Monday, December 29, 2008

Dispatchers Becoming Officers

As I have been around in the dispatching world for more than a couple decades (for those of you who don't do math, that's more than 20 years), I have seen several Dispatchers demote themselves to officers for the better pay and less stressful work life. What I have found is that usually they are really great to work with because they understand the intricacies of our job better than an officer who sat for a couple hours during his orientation and/or training.

But there is always that one exception. And the exception is an officer that should never have even been hired on as a dispatcher. Talk about too much 'tude and has the mentality of Cliff from Cheers.

This person started their illustrious career with the City by attending the fire academy but couldn't get hired on by the fire department (have heard the rumors why but since I can't substantiate won't list them here). Then applied as a Dispatcher but from day one talked about all their knowledge about the fire department. At the time we dispatched fire and police so naturally the person knew more about how dispatching fire calls should go and everything that was happening and felt the need to share all that information. Constantly.

When this person got accepted into the police academy many of us started groaning. The person worked part time in dispatch so they could keep paying their bills while attending the academy. But was always cranky and full of lectures of how calls should be handled, by Dispatch and officers.

When the person actually got hired as an officer the groans in Dispatch got very loud. Several of then approximately 70 dispatchers said they would not be working the radio channel when that person was working patrol. And this morning was the example of why their former fellow dispatchers felt this way.

Was telling the radio dispatcher (me) what the complaint taker dispatcher should be asking the reporting party who said someone was trying to break into their house, wanting descriptions of the suspects and then got rude (dripping with a big 'tude) when told the reporting party was whispering because they were frightened and didn't want to look out the window or even leave their bedroom until they knew a police officer was on scene. "Then how does the RP know someone is trying to get in?" Excuse me? How I wish I could reach through the radio to hit the specific officer up against the side of the head.

So attention to you Dispatchers thinking of increasing your paycheck by swearing in as an officer. Remember your former co-workers do know what to ask and how and isn't trying to keep any information from you. Surely, you remember just how busy it gets and how difficult it is at times to get information from reporting parties. So drop the 'tude and let's get on with our business.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Domestic Violence

This is a personal hot button for me. My mother was a victim. I was a victim of child abuse.

Almost daily we get calls from women, and occasionally men (more and more) about valid complaints of domestic violence, ranging from pushing to assault with a weapon.

Very recently took a call from a grown son calling for Mom. Mom couldn't call us because Dad ripped the phone out of the wall, making it impossible for Mom to call for help. Mom uses a walker to get around due to physical damage done to her body from multiple beatings and abuse over the years by Dad.

I'm not going to go over the whole psychological issue of why women stay in such an abusive relationship. My mother did. This Mom continues to.

But what angers me is the lack of prosecution done to this "man" (and I hate to use this word for such an adlebrained/dimwitted member of the homosapian animal race) by our County District Attorney. And not just one DA either. According to premise history, this man has been arrested numerous times for domestic violence. Through at least three different DA terms.

In our state a victim (not all DV vics are women) does not have to "file a complaint" like they did during my mother's era. If an Officer sees physical evidence of assault, the suspect is arrested. The suspect can be prosecuted without the victim ever having to testify. When this law was created a lot of law enforcement and victim advocates danced happily in the streets.

But for some reason our County DA has a problem following through on prosecuting domestic violence suspects. A quick online search of the County Criminal Courts shows a very high percentage seem to be pled down. This "man" that created this angry blog entry has been arrested numerous times but seems to spend a little county jail time and goes home to repeat the cycle.

I wonder how many domestic violence convicted persons are actually in our prison system. Because this "man" should be one of those enjoying the rent free/first run movie viewing/better medical and dental coverage than I got/free gym equipment access residence provided by our state and my tax dollars. But for some reason our County DA's just let him go home again and again with a slap on his hand.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Criminal vs Civil

After enjoying a day with my family to celebrate a little holiday cheer, I return to work and deal with a very angry member of the community I work for, one of my first phone calls for the day. And spend a great amount of time trying to explain the difference between a criminal call for service (which we would handle) and a civil incident/case (in which we would not respond). And listened to her mouthing off and start "kitchen sinking" list of complaints about the agency I work for.

