County, WA
#29
Why does LE use a different phonetic alphabet than the military?
It seems to me that most LE agencies try to structure themselves on Military lines but use a different alphabet, Paul-Papa. Mary-Mike etc. Why is that? If you want to be Military, use what the Military uses.
It must be hard for officers who are ex-Military to switch back and forth during critical situations and I think using only one would help to eliminate confusion.
As to ranks, same same, LE uses ranks such as Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major etc. just like the Military, but God Forbid if you address a man with as many stars on his collar as Patton as General. That throws their panties in a wad real fast.
What if one has only 2 stars on his collar but the guy next to him has 4? Obviously the 4 star ranks but what do you call them? With my Military training from years ago, you address them both as General.
If you want to be Military, follow along with it all and don't get so pissed when called General. Sgts. and Lts. have no problem with it but don't call the Chief General.
This all stems from me witnessing a crime and getting interviewed at the station and me calling a man General. 2 stars, then one with 4 later. General
They did not like it but what do I know of their structure? Old training struck in. Chief of Police and Asst. Chief I learned later.
When I referred to them both as Generals, they both puffed up and I was wondering if I had buttfucked their Bulldogs?
Confusing.
That's so funny, I got pulled over one time and while taking my info he points to his collar with four gold stars and asks, "do you know who I am?" to which I replied interrogatively, "the general of the sheriff's dept.?" and he didn't like it either, but he was cool about it. He knew about the two weapons I had and my dog in the truck and he'd seen my vet plates, so he didn't give me a hard time and let me off with a warning when he really didn't have to. But I was honest with him, didn't bullshit him, didn't do dumb shit to make him worry about me being armed.

But yeah, if they don't wanna be called general, pick some other rank insignia! I don't know what that shit is. I could barely keep up with navy rank!

But FWIW, and I could be wrong, I do think they use the same military phonetic alphabet --but they're also close to Ft. Lewis and have to deal with MP's regularly I imagine. Other dept.'s around here are probable the same, but 1J would be able to tell us more about that.
 

mijp5

Gunny Sergeant
May 7, 2009
4,316
1,333
113
#30
That's so funny, I got pulled over one time and while taking my info he points to his collar with four gold stars and asks, "do you know who I am?" to which I replied interrogatively, "the general of the sheriff's dept.?" and he didn't like it either, but he was cool about it. He knew about the two weapons I had and my dog in the truck and he'd seen my vet plates, so he didn't give me a hard time and let me off with a warning when he really didn't have to. But I was honest with him, didn't bullshit him, didn't do dumb shit to make him worry about me being armed.

But yeah, if they don't wanna be called general, pick some other rank insignia! I don't know what that shit is. I could barely keep up with navy rank!

But FWIW, and I could be wrong, I do think they use the same military phonetic alphabet --but they're also close to Ft. Lewis and have to deal with MP's regularly I imagine. Other dept.'s around here are probable the same, but 1J would be able to tell us more about that.
You got pulled over by the General? What was he doing pulling people over?
 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#31
Sean, I love the Admiral idea and that is Spot On, and I will use it. At the time I was using my Army training to respond.
I have to go down to the PD office early next week to meet with the Lady and the authorities to get everything straight.
She was not charged but I am sure they have all kinds of paperwork involved as to getting after the Communist Homeless Bum, Sour Sewer, and his antics and hopefully do something with the Stinky Bum, like throw him in jail and hit him with a pressure washer and deport the bastard.
IF it goes as I hope, when the lash -up starts, and if both of them are present, I will greet them both with,"Good morning General and you also Admiral." I will bet that will put a really tight twist in their panties! And probably a response from them like,"Fuck you Foul Mike. You know I am the Chief of Police." to which I will respond," then wear a bigger Badge, as I know you are not a General or Admiral, but you wear the Insignia so what am I to think?"

