Critical Apprehension Description Essentials (CADE) Tool

Becca Barrus

Becca Barrus

CDE Police

*To take the corresponding CDE quiz, visit the College of Emergency Dispatch.*

You’re halfway through your shift in the dispatch center, and as an Emergency Police Dispatcher (EPD), you’ve already handled several DISTURBANCE/NUISANCE calls, a couple of motor vehicle accidents, and half a dozen reports of alarms going off. It’s just another day, free from any of the TV-worthy drama that first drew you to this career.

But then you get a call you weren’t expecting. The caller is out of breath, telling you that a local gas station has just been robbed. She fires off what the two gun-toting robbers were wearing (black ski masks and red jumpsuits) and the license plate number of the van they got into. But hold on—you still don’t have an address!

Sounds like you need to use the Police Priority Dispatch System™ (PPDS®) CADE Tool.

The What and Why

The Critical Apprehension Description Essentials (CADE) Tool is relatively new to the PPDS. It was first made available in PPDS v6.2 in February 2020. Like many of the updates to the Protocols, it was created as a response to user input. Multiple police agencies contacted the Academy asking for a tool that could get description essentials to responders even more quickly in cases of some high-acuity, low-frequency calls.

“Out of the Medical, Fire, and Police Protocols, Police has the earliest send point using the CADE Tool,” said Jason Barbour, Public Safety Specialist with Priority Dispatch Corp.™ “It’s designed for high-acuity events where the caller is spontaneously blurting out descriptions as soon as you pick up the phone. You can take notes in the ProQA® pop-up box right then rather than waiting to take the notes later in the call.”

Which descriptions are essential? Usually it’s information about the suspect(s) and/or a vehicle description, and whatever information the caller spontaneously gives you. Anything that would help law enforcement officers flag potential suspects while responding to the scene or alert them to scene safety issues qualifies as “essential.”

The When

What types of calls qualify for the use of the CADE Tool? Serious crimes where time is of the essence, such as a carjacking, robbery, or active assailant—any dangerous/violent situation where the suspect is now fleeing, either on foot or using a vehicle, and needs to be caught quickly. (“Critical” means “time-sensitive” and “apprehension” means “capture;” it’s essentially a tool that helps you get description essentials for situations where catching the suspect(s) is urgent.)

Traditionally with events involving law enforcement, the time frame fits into one of three categories: In Progress, Just Occurred, or Past Event. The types of situations in which you will use the CADE Tool will be a combination of In Progress and Just Occurred. In other words, the suspects might still be within a reasonable distance of where the crime was committed or in a specific area where they may be potentially encountered or apprehended. If a caller says that a stabbing “just occurred,” you might want to clarify what they mean by that. If they clarify that it was five minutes ago, proceed as usual. If they say it was seconds ago, use the CADE Tool.

The CADE Tool is currently set to launch automatically in ProQA when you select one of the following Determinant Codes: 

• Protocol 101-D-2: ABDUCTION
• Protocol 106-D-1: SHOOTING
• Protocol 106-D-2: STABBING
• Protocol 106-D-3: SEXUAL ASSAULT on CHILD
• Protocol 106-D-4: SEXUAL VIOLENCE on CHILD
• Protocol 106-D-5: SEXUAL ASSAULT on ADULT
• Protocol 106-D-6: SEXUAL VIOLENCE on ADULT
• Protocol 110-D-1: HOME INVASION
• Protocol 126-D-1: Personal ROBBERY
• Protocol 126-D-2: Business ROBBERY
• Protocol 126-D-3: Carjacking

All Determinant Codes that are equipped to use the CADE Tool are DELTA-level, but not all DELTA-level Determinant Codes need the CADE Tool.

The Who and Where

The CADE Tool is a place for you to gather description essentials for two things specifically: person and vehicle. For a vehicle (if relevant), you should prioritize the vehicle’s color and body style. ProQA provides text boxes for you to enter additional information (paintwork, damage), the license plate number, and the plate’s state/province, but you may not receive any or all of it. To help law enforcement officers find the correct person, you should prioritize asking the caller to tell you the suspect(s)’s race, gender, age, and clothing. This does not mean you must gather all of those details using the CADE Tool! If a caller isn’t sure or doesn’t know, simply type in the information they do give you and move on to regular questioning.

The CADE Tool does NOT prompt you to gather information about any weapons. If a caller spontaneously provides that information, you can put it in the “Additional” information box. However, you should remember Case Entry Rule 9 and “[a]lways inform responders if weapons are involved or if any information relates to officer safety.”

The information you gather using the CADE Tool will be sent to your CAD immediately after closing the Description Essentials window, so you won’t have to retype it later. Here’s another ProQA tip: when you click on the CADE Tool, there are separate boxes for each kind of information. You can, however, type all the information into the first box to save time—it will all be relayed to the responding officers regardless of how it’s organized. 

Because the CADE Tool is most often used in situations involving a moving violation, if the caller updates you on the suspect’s current location, be sure to pass those updates on to the responders! As with information about weapons, you can put notes about the direction of travel in the “Additional” information box. If the caller tells you they’re following the suspect, heed Case Entry Rule 14: “Instructions about following a suspect’s vehicle should be handled according to local policy.”

The How

Since the CADE Tool is a relatively recent update to the PPDS, your agency might not have it enabled. According to Barbour, it isn’t automatically turned on when ProQA is installed or updated—it’s a good idea to check with your agency admin to see if it’s been enabled in your center.

Like the Jurisdictionally Approved Questions and Instructions in purple text, the CADE Tool isn’t a solution that every center will want to use. It’s important to the Academy that centers have some flexibility within the Protocols to meet their area’s needs most accurately.

In the ProQA Admin Utility, navigate to Description Essentials, then click the check box at the top of the page next to “Enable Critical Apprehension DE.”


Let’s go back to that gas station robbery in the beginning. The caller told you that there were two robbers wearing black ski masks and red jumpsuits and gave you the license plate number of the van they got into. She is calling from the landline of a nearby business, and you confirm both the address of the emergency and the callback number. You select “Protocol 126-D-2: Business ROBBERY” as the Determinant Code.

When the CADE Tool pops up automatically in ProQA, you type out “ARMED, blk ski masks, rd jumpsuits” in the person description text box, “van” in the body style text box, and “D42 P9L” in the license plate text box. While it’s fresh on her mind, you ask the caller what color the van was and the race, gender, and age of the suspects. The van was white, and she can’t be sure what their races, genders, and ages were. You type “white” into the vehicle color text box and “N/A” in all the others.

You hit “dispatch” and it alerts nearby law enforcement officers.

Now you can go back and get more information about the incident from the caller—what kinds of weapons the robbers had, which direction they drove off in, and what they took. You will send this information to the responding officers to keep them abreast of the situation, but thanks to the CADE Tool, they have enough information to go into the situation with their eyes as open as possible.

One thing’s for certain—your heart is pounding and you’re ready to go back to more routine calls!