On television and in movies, you never see an Officer or Dispatcher refuse to answer a citizens request for police presence. An officer responds and settles the issue and writes up the report. Yeah, right.

Hello to all those script writers out there! Learn the facts and write accordingly! Take the opportunity to educate the general public who believe everything they see on television and in the movies as fact.

Law enforcement agencies, like the local police departments and sheriff departments, as a rule, respond to requests of the criminal nature. Granted, many sheriff departments have a civil division to help with service of warrants and restraining orders, but the rule of thumb is, if you have a complaint of the civil nature, don't call the police. They're crime fighters. Civil servants that don't handle civil complaints. (Now that's an oxymoron-ish).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Petition for Banishment

I have decided to start a petition to banish all Cricket cell phones. Am tired of people calling 9-1-1 or even calling in on non-emergency phone line and trying to understand what the reporting party is asking for or needing over the crackle/static/wavering cellular line.

I have been told part of the problem is based on their cellular wavelength. Part of the problem is the lack of Cricket designated cell towers. Part of the problem is the programing. Part of the problem is the cell phone design. Big part of the problem is a combination of all this plus more.

As soon as I answer a phone call I can tell immediately if the person is calling on a Cricket cell phone without even having to look at the phone receiving screen. I hope it isn't an emergency because I know it will be a difficult call for service trying to ascertain the necessary information over a bad connection, even when the connection is at its strongest.

What is it going to take to get Cricket to make the necessary changes in their cellular programing or towers or cell phone design to help alleviate this problem? Maybe for some people the great prices are enough of an incentive to deal with the snap, crackle and pop while talking on their cell phones. But, let's hope they don't have to call for help because on the emergency services side, it is a safety issue in my mind.

Who wants to sign my petition?

Thursday, December 18, 2008


And yet, another pet peeve to whine about. Those people who don't know their north/south/east/west.

The community I work in is almost 95% set right on the proper axis. The downtown, oldest part of the community is parallel to the railroad tracks, so they are set on a NW axis. But that is only a small part of the whole 500,000 populated area.

Even when you give points of interest or well known outlying communities for reference, it is amazing to me how many people still don't know their location. People are following suspects and they don't even know the direction they are traveling behind that really crazy or drunk driver, but they want you there before the person kills someone. Or a stranger just jumped into their backyard and can't tell the police from which direction they came from or running towards, but they want you to catch the person right away.

It's really simple people to learn the directions of axis in your community. Doesn't take much more than looking at a map. Learn it folks. If not for any other reason than for your own and family safety.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You're Kidding Me, Right?

Once again, in an attempt to track down an owner of a vehicle the address belongs to the adult child who no longer lives at that address. And once again the parent doesn't know his child's phone number or address. But at least this time the parent had it written down somewhere. So many times the parent doesn't even have that information.

One excuse for parents to not know the basic contact information for their adult children is they move around a lot. But yet, all these adult children have cell phones. So their phone number isn't changing as regular as their physical address.

I am the parent of adult children. Cell phone numbers are easy to remember. And it is easy enough to write down or key in the ever changing address in my own cell phone or store in wallet.

Get a clue folks. Even if your child does not live with you, be aware of where they live and how to get in contact with them. Who knows, your local law enforcement agency might need to make contact with them for an emergency. Or your family might have a life or death emergency and you need to contact them quickly and easily.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spit It Out

Come on folks. You call 9-1-1 or a non-emergency phone number. You know what you want or think you're going to get. But, yet, you go, "ah, ah, ah, and ah, (long silence)". Not just at the beginning but several times during your phone call.

Spit it out. Hopefully you're not calling for help without any idea of what you're calling help for. Yes, we get those people who talk too much. But they don't drive me as nuts as those callers who can't seem to spit out what they are calling about.

And we're not talking about speech deficiencies here. It's different, too, when English is a second language. I am talking about those people where English is their only language and they still can't seem to speak it.

aaahhh.... so much of my time is wasted on these people. Like pulling teeth from a chicken. Oh yeah, chicken don't have teeth. But these callers do. And a tongue. And some type of working grey matter. Right???

