Friday, January 23, 2009

9-1-1 Calls

One frustrating, waste of time, events we regularly handle as emergency 9-1-1 dispatchers are dealing with those 9-1-1 calls that aren’t emergencies. You know what I’m talking about. Those 9-1-1 callers who say oops misdial or those people who give their little kids their cells phones so the kids can push buttons and tone to deaf the dispatcher answering the phone.

I love those callers that when you call them back to confirm everything is okay after a 9-1-1 hang up or abandoned call and they argue with you and want to know why you’re bothering them and calling them for no reason. Do they honestly believe I am that bored that I dial numbers randomly just to accuse them of falsely calling 9-1-1?

How many of you have had this call?

Me: Hello. Hello. (over an open 9-1-1 call)

Caller: Hello? Is there someone on this phone?

Me: Hello. This is ________ Police Department. We received a 9-1-1 call from this cell phone. Is everything okay?

Caller: Oh my. Yes. Everything is okay. I put my cell phone in my purse/bag/briefcase/backpack (choose one) and it must have accidentally dialed out. I could hear voices yelling “hello”. Was that you?

Me: Yes sir/madam (choose one again). I am trying to confirm if there is a problem.

Caller: Well, clearly it was an accident. I just said I heard voices coming from my purse/bag/briefcase/backpack (do you really need to choose again?) and was answering.

Me: Yes sir/madam (never mind). I understand about the voices you hear from no where. (Okay, it is my dream to say that.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Customer Service

A big part of our job is, well, customer service, to be blunt. Like the clerk in a store or the ticket agent at our favorite airline, we provide customer service. We determine what the “customer” wants and needs are and give them the necessary information (go to court and obtain a restraining order or serve your 30 year old lazy bum of a son with an eviction notice) or obtain for them the services (an officer or guys with the little white jackets) needed.

Not everyone is happy with the level of customer service we provide. We are refusing to send an officer to talk to their out of control 15 year daughter and instead tell them to talk to the school counselor and learn to handle their child without using the boys and girls in uniform as a threat. A vehicle burglary is not handled with them same priority as a robbery which can upset the victim who just lost a chunk of their CD selection and has to wait two or eight hours for a Cadet or Community Service Officer to respond.

But we, as dispatchers, trudge on and try to serve the angry caller with the best diplomacy possible. We can’t point out to them how stupid and childish they are acting when they call in about a child custody issue. We can’t be blunt and tell parents to grow a backbone or a pair of cajones and deal with their children as an adult instead of their friend. We have to be respectful and try to assist.

Many a moon ago I worked for the Disney Corporation. Guest Service is drilled into you from day one and reinforced through monthly staff meetings and games and challenges. Respect for the other person, guest and co-worker, is always in the forefront as is trying to help the guest with questions or directions or problems being paramount. Leaving a positive impression, even when the other person has to be corrected and not getting exactly what they want, is required.

One lesson I like to think I have brought to my dispatching job from my time with “The Happiest Place On Earth” is the ability to acknowledge the other person’s problem without having to fake or express empathy. People call us with their traumas and dramas, sometimes brought on by their own actions. By the simple act of acknowledging their anger or pain or confusion can go a long way in calming the caller. You don’t have to say, “I understand” if you don’t. Just let them know you hear them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finding Balance

The title of this blog says it all. It is a fact that in this job we deal with a lot of stress. We face people’s traumas and dramas on a daily basis. The last blog discussed stress from within and seemed to hit a couple nerves. How does one (meaning 9-1-1 dispatchers or really anyone in law enforcement) find balance and not get dark when faced with all that negativity?

When I work with new dispatchers and new officers, I lecture them (harsh word but apropos) on the need to find balance. In this job they will face and deal with a lot of dark moments and dark people. They will listen for hour upon hour of pain and anger and scared people calling for help. They will be witness to the worst of human (and that’s a generous term) behavior to other humans.

I call that “The Uglies”. To counter the effect, to find balance, I recommend new dispatchers and new officers find “The Pretties” to survive.

“The Pretties” can be joining and active within a community service organization. Or being a Scout Master. Or volunteering at a hospital or animal shelter. “The Pretties” are your efforts in giving back to your community. And it doesn’t even have to be the same community you work in. “The Pretties” are having the opportunity and ability to see and be part of something positive and good.

