Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Know....

You Know You've Been A Dispatcher Too Long When:

You eat more fast food than leftovers/homemade meals
You have forgotten how to read a clock in anything but military time
U can't write a ltr w/o it being abbd
You answer your home phone or cell phone, "9-1-1, What's your emergency?"
The thought of working a Monday through Friday 8:00 am - 5:oo pm job terrifies you
You can talk clearly with food in your mouth, after all, we only eat between phone calls
You dream in code: 10-code, 11-code, Vehicle Code, Penal Code, Municipal Code

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Calls With Children The Worst

We get stupid callers every day - all day. And basically I try to keep my patience on the surface and the anger in check. But when the stupidity and cruelness and laziness hurts or endangers a child, I really find it hard to not unload on these jerks.

Today one of my last calls on shift was a guy who was very very angry I wasn't sending an officer right out to the apartment his x-girlfriend has been living at because she has their mutual child. This is basically what happened:

Caller and his girlfriend had a lovely little girl. After awhiles apparently mom picked up a meth habit. After she lied and stole from everyone, she got kicked out of her house, her family disowned her, and caller finally got daughter moved in to his place. The mother moved in with a friend who also is dealing with their own meth addiction.

Three weeks later caller gives in to the mother's cries of missing their daughter. He meets her at a park so mother and daughter can have a little time together. Mother sneeks away with the child. Now caller trying to find the child and mother and demanding we take the child back and arrest the mother.

Here's the kicker. Has no clue where she and the child are located. Mother has no job. No family member will have anything to do with her. And she's not at the apartment she has been staying at for the last couple of weeks. And there is no custody order either. But apparently we are the bad guys for not locating the mother and child and taking the child away and give her back to caller.

There's the really rough call from yesterday. A 2 year old child is dead under suspicious circumstances. When the family members first called 9-1-1 there was a lot of confusion on what was happening. Then family members were moving the phone to person to person while conferring with the medical assistance.

One person would be calm and repeat/yell out instructions on how to provide CPR. One person would get on the phone and scream and cry (didn't sound true). Another person would get on the phone and act confused and bewildered (which did sound like a normal mental state).

They had all kinds of reasons why the child wasn't breathing. And the way the call was going, I wonder if they were really trying to even give CPR to the child. Officers arrived on scene and found suspicious marks on the child. Now under investigation.

Or the candiate for Mother-of-the-Year call for service that just happened. Fourteen year old daughter ran away. Mother reported the event to the police. Couple days later the daughter shows up at the local hospital emergency room early hours of the morn clearly having been beaten up. Hospital staff call the police to advise there is an assault victim in their emergency room who also admits to being a runaway.

Officers arrive to take a report. Girl is very frightened to share all that happened to her, the recent beating in addition to the reasons for running away. From what little I gleaned, the girl ran from an abusive home only to end up being beaten up by one of the people at the location she was hiding at.

The kicker to this event is the mother's reaction. The officer calls her to say daughter has been located, is at the hospital being treated for abrasions as the result of being beaten up, about to be released, so come on over and pick her up. Mom says nope, don't want her, arrest her and send her away and the hospital better not be sending her a bill for the medical assistance.

Calls for service that deal with children are the worst. When adults are being stupid with other adults and hurting themselves, I can laugh it off. But when their adult stupidity and selfishness and their own wants/desires actions take control of their behavior that injures or kills or puts a child in dangers way is just not acceptable.

The father calling in worried about his daughter failed her by not protecting her from a mother with a known drug addiction by being lazy and not filing for custody of the child and not keeping a close enough eye on them while at the park.

The parents of the toddler failed the child by not taking care of the gift they had.

The mother of the teen clearly can't be bothered with the needs of her child who is more willing to take on the outside world than to stay home under the abusive living conditions created by who knows what problems the mother has, real and/or not.

Wish I could figure out the way to solve this issue. Or at least have the freedom to kick their asses and subject them to the same lack of care and abuse they dished out to their children.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cell Phones

Seems like everyone has them. Some of them are even advertised and promoted as being "smart". Too bad their owners/users are not.

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
"Oh, you mean I can call 9-1-1 from my cell phone?"
"Yes, sir, just like your home phone. Do you have an emergency?"
'No, just wanted to know what I can do with my cell phone."

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
-baby babble-
"Hi baby. Where is mama? Say mama."
-baby babble-
"Say mama, baby. Where is mama?"
"What are you doing with my phone? Give it back to me."
hang up
call back
"Hi, ma'am. This is 9-1-1. Your baby was playing with your cell phone and called 9-1-1. Everything alright?"
"Lady, you crazy. He's only six months old. How he gonna call 9-1-1?"
"On many cell phones it is very easy to dial 9-1-1 by mistake. We just call back to make sure everything is alright."
"My baby did not call 9-1-1 and you're wasting my time."
hang up