Whew. I feel much better for that tantrum. I can see why kids like doing this.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Super Power Hearing

If you dispatch for any length of time, you develop a very special super power. Your hearing and ability to "read into" the verbal messages and speech is a very superior skill that builds over experience and time. Since we don't have the opportunity to read the other person's body language like an officer responding to an event, we "hear" differently.

Recently took a 9-1-1 hang up. When I called back to confirm everything was okay, following policy of having the person on the other side of the call confirm address and telephone number, got a male on the phone who was sniffing and muttering child made a mistake (but child was already gone when asked about the child) and he didn't know the address and phone number.

His demeanor, his avoidance, his repetitiveness of "it's a mistake" set off an internal alarm that was forged over years of experience. It told me that something was off center and needed attention. So a call for service was created and officers were sent. Sent a note to the officers that something sounded hinky and they were like, "okay, we'll check it out."

Well, lo and behold, what did officers find? A domestic violence situation with the suspect male trying to hide from officers. After all, he was in violation of a restraining order and on probation. So this visit by officers meant a pair of silver bracelets were gifted to his wrists and a drive down to the county jail for booking with a future return to the state funded country club to finish his original sentence due to, , domestic violence and assault.

The officers were very good about not shrugging off my gut reaction to the call. They took me serious and it paid off. Now, the only problem is, how does a dispatcher explain this super power and ability in an articulate and accurate manner in an easy to understand format for court?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pet Peeve

Just want to sound off on a pet peeve against officers. (Like that doesn't happen regularly in this blog.) Listen up coppers: Don't try to dispatch from your vehicles!

Am so tired of an officer deciding what calls he wants to respond to or changing what units are responding to calls after I have dispatched them. Get a clue copper - it's not your job! It's mine. And if you doubt that, then look at our job descriptions.

Not only that, but you are too focused on what you want and don't want. I am looking at the whole picture. I see what needs to be handled. I am aware of priorities and how it works. I have an event monitor that tells me which units are closer than others, you don't. I know what officers are available and where they are located within the city.

So, you don't want to take the paper call. Would rather respond as a backup on a burglar alarm. Reality is, copper, I am in charge. You will respond where I say. Because the citizens has been waiting two hours to file that paper call you don't want and you wanting to fill on the burglar alarm so you can visit with your buddy when another officer is actually closer is just not going to happen.

And don't cop (no pun intended) an attitude when you are told "no" on the air. Hopefully the sergeant has been paying attention and backs me up. Or you try the sneaky thing by sending me messages over the computer telling me what you want to do. And then pretend you don't get my written reply of "no". Especially when you know it's a sergeant who understands, since you don't, that dispatchers tell officers where to go, not officers deciding where they go.

And just so you know, dear reader, this is the cleaned up version and third rewrite. My first draft was a very angry written discourse after almost two back to back episodes of this problem with the same officer. After checking for typos I realized that it was maybe just a bit (just a tiny bit) too harsh and point blank in my anger. So a bit of rewrite was called for. But then it sounded a bit namby pamby. So another rewrite and here it is.

And I wish I could feel better for writing it down. But I am smart enough to realize that the persons who need to read it won't be and probably wouldn't see themselves in it anyways. After all, they are the officers and they know more than any mere dispatcher.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pot - Marijuana

Am so tired of hearing about pot/marijuana. Whether it is complaint callers about smelling their neighbors use (through house walls and over the fence if you will) to articles in the newspaper about the growing number of permits issued for medical marijuana growth and sales to television news about the latest field found on Federal land or movie stars who point out its side effects and habit creating essence isn't any different than alcohol.

In a nutshell folks: Unless you have a prescription to smoke it or a permit to grow it and sell it for medical purposes, it is illegal.

No discussion on medical benefits. No discussion on its addictive properties. No discussion on the loss of taxable income if legal product.

Simple folks. You believe it should be a legal product, like alcohol and cigarettes and other over the counter products, get yourself into a position to change the law. Don't sit in your chair or hammock whining. Clean yourself up, gain a vocabulary, and do what you got to do to change the law. It has been done in the past.

Just quit whining and writing and broadcasting about this subject ad nauseum.

Monday, December 1, 2008

How Do You Spell Smith?

Apparently the public think because we are civil service we are uneducated and unable to spell basic names and words. Am so tired of people feeling the need to spell out, slowly cause I clearly am stupid, simple or common names. Now I could understand if the name is differently spelled or not a commonly used name, but really folks. Was it necessary for the person to spell out Smith?

