Dave Warner

Dave Warner

Jeff Clawson, M.D.

Jeff Clawson, M.D.

Ask Doc

Good morning.
Our agency had some questions pop-up concerning the EPD v7.0 Protocol 135: Weapons/Firearms definition of a WEAPON INCIDENT. Does this definition pertain to the weapon item only? Or does it pertain to persons in possession of a weapon? We have an example of children pointing weapons at passing vehicles. Would this be a WEAPON INCIDENT (pointing and presenting is a crime in our state), Open carry of a WEAPON, or another protocol? Another example is a report of a man in a populated store with a gun with no other complaint information during that call (multiple calls received from other sources reporting hostage situations and potential active shooter, but nothing during the specific call received). Based on that limited report, would this qualify as WEAPON INCIDENT, Open carry, or perhaps something different?

Thank you for the clarification on the matter.

Craig A. Nettles
Quality Assurance Specialist
Charleston County Public Safety
Consolidated Emergency Communications Center
North Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Hello Craig,
Thank you for your question regarding Protocol 135. While it’s difficult to say for certain which given caller’s statement would justify the selection of WEAPON INCIDENT over that of Protocol 129: Suspicious/Wanted, or any other Chief Complaint with limited caller statement details, let me explain what the Police Standards Council intended in coding incidents on Protocol 135. While “Open carry of WEAPON” and “Carrying concealed WEAPON” tend to be more easily understood in terms of Sub-Chief Complaint selections, a WEAPON INCIDENT must then be something other than those incidents.

The Police Council of Standards may find that “Open carry of a WEAPON” will require a definition, or an expanded definition, of a WEAPON INCIDENT, beyond what’s currently provided in v7.0 for clarification. Open carry of a WEAPON is intended for those incidents wherein the weapon itself is holstered or otherwise packaged on an individual but is not actually being held or presented. If a person is holding, presenting, showing off, or playing with a weapon, WEAPON INCIDENT would be an appropriate Sub-Chief Complaint selection. The word “brandishing” is not defined within WEAPON INCIDENT as it tends to imply the act is done in anger, or an aggressive manner, and likely directed toward an individual or individuals. When this happens, Protocol 106 or Protocol 119 would be more appropriate than WEAPON INCIDENT.

There are a number of new Rules associated with Protocol 135 directing use of other Chief Complaints for specific incidents involving weapons. The Council’s intent with Protocol 135 is that no coding or protocol use of 135 should take place if the incident involves a victim(s) or other criminal act.

I hope this helps to clarify the use of Protocol 135. If you have further questions, or would like to discuss this more, please don’t hesitate to do so. 

Dave Warner
Police Protocol, Academics, and Standards Associate
International Academies of Emergency Dispatch® 

The involvement of weapons in police response is a never-ending dilemma that can be made better or worse by the actions, or inactions, of the Emergency Police Dispatcher. A recent detailed and extensively data-supported study, “How Prior Information and Police Experience Impact Decisions to Shoot” by Johnson, Cesario, and Pleskac sheds some needed light on this and other police dispatch information issues and places the role of the EPD up-front in this battle.1

Another issue is the relative availability of many types of weapons. An incident taking place in a kitchen or workshop presents the possibility of a plethora of things that could potentially be used as a weapon. The situational awareness of the EPD in this regard is essential to determining, and reporting, when appropriate, the availability of such items without going over the top. (I’m waiting for the many recent promises of dispatch AI to figure this one out!)

Bill Gates is credited with saying, “Information is the reduction of uncertainty.” This wise concept certainly focuses on the need to get early and accurate information, and the earliest this can be addressed is at the dispatch start of every incident.2,3,4 
Jeff Clawson, M.D.
Chair, Rules Committee Council of Standards 

1. Johnson DJ, Cesario J, Pleskac TJ. “How Prior Information and Police Experience Impact Decisions to Shoot.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2018; 115 (4): 601-623.
2. Broadbent M, Knight C, Warner D, Williams N, Scott G, Clawson JJ, Gardett I, Olola C. “Weapons Reported On-Scene by Callers to Emergency Police Dispatch.” Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response. 2018; 6 (1): 19-25.
3. Gardett I, Clawson JJ, Scott G, Barron T, Patterson B, Olola C. “Past, Present, and Future of Emergency Dispatch Research: A Systematic Literature Review.” Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response. 2013; 1 (2): 29-42.
4. Messinger S, Warner D, Knight C, Scott G, Rector M, Barron T, VanDyke A, Guerra L, Gardett I, Patterson B, Clawson JJ, Olola C. “The Distribution of Emergency Police Dispatch Call Incident Types and Priority Levels Within the Police Priority Dispatch System.” Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response. 2013; 1 (2): 12-17.