Yes, I know, we do a lot of good with our job. But it is still wrapped up within “The Uglies” of our work. By being part of “The Pretties” we find balance and can get a feeling of being whole.

Another important way to find balance in our job is to have a circle of friends and activities that are not work related. I guess this would be for just about any job. But in law enforcement, it is really important to be able to separate yourself from the “shop talk” and have to actually think and talk about other subjects that are not related to your job.

So many people I work with seem to have no life outside of their work. Their circles of friends are co-workers. Their extra curricular activities are being reserve officers or mounted patrol or attending all the functions the different divisions have. Or is a union steward and attends every meeting at every level of the union.

So, dear readers, if you are involved with law enforcement do yourself a big favor. Find an activity that has nothing to do with your job but is actually a positive activity or addition to your community. Create a circle of friends, even if only two or three, that have nothing to do with law enforcement so your conversations can be more entertaining and fun, like talking about politics or religion. Or you can be part of an activity that is not work related but fun, like bronco riding or windsurfing.

It is all a matter of finding balance between “The Uglies” of work and “The Pretties” of the world around us.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Work Negativity

This is a common topic found on dispatcher, and even officer, blogs. Negativity at the work place. Negativity against co-workers. Recently at my work place it has really gotten out of hand.

So to better deal with the problem, though I know part of the problem is the lack of support from supervisors who play for their favorites, I did a little research and found this list of the top five causes of employee negativity. This is a survey from 1,100 employees and 300 senior human resources executives.

An Excessive Workload

Our workload is ever flexing and ever changing. Most of us seem to deal with manpower shortages and lots of overtime. Agency after agency has seen an increase of criminal activity and thus additional demand on our limited resources. Also with this cold and wet season, lots of people calling in sick. Just finishing the holiday seasons, too, when people love to call in sick because they want the time off to share with families. Only adds to the workload we are already handle every shift.

Our workload entails listening and problem solving people/callers problems for 8-15 hours at a time. Day in, day out. We hear and are exposed to trauma and drama on a constant basis.

Concerns About Management's Ability to Lead

This is where we as employees don't trust our supervisors. Most of us don't feel that our supervisors are truly looking out for our best interests, but just reinforcing the brass' dictates. And the brass doesn't give us in dispatch more thought than they have to.

Anxiety About The Future, Particular Longer Term, Income & Retirement Security

Now, up until a month ago I would have said, this is not one of our notable stress indicators. Once you've passed your probation, in a Civil Service job, you are pretty much set. It is really hard to get rid of people in civil service. Takes lots of documentation and sessions/meetings.

But recently, Cities and Counties are releasing sworn and non-sworn personnel. They are cutting back, hiring freezes, and even demoting some brass to save monies. Never thought I would see this event.

So that means income and our retirement system changes. Heck, in more than one state the Governor has "raided" the employee retirement systems to help offset some of the state's debts.

Lack of Challenge In Their Work, w/ Boredom Intensifying Existing Frustration About Workload

Okay, this is not one of our problems in law enforcement. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is the constant challenges and changes and flexibility we must flex with every phone call or every shift on radio that intensifies work stress and negativity. Think of it, if you're constantly being subjected to negativity and despair, don't you start to absorb it?

Insufficient Recognition For The Level Of Contribution And Effort Provided

One of the reasons listed for workload anxiety is "insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort provided". Boy, ain't this the truth. Dispatch is the ugly step child in a police department and gets the shaft so much of the time. And overlooked by officers and brass when an individual makes any extra effort. Just told you're doing your job.

"This is a snapshot of causes of employee negativity. If you can eliminate these five, you have gone a long way in the direction of building a positive, supportive work environment. You’ve minimized the potential for employee negativity."

Well, you would think that since all of us have to deal with the same five issues in the same small work area (most behind locked doors and many without the benefit of windows) we would be drawn and able to work as a team better and more uniformingly. Because of our united purposes and goals and problems, we should be moving in a more harmonious direction. Instead, we seem to turn on each other and bicker over everything and anything.

We complain to our supervisors and we bad mouth each other to our co-horts (notice I don't write co-workers). We don't relieve when we should those people we don't like. We don't acknowledge them or their greeting when issued. We snark and sabotage.

Like the job isn't stressful enough.

Above information was obtained from web address:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

True Story

Took a phone call that is so sad it's funny.

Caller: I want to report my daughter's boyfriend hit her.

(start taking the information)

Caller: I have his picture, I can give that to the officer. Daughter carries it in her wallet.