Anyone who has taken a civil service entrance exam knows only basic reading and writing skills are necessary. Anyone who has ever taken the civil service entrance exam knows it tests more than the basics. Anyone who has ever had to grade the civil service entrance exam knows there are a lot of people with high school diplomas who don't know how to punctuate or spell correctly or use grammar correctly. Rudiment English won't cut the mustard for many civil service entrance exams that entail public contact.

Having worked in a legal office in the past, it is true that those of socially elevated employment (even the legal secretaries and paralegals) believe civil servants are not the brightest of bulbs, thus they work at jobs that would better fit the uneducated (but not quite the unwashed) that would be beneath them of elevated employment status. Apparently people forget a lot of attorneys and psychologists and social workers (those from the socially elevated employment ranks) started their professional careers as patrol officers, dispatchers, etc.

I have two Associate Degrees. Only a few units shy of my first Bachelor's Degree. By the time I finish my desired courses I will have three Bachelor's Degrees. Soooo... at least I can say I'm not a dumb duck. Just like the challenge that civil service provides. Hmmm... maybe I'm crazy. Yeah, that's got to be it. I wonder if I can get anyone to certify me so I can take a nice long vacation?

Friday, November 28, 2008


I like to read my husband's police magazines at times. Between books when visiting the throne room. Usually that's all they're good for as they repeatedly ignore a very important component of officer safety, US - THE DISPATCHERS. Sorry. My personal feelings of resentment took over for a moment.

There is an interesting column written I found in the back of one of those magazines (that over look the importance of US - The Dispatchers)(whoa, guess I am not holding on as tight to my emotions as I thought) that gave me a little pause for contemplation.

It is an article of retrospect of how upon graduating from the academy he began preparing for his sergeant's exam at least three years away, keeping his eye on the next rank and moving forward. He would become a lieutenant before retirement. The crux of his article though was, in a nutshell, "some of the most important things I have done in life were not as a lieutenant, but as an officer, a father, a husband, or a friend."

That's all very nice for an officer to contemplate or live or work towards, but there isn't anything like that in Dispatch. The best we can hope for is to become, first, a trainer (a whole 5% pay raise for all the extra paper work and responsibility) and maybe, just maybe, become a supervisor (where another 15% pay raise helps offset the new headaches coming your way.) But these two steps still keep us in the same windowless padded walls basement overcrowded room.

Records Clerks on average make less money than Dispatch. But they can promote to Division Secretaries and Area Clerks, working among detectives and out of area/substation offices. Also, on average, there are more Records Supervisors than Dispatch Supervisors, so more opportunities to promote within Records themselves. With the new assignment comes a pay raise, but gives them the opportunity to meet and greet and tackle a new challenge and learn a new skill.

Yes, there are very few jobs that will give a person a more thrilling and scary ride or more unique problem solving opportunity than law enforcement and fire dispatching. The very job is wrought with challenges and a constantly moving topography of rules and laws and needs.

But I guess my point is, that's all we get. Year after year. Some departments do allow their dispatchers to take specialized training, like disaster management or hostage crisis or swat call out dispatching. But many times the dispatcher has to take the initiative and pay for it themselves, because they care about their jobs enough to go the extra mile. And still many times the department overlooks these new learned skills to write manuals on how they want things done, when training and experience from the point of a dispatcher is totally ignored. And the good dispatcher moves and flows with the demands asked of their superior officers and incorporates their knowledge within the perimeters set by the uneducated to the point the senior officer believes it was always written and understand to work that way.

It would be nice if police magazines at least carried a column written by a dispatcher over the concerns and jobs and abilities of a dispatcher. Maybe focus ever so often on a dispatcher that truly goes up and over and out of their way to make their job better and safer.

It would be nice and very smart for agencies to be as concerned for additional training for their dispatchers as they are for their officers. (Yes, I know, part of the reason agencies send officers to training is because they get reimbursed by POST or other such state governing agency.)

