The Duluth Police Department receives about 110,000 calls for service every year. Because we are so busy, we must be in constant communication with each other. That’s why officers have so many different ways to stay in touch. From cellphones to computers to radios, cops in the field are always aware of what’s happening on a call.

The radio is a tool that’s not only in each of our squads, but also on our officers’ duty belts. Officers need to remain in contact with dispatch, other cops on duty, and other area law enforcement agencies inside the squad and out. The radio is the first point of contact when a call for service comes in. Dispatch is the one who gets us in touch with citizens who need our help.

Dispatch is 911. If you live in St. Louis County and you call 911, you’re reaching a team of valuable dispatchers. They take calls for all of St. Louis County and all area law enforcement within the county. The Minnesota State Patrol is the exception as their dispatchers are located in Minneapolis. From there, St. Louis County dispatchers route calls to the appropriate jurisdiction.

During a call for service, updates are given throughout the interaction. Other officers on duty use this information to determine if they should respond for backup. Also, non-responding officers may have valuable information on how best to interact with someone who has had police contact in the past. When multiple calls come in at once, officers communicate to prioritize response. Each call is important, but when someone is in danger of bodily harm or worse, those calls make it to the top of the priority list.

If you’ve ever heard radio chatter, it can sound like a different language. But officers’ trained ears can pick up on important information on the radio while, at the same time, having a face-to-face conversation. Now that’s talent!

"Question a cop" is a weekly column provided to the News Tribune by the Duluth Police Department and written by Ingrid Hornibrook, public information officer for the DPD. Have a question you'd like to ask? Send it to