"9-1-1. What is your emergency?"
"My boyfriend won't let me see my baby."
"Is he there right now ma'am?"
"No. He left a couple days ago with my baby. I want my baby back."
"Ma'am, 9-1-1 is for life and death emergencies. Please call our non-emergency line."
"This is an emergency. He won't let me have my baby back."
"Is there a custody order ma'am?"
"A what? What for? I'm the mother. I'm here right now to pick up my baby and he won't let me in."
"Is the baby his?"
"Yeah. So what? I'm the mother. I'm the one who takes care of him."
"We can not take the child away from him. I suggest you go to the court house and file for custody."
"I want my baby back!"
"Ma'am, if you have any questions, please call our non-emergency line. Better yet, head to the court house to file for custody. You don't even need an attorney."
"You have to do something or I will."
"Ma'am. Please think before you do anything. Get yourself some legal advice."
"What good are the police if they can't help?"
*Note: We ended up out there to arrest the mother for assault and vandalism against baby father and his apartment.*

Cell phones can be helpful. A great tool. At times I can't imagine living without mine. But wish those citizens that I serve would be smart when using their smart phones.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm A Hero Too

As much as our local newspaper loves to slam our Officers for every real or imagined slight, they have been known to acknowledge some of the good work of these men and women in blue. Saying that, I do wish that the Dispatchers were remembered and thought of as hero's too.

Imagine sitting in a windowless room, with padded walls lacking any real color, a few scattered photo enlargements of outdoor scenes, maybe three feet from the person sitting next to you, in chairs not designed for 24 hour use, two to three computer screens in front of you, listening to hour upon hour upon hour of crying, complaining, whining, confusion, panic, pain, fear, anger, drunken conversation, lectures on how to do the job, demands what they expect from you, language barriers and accents, well, you get the picture.

In response to these working conditions we must soothe, pull information from minds not functioning fully due to either or combination of alcohol/drugs/fear/confusion/anger/pain/panic/language/accents, answer questions - many of which should be asked of a legal advisor (but we're cheaper), give directions, play nursemaid, marriage and/or mental health counselor, phone information operator, well, you get the picture.

When working the radio we deal with sometimes an unending list of calls for service waiting to be dispatched. Anywhere between 12 to 70 officers listed as present on my screen, thus my responsibility of keeping safe and knowledgeable of where they are at all times. Officers who are so focused on what they are doing out in the field they are not paying attention to the dispatcher who is also trying to assist 20 other officers and keeps talking over or demanding more information to be researched, while assisting yet another 20 officers and dispatching calls for service. Trying to understand what they are saying while eating their mikes, or yelling into the mikes, or asking them to repeat because they are speaking so fast my 100+ words per minutes cannot keep up.

Citizens treat us like nit-wits and mentally slow because we tell them we can't do what they are wanting or simply not understanding how, as law enforcement, we can solve the problem overnight that they created over years of refusal to deal with the problem. Citizens feel as Public Servants it is our job to cater to their needs and wants, whether reasonable or not.

Officers treat us like we are of a lower society class, there for their needs and wants. Our job to simplify their lives. Get all the necessary information before they arrive. Know instinctively the back up or additional equipment necessary. We should be mind readers and know what is happening out there. And heaven forbid a "thank you" and "well done" be uttered more than once or twice a year.

Our Supervisors and the Brass have no problems dumping additional responsibilities or cutting back minimum staffing. They are fast to criticize and "Monday Morning Quarterback" and very short to praise and acknowledge good work. A "thank you" and "well done" even more foreign from that quarter.

Because I do this job with the best heart and patience and tolerance and incongruity and intelligence and skill and tears that I can muster, hour after hour, makes me a Hero too, dammit.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You're Being Paid To Work

This tirade is directed at those co-workers who find time to talk on their cells (am really tired of hearing their phones go off, too - but for another posting), talk with other dispatchers over non-work issues for great lengths of time, take extra long breaks and lunches, or just extra breaks... in other words... not doing the work they are being paid for.

Yes, I know, every office has this problem. I have worked private industry for many years. Am aware no matter how small or how large an office is, there is always someone who seems to skate by on minimal work output. Usually they are related to or have some sort of relationship with, the one in charge.

In the Communications Center, the Supervisor's favorites always seem to be the laziest on shift. The dispatchers who socialize with the Supervisor in their office for half-an-hour a few times a week. The Supervisor who rides you about a call for service made up but you see a similar type call handled almost exactly by a favorite that seems to carry different weight.

For those of us with work ethics, who know and recognize we are being paid to work and have numerous calls for service made up, computer records can show numerous phone calls fielded, forwarded or assisted, who only take the allotted break times and number permitted, who put their cell phones on mute, who keep personal phone conversations to a minimum (because, let's face it kids, it is impossible not to have occasional personal phone conversation at work) and just do the job overall, I salute you.

As lay-offs continue to mount up the body count of the law enforcement unemployed, as the crime rate continues to rise, as the volume of calls asking for assistance getting more frequent, as the weather warms and the beer flows more freely, as the demand on our attention and time and psychological health at work increases exponentially, let's rise and kick in the arse those who aren't pulling their weight. And remind them, they are getting paid to work. And if they don't want to work then let them volunteer for lay-off. Then they can take as many breaks and as long a break as they want. This is not the time to allow their laziness and thoughtlessness and poor work ethics or their personal relationship with the Supervisor to impact us any more.

Let's unite against these people who instead of helping carry the burden of work they add to the stress and work levels. I don't know about you, but I'm friggin' tired of it!