And it would be truly wise for dispatch supervisors and agencies to look for ways to keep their dispatchers in touch within their agency through occasional temporary postings or assignments that gives the dispatcher the opportunity to be a more recognized proactive member of the agency to keep their assigned populace safe and secure. And to help levitate a little of the constant barrage of negativity usually sent the direction of those hardworking diligent and dedicated communications center employees. US DISPATCHERS. (ahem)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a Holiday, which means paid time off work, for most people. A time to overindulge with homemade goodies and enjoy the presence of family as they gather around the table to recite what they are thankful for.

But for those of us in the public safety family, well, there is no such thing as a holiday and time off. We are in the business of 24/7/365 response.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who overindulge with food and make themselves sick and needing an ambulance.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who overindulge with alcohol and try to drive or fight with their family members and need police presence to put things back in order.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who light their fireplaces and candles which end up burning their house down requiring fire department presence to try to rescue what and who they can.

Yes, we are on duty. Ready and able to be there to take care of the problem of the day. For some of the public we serve, they will not see us today. They will not be aware of our presence and preparedness. But, sadly, there will be a need for our skills as there will be that car accident or fire or fight or robbery or burglary or something that will require our ability to respond to disasters with speed and knowledge.

So world, be Thankful we are here. Be Thankful that we have the training to assist. Be Thankful we are here to help.

And especially be Thankful if you don't have to use our abilities today.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weighty Issues

Recently read an article written by an officer who complained about the weight of most Dispatchers. That their poor eating habits and lack of exercise makes them overweight. He finds it disgusting. After all, the officers exercise on their breaks.

Hmmm.... clearly this officer does not know the reality of an average and commonly found dispatch center. Let's see if I can explain it in simple enough terms even an officer can understand. Not that it is an excuse, but just trying to educate the insensitive-overabundance of free time available-badge carrying officer. (I originally typed in 'knuckle dragging' but thought it would be a little hardhearted, even if fairly accurate.)

Many agencies have a form of wellness program to encourage officers to keep healthy and trim with incentive programs like extra pay for weight loss and/or extra vacation time for attending seminars on health issues and/or easy and free access to gym equipment and the time to make use of the conditioning toys. Their mindset being that officers are what the general public see, thus they want a good image representing the agency and government that runs them.

Reality is, Dispatchers are locked in rooms (supposedly for their safety-another future blog moment) listening for hour on hour of peoples woes, typing reports, assisting officers (and listening to their moans of woes) where freedom of movement is usually greatly limited by umbilical cords known as headsets plugged into phone and radio stations and the size of the dispatch center. Many don't have work stations that are adjustable so they can stand at least part of their work day so they can get off their widening sitting ends from chairs not meant for 24/7 butts. The second agency I worked for had such a small dispatch room I could literally touch the dispatch board and the public access window but stretching out my arms.

Some law enforcement agencies do not make the department gym available to their non-sworn personnel. Dispatchers in some agencies have to eat their meal breaks at their stations due to lack of relief (which means an officer willing to raise himself up to the task of helping) available. Which usually means a microwave may not be handy to warm up healthy leftovers or frozen meal. So it is easier to order in food, usually not the most healthiest. And why do you think couch potatoes have such full figures? Because it is something innate in the human biology that we snack when sitting on our cabooses for any length of time, Dispatchers listen to their inner voice (separate from the voices they hear in their heads) saying "eat - snack" when sitting for eight to sixteen hours at a time.

To the officer who wrote the slamming-uneducated-ignorant showing article about Dispatch and their weighty girths, try to spend a little time in learning the realities of a job before speaking with so many words of so little you know so as not to show the world your lack of knowledge and empathy. And hope one of your Dispatchers don't read your tired words and take offense and prove to you that the power is in the mind and the Dispatch Center by making you actually work and respond to paper call to paper call without being able to take a thirty minute meal break and the workout time you get on your work day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Racial Profiling

Wikipedia Encyclopedia says racial profiling is the inclusion of racial or ethnic characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime or an illegal act. Civil rights advocates are against the use of racial profiling tactics by the police.

Conversely, it is argued that including race as one of the several factors in suspect profiling is generally supported by the law enforcement community. It is claimed that profiling based on any characteristic is a time-tested and universal police tool, and that excluding race as a factor is insensible.

Okay. Sooo... let's see if I get this right. Racial profiling done by police as a tool to assist with preventing and solving crimes, preventing damage done to property and people is not permitted. A big no-no.

