High Frequency: Racial slurs heard in police radio

© Frank Polich
Chicago’s police dispatch line captures plenty of intense audio, but repeated transmissions of racial slurs over police radio channels shocked a dispatcher and officers, setting off an investigation.

Early Saturday morning, the dispatcher and an officer were having what seemed like a normal conversation. The officer asked the dispatcher if she was trying to get his attention, which she denied, saying, “No, boo. It’s too early to be bothering you. Good morning.

A different male voice then came on asking, “how many more things you have?

The dispatcher asked why that person was using her channel, as he was not assigned to her zone, the Chicago Tribune reports. In response, the voice is heard saying, “typical f***ing n****r.

Another man, assumed to be an officer, then instructed the dispatcher to “find out what radio that comment came from.

"You know we don't get radio numbers,” the dispatcher replied, “but I'm already hollering for my supervisor.

Next, a different voice, possibly taking on an accent, is heard saying either “Black Lives Matter, man” or “Black Lives Matter, my ass.” Either way, what came next was clear enough, another “f***ing n****r” remark.

It is unknown whether or not it was officers on the radio. A statement from the Chicago Police Department Office of News Affairs condemned the comments.

The statements made are absolutely unacceptable and Superintendent Escalante has ordered an immediate internal affairs investigation into this incident. Should the investigation reveal that a member of the Police Department made the statements, he will be immediately suspended and disciplinary proceedings will be launched,” the statement read.

The likelihood that the offensive comments came from outside of the department depends on their system. If they are working with a standard police communicator that relies on an open radio system easily be picked up by police scanners, then it is very possible. If they are using a more hi-tech, encrypted digital radio, then it is less likely to have come from outside of the department.

A representative of the News Affair team could not confirm the type of radio system Chicago PD relies on. However, the Chicago Tribune reports that in March 2015, a security guard in possession of a police scanner interrupted radio traffic to call for “backup” after a 21-year-old threw a brick through a window of a Walgreens. Perhaps it isn’t that hard to get into Chicago’s police frequencies.