*EDITORIAL* Beware the Band Police

Hands up if you’ve ever been reprimanded by an OM on air about something you’ve said, allegedly done, or something you should’ve said or done?

Most of us I’m sure; and some of us, like me, more than once or twice over the course of my hobby career!

The chastising voice suddenly appears in between overs, always anonymous, stating their disapproval (i.e. the rules you’ve broken) and then keys down to sit back on the side, no doubt satisfied they’ve provided you with enlightenment.

If you’ve experienced this on-air ‘rent-a-cop’ phenomena then chances are you’ve actually been censured by a member of the ‘Band Police’.

Congratulations, you now have a criminal record!

Well not really — but you may have been added to some unofficial database that records hobby ineptness.

Who are the ‘Band Police’?  What’s their function?

Essentially, the ‘Band Police’ are a self-appointed, faceless throng of individuals who patrol the frequencies searching for opportunities to demonstrate their superior knowledge or DXperience to lesser equipped operators.

They are guys who were ‘born to make a difference’; men who act in pursuit of the public interest by making the bands, and hobby in general, a safer, more ethical and proper place to inhabit.

In Australia, the ‘Band Police’ on ham bands are known to focus their Herculean efforts, in particular, on disciplining F-Calls (i.e. Foundation License holders).

In fact, they’ll even stalk them around the bands, waiting for the slightest hiccup in operating protocol and then pounce like a lion on a zebra to advise them of their misdoings.

It’s a fulltime gig being an officer of the bands too as it’s common knowledge that F-Calls are simply renegade CBers cloaked in sheep’s wool who must be brought into line.

A stray ‘CB’ phrase here or there, incorrect usage of the phonetic alphabet, modulation that infringes on perceptions of being overdriven, and more — are all red rags to the ‘Band Police’;  and if the needle of their valve transceiver is hovering anywhere near, or above, a 5 then accusations of TX power outside the legal 10 watts for F-Calls are made and you’re guilty until proven innocent.

New or young ops aren’t the only guys, however, to be targeted by the ‘Band Police’ who are starting to add social media groups and ham forums, including cluster message boards, and patrolling those to their ‘police beat’.

Any operator, in fact, who can break through a pile-up in record time, work a distant DX station not heard by most other OM, get first crack in a Net, turn up unannounced on a remote DXCC for holiday DX without any record on any DX News site, have an opinion on the hobby that goes outside the tried and true, and other, is likely to attract the attention of the ‘Band Police’ and a severe admonishment.

On  top of accusations of piracy, operating with excessive bandwidth or outside the parameters of your license, the ‘Band Police’ will have you finger printed and in a line-up before you can blink.

How can you Identify a ‘Band Policeman’?

You can’t.

There’s no flashing lights or whirring sirens to indicate their approach.

There’s no alarm.

QRV on any frequency, across any band, they truly are the ultimate silent assassins who like to leave no footprint, other than the broken and dismembered self-worth of their victims.

Silent until their unique skills and expertise is required to address an issue that is.

To facilitate their work and make them more clandestine when combing hobby forums or clusters, ‘Band Police’ will rarely use a real profile or QRZ.

Instead, they prefer to go undercover, behind a mic or the safety of a keyboard, via a clever pseudonym; under the protection of a fake account; making pompous statements using complex, scientific terms to voice their disapproval in a bid to regulate the forum users.

And if they do give their real name and callsign to chastise an OM then chances are they’ve actually made themselves a ‘Moderator’ of the above aforementioned forum to validate their counsel.

Their guidance, then, can never be challenged or the guilty party will have their account ‘blocked’.

So how does one become a member of the ‘Band Police’?

What are the skillsets and prerequisites for this heroic role?

Firstly, the role is a self-appointed one.

There’s no job interview as such.  No selection panel to run through resumes.

There’s no paperwork either; no online forms to complete in order to wear the badge of a ‘Band Policeman’.

In fact, there’s not even a badge.  Well not a real one anyway.

There is, however, a hand-on-your-heart pledge to uphold the conventions installed by greats such as Heinrich Rudolf Hertz and Guglielmo Marconi.

Pileup protocol, DX codes of conduct, license privileges and more must be regulated with an iron fist.

Secondly, you’ll require a substantial ego and a massively inflated sense of self-worth to inflict on others who fail to meet the hobby’s historical high standards.

It’s  your job, after all, to enforce these standards so you must be ready to preach the righteous message of the Good Lord (e.g. ACMA, FCC, Ofcom, etc.) when unruly behaviour, or conduct not becoming of a real ham, raises its ugly head.

Your intervention, what’s more, must be straightforward and uncompromising so as not to leave any question as to who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right.

You’ll also need broad shoulders as ‘Band Police’ are expected to carry every volume of the ham radio rule book around with them at all times.

Also, you must be able to recite federal legislation off by heart; the page number, section, sub-section, paragraph, etc. of any ‘Act of Law’ pertaining to radio communications from the late 1800’s.

When Things go Too Far…

An obvious source of frustration for any member of the ‘Band Police’, though, is said to be when a user of the band (i.e. the infidel) does not comply with his authority.

This is when the Tactical Band Response Unit (TBRU) — a sub-branch of the ‘Band Police’ — is called into action and the guilty party is publicly lambasted by multiple ‘Band Policemen’ until he conforms or, better still, is driven from the hobby.

Public tirades (e.g. on social media, on air, clusters, forums, websites, etc.), warnings of visitation, extortion, physical intimidation and more, under the guise of anonymity of course, are all part of the TBRU’s armory when it comes to policing the bands and cleansing the hobby.

This is one of the reasons why ‘Band Police’, furthermore, rarely — if ever — call CQ.

To these guys, DX is nothing but a hindrance to effective band regulation — a ‘time-waster’.

The mishmash of signals is just too difficult to navigate.

They also rarely engage in ragchew or QSOs with other OM.  Why?  They lack social skills and are adept only at short bursts of one-way communication.

In fact, conversation makes them uncomfortable.

They become less of an authority figure and more, dare I say it, ‘personable’.

How to Deal with Band Police

As with real law enforcement officers, the best way to respond to a rebuke from an esteemed ‘Band Policeman’ is to say, “Thank you, Sir!”

“Thank you for taking the time to point me in the right direction and for tolerating my existence in your hobby, so that I can continue to learn and grow as a person.”

An alternative to the ‘kiss ass approach’ is to politely request a callsign so you know whom you’re speaking with and can address them, out of respect, by name and number.

Unfortunately, however, few ‘Band Police’ will EVER identify themselves and any request for on-air identification is likely to send them running for cover.

This is a shame as it’s imperative the ‘Band Police’ remain visible; that they have presence across the bands and be able to go about their duties without being opposed or forced to justify their work.

History says that only a proactive/aggressive community policing approach will deter the F-Calls and redneck CBers, in particular, infiltrating the hobby; guys whom are susceptible to operating outside the historical ham tapestry implemented by our forefathers and taking us down a heinous path of no return.

For this reason, ‘Band Police’ must be celebrated.

I hope you enjoyed the read.

73 de Darren, 43DA001