But..... Yet..... a private citizen can call in the appearance of a person of a different race (the first words out of their mouth) in their neighborhood that does not have a person of that race, requesting immediate police presence to find out what trouble they are preparing to make, a crime they are clearly getting ready to commit, based solely on their appearance, not by their current actions.

Or how about that caller that likes to describe the guy in the robes with a beard that is hanging around a certain location that shouldn't have someone like that near.

Or about the older caller describing the kid who is clearly a gangbanger (and when did that term stop being a sexual assault term and become a description of a wannabe laughable gangsta) cause of his attire and self mutilation (expanding earrings/lobes and multiple piercings) and probably ready to hurt someone.

Apparently the term "racial profiling" is ONLY applied to its use by law enforcement. It is NOT applied to the use by private citizens.


Oh yeah. We wear the color of the badge. We're not able to or suppose to use the same descriptors utilized by the citizens we serve and protect. We're accountable to a different standard. A higher standard. A color/ethnic/descriptor/sex/religion blindness standard.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Padded Walls

As earlier promised, a discussion of the padded walls in our dispatch center.

We work in a windowless basement room. Correction, not totally windowless. What windows we have lead into the mainframe room or the supervisors office. A couple years ago we got a remodeling. Basically, the construction entailed of taking down the old padded walls (that was suspected by we dispatchers to have mold but was never confirmed by the city) and hanging up new padded walls. And adding more complaint taking and radio dispatching equipment to our already full room.

But they are not called padded walls. They are called noise absorbent paneling. In a pretty grey and white concrete pattern so we dispatchers don't start thinking of the padded walls as a viable source to pound our heads against.

Noise absorbent paneling or padded walls. The affect is the same. We spend 10-15 hours a day in a room that is just short of being sterile by the addition of framed color photographs of beautiful landscapes. So not all color is letched from our lives.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back from Vacation

Yes, I really took some time off. Well, did so because I had been organizing a two day meeting and wanted the days leading up to it free so I could handle last minute requests. And ended up sick the whole time! Talk about unfair. What is this world coming to? How dare I get sick and then go on vacation? Clearly working in a windowless basement room with up to twenty other people can't be a cause for this medical problem. Clearly I was infected by the occasional exposure to the general public when making a grocery stop or shopping errand.

But I did get to look out a window and see the rain fall and the wind blow as leaves piled up into the pool. Thank goodness the pool upkeep is my husband's responsibility. It was nice to see the reminder of the visual bright and colorful world versus the not so bright intellectual and colorful languaged folks we deal with daily in our jobs.

Back to the grey padded walls (yes, they really do have a small padding on them, supposedly for noise containment - but that's a whole nother posting) with several framed color landscape photographs to remind us dispatchers that there is a world outside.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Say What?

I know I have said it before, in law enforcement there is a completely different vocabulary and verbiage. But a caller I had earlier clearly has not learned even basic vocabulary.

"I want to double check what a dispatcher told me earlier. She says I need to hire a lawyer and an attorney for my problem?"

Excuse me?

Are there not exit exams in high school that would catch such a lack of basic knowledge? Even if he quit school, does he not watch too much television like lots of people?

One doesn't have to be a student of etymology to know lawyer and attorney are the same thing.

A lack of vocabulary, even basic vocabulary, of more than 3 syllables, seems to be lost of many people today. My grandfather, who never finished school, was one of the most intelligent and articulate men I knew. He always commented that those people who used four-letter words to express themselves were just showing their lack of education and intelligence.

I am not asking that all and sundry be eloquent ad nauseam. But please people, be able to speak and understand basic vocabulary and their definitions beyond 2 or 3 syllable words of four to six letters.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dispatchers are Human

Yes, dear reader. A dispatcher is human. The person answering that 9-1-1 call or working the police channel is human. Susceptible to all the frailties of being a member of the two-legged, oxygen breathing, mammal race has to entail.

For hour after hour we hear the overwhelming emotions on the phone, call after call. Listening to yelling, scared, hurting, confused, angry and upset people. After all, why would people call 9-1-1, or even the non-emergency phone number, if they didn't have a problem that they figure the police can or should handle.