Back to the OP, from what I have read, I think everyone is on the same page here and there needs to be one or the other, not both.
I worked for 30 years with the Highway Dept. out of the same building with the State Patrol and we all knew each other. They used the Adam, Paul shit where I would just normally revert to the Mil. stuff I had been taught during stressful situations such as bad crashes on the Interstate and we were on the same channels talking to each other.
Most of the "Old Bat" female dispatchers had trouble with it but the male, mostly veterans, did not. Looking back on it I should have learned their lingo, but didn't, and STRESS is a big factor as to what you say when you are dealing with bad crashes with hair , teeth and eyeballs mixed in and sending tag numbers etc.

To all of you I hope you have a Great Weekend and this thread has been fun for me.
On Tuesday, after all is said and done, I may give those Bulldogs or Poodles a Reach Around depending how it goes or a swift kick in the Ass. FM

Keep humor in your lives, It will serve you well. RIP DVT and FM
 
Last edited:
Nov 17, 2011
2,779
3,111
113
#32
Im almost wondering if agencies aren’t using The NATO alphabet specifically because it does sound “ military”....And they don’t want that military connotation....

Unlike most Sheriff’s offices.... which look like they’re about to deploy to fallujah.......a lot of local PDs are trying to “demilitarize”......changing uniforms to more “friendly “ polo tops, etc.
 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#33
I concur, I don't see them out in Class A as much but they do make it around the streets. Unmarked cars etc. DL but there.
It is Fair time here so all are out in full costume. Stars and Bars, marked cars also and the light shows etc.
 

Skookum

Knuckle Dragger
May 6, 2017
541
415
63
#34
Im almost wondering if agencies aren’t using The NATO alphabet specifically because it does sound “ military”....And they don’t want that military connotation....

Unlike most Sheriff’s offices.... which look like they’re about to deploy to fallujah.......a lot of local PDs are trying to “demilitarize”......changing uniforms to more “friendly “ polo tops, etc.
I think it's tradition and inertia. There is almost 80 years of using now, and no compelling reason to change.
 
Likes: shoobe01

Skookum

Knuckle Dragger
May 6, 2017
541
415
63
#36
Yes, no reason other than everybody knows what is going on and understands it all. KISS
You should make that your mission in life. You could go around to all 12,000+ departments in the US and get them to all switch over. I dare you.😁
 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#37
Fuck that , I am too old. Ain't got time fo that.
Maybe they can all get their heads out of their asses and all get on the same page? one way or another, and call it uniformity or something like that.
It is hard to reason with people that have never made a mistake in their lives.
 

1J04

Morale Officer
Aug 7, 2011
9,386
4,478
113
PACIFIC NW
#39
I believe many agencies do see themselves as paramilitary, which is kinda funny when considering the "Posse Comitatus Act" of 1878 enacted to clearly keep separate the Military and Law Enforcement. Those of us that have served and are comfortable with



obviously STILL have an issue using :



So in keeping with the Acts separation goal they chose to utilize a separate phonetic alphabet, which is just nothing other than a text book case in point of just how idiotic things can be. I still struggle with it after 10 yrs of Military Service and 21 yrs in Law Enforcement. Hell, literally EVERYONE I know would happily adopt the Military version in a heartbeat, but no. We don't want the appearance of being Military, yet are Paramilitary and much of our equipment is procured from the Military. *scratching head* :unsure:

Here's a Wiki link to the Act:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act

The internet is a wonderful thing...........

Edit: I completely skipped the other portion regarding "Rank" and Collar Devices. I get it, it too is a pain in the ass. All the different branches with different Ranks from E-1 to 0-10. Another pain in the ass. Someone above got it right though. 4 Stars are for either the Sheriff or Chief of Police. 2 for Undersheriff and Assistant Chief of Police. But 'General' is fine. :ROFLMAO:
 
Last edited:

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
6,695
2,835
113
50
MA
#42
I just wish when using it guys wouldnt say

"M Mike, Z Zulu, 1, 2, P Papa"

If you are going to use phonetic use phonetic

"Mike, Zulu, 1, 2, Papa"

Than if you want to ensure clarity repeat it in standard form

"M, Z 1, 2, P"

I know M is Mike just say either "M" or "Mike" not "M Mike" use one or the other at a time.

