LAPD phonetic alphabet

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The LAPD phonetic alphabet is a spelling alphabet, similar to the ICAO spelling alphabet, that is used by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and other local and state law enforcement agencies across the state of California and elsewhere in the United States. It is the "over the air" communication used for properly understanding a broadcast of letters in the form of easily understood words. It is not a phonetic alphabet in the sense of a system for transcribing speech sounds, for which see the phonetic alphabet disambiguation page and phonetic notation.

History[edit]

At some point in the early history of emergency service mobile radio systems, the LAPD developed its own phonetic alphabet for relaying precise information on individual letters. For example, the license plate "8QXG518" might be read by a civilian as "eight cue ex jee five eighteen" but with accuracy being paramount, the police dispatcher would say "eight queen x-ray george five one eight." Despite the development in 1941 of the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet and its replacement, circa 1956, by the NATO phonetic alphabet (currently used by all NATO armed forces, civil aviation, telecommunications, and some law enforcement agencies), the LAPD and other law enforcement and emergency service agencies throughout the United States continue to use their traditional system.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

The origin of the name Adam-12 from the television series with that same title is believed to have come from this alphabet. To the present, the LAPD calls its basic two-man patrol car an “A” unit – and the letter “A” is spoken as “Adam” in the phonetic alphabet. So 1-Adam-12 translates to [Division] One (LAPD Central Division) Two Man Patrol Car (Adam unit) in patrol car 12. The patrol car uses the last two numbers of the car number for radio use and the last three numbers of the six digit car number on the roof of the patrol car. For example, Adam 12 on the radio and 012 on the patrol car roof.

In the 1970s American television series CHiPs, motorcycle units were identified with the letter "M", such as 7M4 (Seven Mary Four) for Officer Frank Poncherello (played by Erik Estrada). His partner, Officer Jon Baker (played by actor Larry Wilcox), was identified as 7M3 (Seven Mary Three). (7M3 is an example of a police radio call sign: 7 designates the patrol beat, M for Mary designates that he is a motorcycle unit, and 3 is his unit number.)

The American musical band Seven Mary Three came up with their band's name while watching CHiPs. Jason Pollock, a member of the band, revealed that "there's no great significance or anything. We were just tired of trying to think of a cool name." [1]

On Starsky & Hutch, another 1970s American television series, their car was identified as "Zebra 3".

Also, since many police, fire department, and rescue squad TV programs and movies are set in Los Angeles, the words of the LAPD phonetic alphabet have become familiar in the United States, Canada and English-speaking countries around the world[citation needed] due to the wide reach of American entertainment media. When used by workers such as telephone operators speaking to “civilians” who may be unfamiliar with the use of a phonetic alphabet, both the everyday letter and its phonetic alphabet equivalent are spoken, such as “B as in boy”, “V as in Victor”, etc.

On early seasons of Wheel of Fortune, a close variant of the LAPD phonetic alphabet was used.

Table[edit]

The LAPD phonetic alphabet represents the letters of the English alphabet using words as follows:

LAPD phonetic alphabet
Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic Number Phonetic
A Adam N Nancy 0 Zero
B Boy O Ocean 1 One
C Charles P Paul 2 Two
D David Q Queen 3 Three
E Edward R Robert 4 Four
F Frank S Sam 5 Five
G George T Tom 6 Six
H Henry U Union 7 Seven
I Ida V Victor 8 Eight
J John W William 9 Niner
K King X X-ray
L Lincoln Y Young
M Mary Z Zebra

There are several local variations of this system in use. The California Highway Patrol, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, San Jose Police Department, the San Francisco Police Department, and other agencies across the West Coast and Southwestern United States, as well as the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, use versions that allocate Yellow to "Y" and other agencies' versions allocate Baker or Bravo to "B", or use variations that include Nancy instead of Nora for "N" or Yesterday for "Y".

The use of the word Ocean seems to be advantageous in the radio communication of the letter "O" because it begins with the long, clear vowel "O". The phonetic words Ida and Union feature this same advantage. However, spelling alphabets seem to rarely use initial long vowels. With the exception of Uniform, none of the initial vowels in the NATO alphabet are like this. In an earlier U.S. military alphabet, "A" was indicated by Able, which does start with a long "A", but has since been changed to Alpha (also spelled Alfa, particularly outside the English-speaking countries).[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Musicianguide.com Biographies: Seven Mary Three
  • "APCO Phonetics". Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service. 2008.  Provides the LASD and LACDCS APCO Phonetic alphabet,