The police service in the UK is renowned for its jargon, abbreviations, acronyms and mnemonics.  Whatever name is given to these odd words, they are used as a way of improving an officer’s recall to remind them of more complex texts.  They are also a way of shortening radio or written communications, saving airtime or space.BPCD 2016 Cover on Amazon

However, such abbreviations could also assist you when formulating your story by using them as a prompt for what should be included or excluded from your text, to make sure it is realistic.  It may provide you with ideas of how to prolong or speed up your fictional investigation.

When it comes to incidents such as a house explosion or a crime scene such as a murder (or mass killings such as a car purposely driven at a crowd), the mnemonic SADCHALETS is often used by the police and could be used as a prompt when writing about such or similar incidents.

In policing situations, it refers to actions carried out by the police officers arriving first at the incident and the information needed to assist others who will be involved later on.  Each letter of the mnemonic relates to a prompting word or words as can be seen below.

  • Survey scene on approach – the responding officer shouldn’t just turn up at a given location, they should take notice of what they experience on approaching the scene.  This requires use of all of the senses, not just sight.  A particular smell may help identify the presence of petrol for instance or a shrill sound may indicate an alarm activated in the vicinity etc.  The flow of a crowd may lead to or away from the scene e.g. most people would run away from a violent offender’s presence but run towards injured or trapped victims in the case of an accident or collision occurring.
  • Assess situation on arrival – the attending officer needs to quickly and accurately determine what has happened and start to gather (even just mentally at this stage) information that will provide the answers to the following steps.
  • Disseminate following details to Control – not only will the police control room want an update from the responding officer but they will need certain information so that they can carry out the tasks either identified from the scene (e.g. and ambulance is required at the scene) or that the controller does in all instances e.g. they have to update all logs created on the force database of calls for service or incident the police are requested or required to attend.  The controller will be responsible for sending additional resources to the incident and for passing relevant information to those officers e.g. they may direct armed officers to attend the scene where a firearm is suspected of being present and they will provide the armed officers any information that will help them carry out their role.
  • Casualties (approx. number) – The sooner the number and type of casualties can be ascertained, the sooner the correct response can be requested of the other emergency services.  Any of them may have already been asked to attend the scene by a member of the public but the correct type and number of (medical/rescue) resources required may not be apparent from this call.
  • Hazards (that are present or potential) – it is vitally important that the first responding officers quickly determine what hazards are or may be present at the scene so that the lives of others can be protected.  If a tanker lorry has toppled over, the officer should be trying to ascertain what if anything it may have been carrying and what dangers the product may pose. It may have held a dangerous chemical that can quickly debilitate anyone approaching it, so an early (and at a distance) assessment is vital.
  • Access (best access routes and rendezvous points) – it may be that the first responding officer reached the scene via the best available route or only route but they must also consider how others, following them, should approach the scene taking into consideration many circumstances such as what hazards are present or possible, what type of vehicle may be following them and is the access suitable for them e.g. a parked car lined street may be problematic for a fire tender.  The officer must also consider the evidence that may be lost or preserved by using a particular route.218 Fact Cover
  • Location (exact including map reference) – not may officers are able to identify map references from a physical location but they may be able to describe it more clearly and accurately than a member of the public, who may use a colloquial name for the location that doesn’t actually feature on a map.  It is possible that a number of calls are made to the police and each one uses a different location for the incident, particularly if it occurs at or near to a multiple junction street or road.
  • Emergency services (present and/or required) – the person making the initial call to the police about the incident may not recognise that a particular emergency service may be required e.g. a car which has overturned and landed on its roof, may easily prompt the need for an ambulance for the injured occupants but having no knowledge of what the fire service can do,  they may not also be requested at the same time to help free trapped occupants from the vehicle.  The attending police officer should be better placed to determine who is and isn’t needed and to recognise those already present e.g. the difference between ambulance staff and a paramedic at the scene.
  • Type of incident (vehicles, buildings etc) – what appears to be a fire at a factory may in fact be a vehicle on fire near to or inside a building, which may require a different response from that initially thought.
  • Safety of all staff at scene – through accurate assessment of the scene, the first arriving officer will be able to identify risks that may affect themselves and others. Through correct and accurate dissemination, they can ensure the safety of others attending the scene e.g. the need to ensure that armed officers attend the scene of an incident before unarmed officers, where weapons may be used against others.

You can use the above mnemonic and examples to assist telling your story by making sure that all of the elements of SADCHALETS has been considered if not written about e.g.

Survey – How many officers do you want to attend the scene in the first instances?  Using the senses, what do you want to describe and have them experience?  What do you want them to miss, that you can bring up later in the story?

Assess – Are your officers going to be competent and manage to assess the scene effectively or not?  What factors will you use to inhibit or improve their assessment?  Prior to their arrival, were they overworked and stressed? On arrival, did they find the scene distressing or traumatic?

Disseminate – Were they able to tell the right person the right information and did the person receiving the information act in the right way or not?  Was everyone in the chain of communication competent?  Did the right people get the information they needed or not? Can you create conflict through wrongful dissemination?

Casualties – How many and what type of casualties do you want in the story?  Will they be hysterical, very subdued, badly or minimally harmed?  Who will be helping or harming them on arrival of the police?

Hazards – Are there any hazards within or around the scene of the incident?  Do you want to complicate matters further by introducing any (additional) hazards and if so what?  Will they affect just those already at the scene or those yet to reach it?  What part will the hazard play in the story and what use will it be in taking it forward?

A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]Access – How would you describe the access route?  Is everyone that needs to, able to reach the scene easily or will they be obstructed by something and if so what and how will they surmount it?  Will problems be created by someone accessing the scene in the wrong way?

Location – What location are you going to use?  Do you need to consult a map for ideas regarding access and hazards etc.?  How will you describe the location to the readers?  How will the location impact upon access and safety?

Emergency Services – Who do you want involved at the start of the incident, who do you want to omit, why and for how long?  By omitting or unnecessarily including one, can you introduce conflict into the story?

Type of Incident – What type of incident do you want to feature in the story and is it a means to get characters involved or revealed or is it a significant actor in the story in itself?  Do you know enough about such chosen incidents or do you need to research them?  Will the type of incident allow you to include the elements above?

Safety – How safe do you want the scene to be?  Do you want to increase the risks and if so, how and why?  Who do you want effected by an unsafe environment and why?  How can you ensure that the environment remains safe and who will be responsible for its safety or otherwise?

Hopefully, you will be able to use some of this article to explore, strengthen and deepen your ideas, narratives, dialogues and stories.  If so, please feel free to share the post with others and if not, please feel free to provide me with your feedback.

Don’t forget that you can acquire much research material and answers to your questions from within any of the three books shown on this page – just click on the image to purchase a copy if you haven’t already got one.

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