When you are writing shit down it gets confusing when you hear "M Mike" is that supposed to be "M" or "MM"?
 
Likes: Stpilot12
Oct 14, 2005
638
80
28
32
Houston
#44
There are 18,000 agencies in the US I’m sure there are tons of variations. Should be fewer than 70.

And Posse Comitatus exists purely to end reconstruction.
 

1J04

Morale Officer
Aug 7, 2011
9,386
4,478
113
PACIFIC NW
#45
There are 18,000 agencies in the US I’m sure there are tons of variations. Should be fewer than 70.

And Posse Comitatus exists purely to end reconstruction.
And has nothing to do with separation? It's the best explanation I can come up with. And the only thing that makes any sense.
 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#47
With all of the Military gear, weapons and vehicles, etc. that the local agencies around here have from the Fed. Govt. that Posse Comitatus bin of shit ain't gettin it for this Old Hippie, but good try.
It all boils down to the fact that they can't get their collective shit together and nary a one of the heads of these agencies would ever admit that one system or the other would work better than the other. "This is how we have always done it so by God we are right and the rest of the World is fucked up, end of discussion."
Speaks volumes for their commo skills and negotiating skills and how they get along together, and, unfortunately, sometimes boils over into the real world when the shit is hitting the fan and there is NO room for a lack of commo.
Go one way or the other, simple as that.
By the way, some of that Military gear is never used once received other than to play with it when new to them, then off to the bone yard.
There is a large Military vehicle, MRAP? I don't know? but doesn't have tracks, sitting in a County yard that I drive past 5 out of 7 days that hasn't moved for months and I doubt even started during those months.
It would take a swather to cut the weeds to get to it. Never gets the oil circulating or the grease stirred. Would it start today? I doubt it unless it has Hella batteries, Never moves around the yard, no ruts in the dirt around it.
They need that like they need another Asshole but there are already more than enough Assholes around, me being one.
I hope they never really need it for something bad going down.
 
Likes: 1J04

1J04

Morale Officer
Aug 7, 2011
9,386
4,478
113
PACIFIC NW
#48
With all of the Military gear, weapons and vehicles, etc. that the local agencies around here have from the Fed. Govt. that Posse Comitatus bin of shit ain't gettin it for this Old Hippie, but good try.
It all boils down to the fact that they can't get their collective shit together and nary a one of the heads of these agencies would ever admit that one system or the other would work better than the other. "This is how we have always done it so by God we are right and the rest of the World is fucked up, end of discussion."
Speaks volumes for their commo skills and negotiating skills and how they get along together, and, unfortunately, sometimes boils over into the real world when the shit is hitting the fan and there is NO room for a lack of commo.
Go one way or the other, simple as that.
By the way, some of that Military gear is never used once received other than to play with it when new to them, then off to the bone yard.
There is a large Military vehicle, MRAP? I don't know? but doesn't have tracks, sitting in a County yard that I drive past 5 out of 7 days that hasn't moved for months and I doubt even started during those months.
It would take a swather to cut the weeds to get to it. Never gets the oil circulating or the grease stirred. Would it start today? I doubt it unless it has Hella batteries, Never moves around the yard, no ruts in the dirt around it.
They need that like they need another Asshole but there are already more than enough Assholes around, me being one.
I hope they never really need it for something bad going down.


Preaching to the choir, and I think you're on to something. ;)

And there it sits...........


 

Foul Mike

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 18, 2001
1,401
401
83
Eastern Colorado
#49
Yeah, that is it but the one here is overgrown with weeds.
God only knows when it last moved but I know it takes months to grow weeds that tall.
Too bad they didn't plant good weeds then they would have a cash crop to support the costs of maintaining the machine,[which they don't].
It is Colorado after all.
 
Likes: 1J04
Top Bottom