Or sit at the radio for hours on end assisting officers who want or need information quickly. But not just two or three officers, but at times as many as fifty plus officers who need to be dispatched to an event that is pending, or disposition that needs to be taken, or wants and warrents ran, or premise history researched, or traffic stop logged, etc... all at the same time. Officers get snippy when information isn't returned to them in what they consider an expeditious manner, not paying attention to the fact that several other officers are also needing assist/information/dispatch/etc. from that same dispatcher.

Which means, the dispatcher has to deal with their emotions in a manner that, hopefully, isn't affecting their level of service.

We have to work at not snipping back at the officer who wants to know why we haven't given him a complete wants and warrants and probation history asked on five different people just after another officer asked for contact background on a suspect of a domestic violence in progress call he is enroute to, while detectives are asking for a wagon to transport their prisoner since they are driving unmarked vehicles and thus don't have cages in their units.

Or try not to get too exasperated at a caller who is calling in, for the fourth time that month, about their out of control teenager that is mouthing off, again. Or the caller who calls 9-1-1 because they find their car has been broken into and doesn't understand why it isn't an emergency.

This job exposes us to other people at their most raw emotional state of life. We hear women being beat by their "loved one"; children crying in the background while a neighbor calls in that the parents are "disciplining" their kids again; or a father crying because he is trapped in his vehicle after an accident and his baby isn't crying; or listening to shots over the air while an officer is requesting back up as he is under fire.

Because dispatchers are human, we have to deal with the feelings, the mental and physiological reactions, that this constant barrage subjects us to. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year.

So, dear reader, if you are a police officer, please be patient when waiting for your information, for a good dispatcher will be your best backup. The information is coming.

If, dear reader, you are a private citizen, please excuse my tone of voice if it is a little sharp. Possibly the call that came in before yours was upsetting, but because of my job, I can't get up and walk away for awhile. I have to answer the next phone call.

And, if dear reader, you are another dispatcher, you are not alone.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cop Language

If you work law enforcement you know that we speak another language. There is 10 code and 11 code and 9 code and vehicle code and penal code and health & welfare code and and and. You get the picture. But we also deal with abbreviations big time. Got to put a lot of information out there as quickly as possible in the most compact manner. Thus, codes and abbreviations are used. Only those of us "in the business" are going to understand.

459 busn IP... 3 WM susps LB e/b from loc, all wrg blk tshirts


Welf Ck HM down, poss 11-44


Poss DK driver w/b blu Chev p/u, partial lic 5NUV


Armed 211 just occd... 1 WF susp, blonde hair, 507, wrg yell dress... no one injd

You get the idea. What I do find frustrating is because I type in this language 10-15 hours a day, 4-6 days a week, when I have to type and write properly, similar to what I am doing now, I find myself typing in abbreviations. Have to go back and spell out a word. When I started this job I was typing 120+ wpm. Recently had a reason to retest my typing speed and it has slowed down to 89wpm. Because I had fallen out of the practice of typing complete words and sentences.

This job gets you in soooo many ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Calling 9-1-1

Okay people. Let's talk about calling 9-1-1.

This number is for life and death emergencies and crimes in progress only! Not to call to ask for a non emergency phone number because you're too lazy to call 4-1-1 for the information or look it up in the telephone book. Or to say you woke up to find your car stolen or broken into.

I have the opportunity regularly to speak in front of groups about proper 9-1-1 use. And I tell them these four things to remember. So listen up readers.

1. In ten words or less tell the dispatcher what is happening.
For example: I think I need an ambulance.
Was in a car accident.
See a house on fire.

2. Where is this happening?
Know your home address. Keep track of your location as you travel.

3. Shut Up!
There's no nice way to say this. But as a dispatcher I have a list of questions I need to ask you. You may have things you want to tell me, but they probably are not the items I need to know right away. There will be opportunity to tell me later or tell the officer. But Shut Up for right now and let me ask the questions for the information I need to know.

4. Breath!
Your adrenaline is madly pumping. You're excited and anxious and scared. That means your mind is not working like I need it to so I can help you. So take a deep breath. And another. Focus on my voice and let me try to help you.

These may seem like -duh- to you, but these are daily issues for any public safety dispatcher out there.