Me: Okay, well, you can share that with the officer.

Caller: It's his mug shot from when he was in prison. Will that help find him?

Me: Ah, your daughter carries her boyfriends mug shot? In her wallet?

Caller: Yeah. Most girls carry their boyfriends pictures in their wallet.

Me: But this is his mugshot she carries?

Caller: Ah, yeah. He was in prison for assault and got out a couple months ago. My daughter just hasn't gotten a newer picture of him, that's all.

It's the truth. The above is almost word for word a fairly recent conversation with a caller. It makes me wonder, is the mother really that comfortable with her daughter dating a felon? Thinks it is okay for her daughter to carry her boyfriend's mugshot as a love token?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Warrants & Money

Like many areas, if you turn someone in who has a warrant, there is a good chance you will get a cash reward. After all, like most agencies, we are dependent on good citizens to be our eyes and ears and let us know where these nefarious people are located. We can only be in so many places.

But, then again, unless you are willing to reward these citizens, they aren't willing to spill the information.

Just handled a call from a woman who went through the service that manages our local reward system to confirm the person had a warrant. The caller knows where this wanted woman is located and knows there is a no bail warrant. Which means the Courts don't want this suspect bailing out of jail before she can make an appearance to answer for her numerous crimes.

But because the managing service transferred the call without giving the caller a special code number, and angry I can't guarantee her a reward, she refused to give up the information.

Saw what??

Being a responsible citizen and getting this dangerous person off the street isn't reward enough? You have to be paid to report the suspects location?

I wonder, we can arrest the caller for harboring a wanted person as she clearly knows where the wanted female is located and refusing to share the information with the proper law enforcement agency? Wonder if any agency has tried to do this? Yeah, probably bad public relations. But, shoot.....

Readers? Comments?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shootings and Knifings and Fights, Oh My

What the heck is happening out there?!?! Three shootings tonight. Two shootings, a knifing and two physical fights with injuries yesterday. People are literally ripping and tearing each other up in my town. Were we gassed as part of a Government test to measure the level of testosterone necessary to have people turn on each other? Or are we being infected by an alien germ that is designed to bring out the most aggressive side of our natures? Could it be a conspiracy to increase our dead body counts so we can increase our requests for funds to increase our number of sworn personnel?

Oh My. I am scaring myself. Seems like every call for service lately has been of a call of aggression and destructive behavior. Where are all my banal calls for violations of child custody orders and audible burglar alarms and vehicle vandalisms. Oh, they're still there. Just getting lost in all the violence.

Anyone have an opinion?

Thought for the Day

"We live in an age when pizza gets to your home before the police."
Jeff Mader, Actor

Is this not a great quote? Our agency has as part of its motto (not quoting exactly to protect, well, me): Response in professional, courteous and timely manner.

Reality: If you're lucky you will get a Community Service Officer or Cadet to your residential burglary in an hour. If you're lucky you will get an Officer to talk to your neighbors about their loud music in less than three hours. If you're lucky, you will get that callback from a light duty Officer or CSO or Cadet for the telephonic report of lost property or fraud within two days.

The above is not an exaggeration.

Officers are much better in responding to accidents and fights and shootings. You know, those "hot calls". Where they get to be a real police officer. Not a secretary taking personal information from a victim of theft or counselor listening to the whinings about unruly neighbors.

After all, most of those wearing a badge didn't hire on to play nursemaid to society. They hired on to fight crime and help the innocent. And it allows them to rubberneck in the front row of trauma and drama.

Yeppers... pizza delivery companies have learned the best way to get business is to be prompt and courteous and offer good merchandise at a fair price. Oops. We're not looking to increase our customer base. We're hoping to eliminate it as a final goal.

But there are components we in the law enforcement forum might want to consider for good public relations. Like prompt and courteous service. The good merchandise being professional acting Officers, CSO's, Cadets and Dispatchers. The fair price they pay is their taxes the citizenry already pay. Let's give them good bang for their bucks.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

Was going to write about a very funny recent incident when I found an e-mail advising me I won a position in the Top Ten Best Police Blogs. As I read many of the blogs listed, I felt humbled. But, well, not at first. At first I raised a fist in the air, pulling it down quick to my side with a sharp, "Yes!". As that drew a little attention to me, I just smiled and thought about all those others listed as winners.

Wow. Are you kidding me?

Check it out::