Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring in Ghetto City

Working the part-time/entertainment gig at Ghetto City PD. Owing to the quirky spring/not spring/cold/not cold time of year and a building heating and cooling system that isn't quite on the ball, dispatch and the squad room are a bit stuff. It's a balmy 55 outside. Sgt. OCD is tugging at his vest and not pleased. He opens both the outer door to the PD lobby and then the inner door leading to dispatch and the squad room. I give him a look indicating there is a reason I set behind bullet-resistant glass with a panic button and not in the lobby.

"Don't worry, I have a clear shot at them from my office. It's hot in here."

"When is the last time you qualified on your service weapon? And you're wearing a vest!"

Now completely annoyed with borderline insubordination from the part-time sass-mouthed dispatcher, he just walks away. I spend the rest of the shift eyeballing the lobby camera.


The community relations officer comes into dispatch to inform me he will be out at a church meeting. Mockingly, I ask if he's going to need status to save him from the church ladies.

"Naw, If anything whacked goes down, I'll drop to my knees and start praying."

Random Complaint of the Shift:  Kids building a tree fort. In their own yard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Telecommunications Week 2011

I'm a day late for the beginning of National Telecommunications Week this year, and I don't have much to add on the subject. This is the week the back office comes in and makes us breakfast, and we get pens, lapel pins, water bottles, and a briefest sliver of acknowledgment from our field users. 

To my officers: I accept tributes in caffeine form. Extra cream. 

To my fellow dispatchers: here's to another year of wishing for the aerial spraying of Prozac and birth control, and doing our goddamn jobs. This article is a few years old, but is still my favorite..  --Sassy

A Tribute To Dispatchers
By Chief Thomas Wagoner
Loveland (Colo.) Police Department

Someone once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a profession. I said, "I thought it was a calling."

And so is dispatching. I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety. They miss the excitement of riding in a speeding car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on its own, after it has been given CPR.

Dispatchers sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces they never see. It's like reading a lot of books, but only half of each one.

Dispatchers connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants, suicidal citizens and grouchy officers. They are the calming influence of all of them-the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can't remember where they live, what their name is, or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information to the officers, firefighters, or paramedics without error the first time and every time.

Dispatchers are expected to be able to do five things at once-and do them well. While questioning a frantic caller, they must type the information into a computer, tip off another dispatcher, put another caller on hold, and listen to an officer run a plate for a parking problem. To miss the plate numbers is to raise the officer's ire; to miss the caller's information may be to endanger the same officer's life. But, the officer will never understand that.
Dispatchers have two constant companions, other dispatchers and stress. They depend on one, and try to ignore the other. they are chastened by upset callers, taken for granted by the public, and criticized by the officers. The rewards they get are inexpensive and infrequent, except for the satisfaction they feel at the end of a shift, having done what they were expected to do.

Dispatchers come in all shapes and sizes, all races, both sexes, and all ages. They are blondes, and brunettes, and redheads. They are quiet and outgoing, single, or married, plain, beautiful, or handsome. No two are alike, yet they are all the same.

They are people who were selected in a difficult hiring process to do an impossible job. They are as different as snowflakes, but they have one thing in common. They care about people and they enjoy being the lifeline of society-that steady voice in a storm-the one who knows how to handle every emergency and does it with style and grace; and, uncompromising competence.

Dispatchers play many roles: therapist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, weatherman, guidance counselor, psychologist, priest, secretary, supervisor, politician, and reporter. And few people must jump through the emotional hoops on the trip through the joy of one caller's birthday party, to the fear of another caller's burglary in progress, to the anger of a neighbor blocked in their drive, and back to the birthday caller all in a two-minute time frame. The emotional roller coaster rolls to a stop after an 8 or 10 hour shift, and they are expected to walk down to their car with steady feet and no queasiness in their stomach-because they are dispatchers. If they hold it in, they are too closed. If they talk about it, they are a whiner. If it bothers them, it adds more stress. If it doesn't, they question themselves, wondering why.

Dispatchers are expected to have:
  • the compassion of Mother Theresa
  • the wisdom of Solomon
  • the interviewing skills of Oprah Winfrey
  • the gentleness of Florence Nightingale
  • the patience of Job
  • the voice of Barbara Streisand
  • the knowledge of Einstein
  • the answers of Ann Landers
  • the humor of David Letterman
  • the investigative skills of Sgt. Joe Friday
  • the looks of Melanie Griffith or Don Johnson  (SP note: snerk.)
  • the faith of Billy Graham
  • the energy of Charo
  • and the endurance of the Energizer Bunny
Is it any wonder that many drop out during training? It is a unique and talented person who can do this job and do it well. And, it is fitting and proper that we take a few minutes or hours this week to honor you for the job that each of you do. That recognition is overdue and it is insufficient. But, it is sincere.

I have tried to do your job, and I have failed. It takes a special person with unique skills. I admire you and I thank you for the thankless job you do. You are heroes, and I am proud to work with you.

[This piece was written by Chief Wagoner in 1994 in connection with National Telecommunicator Week. He has graciously allowed us to post it here, and gives others permission to use it for non-commercial purposes.]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last shift of the rotation snapshots

Send out West Newville for a drunken asshole that keeps calling 911 being an abusive prick to my calltakers, and then hanging up. Two of West Newville's finest go on location.

Status Check.

"21P01, he's hiding from us, we're fine."

"[pause, as I am working up a fair amount of sarcasm-laced indignation based on that last statement]... you're okay FOR NOW."

"21P02, yes ma'am."

Dumb ass. At least one of them gets it. Drunk asshole eventually passed out and quit calling.


After one too many eye-rolling messages from a unit about how sweet my voice sounds tonight, I send out the following warning: Son, I date a Marine. Don't get fresh. It works, even cops don't want to deal with a pissed off Marine.


0400 get to farm out a call to the staties for a guy pulled over on our major highway insisting the police come out and take the snake out of his vehicle.


45 minutes. The length of time two calltakers were on the phone with each other (let the absurdity of that sink in for a moment) discussing what should and should not be in the department SOP. Never in the course of history has so much been discussed by so many yet meaning so little. With apologies to Sir Winston.

I'm taking my full four off this week!

Friday, April 8, 2011

This and That

Monroeville Boro calls in for a File 2* on an a vehicle for unauthorized use (I can't fucking win with these...).

The state police are unusually quick with their response, so I call the officer back while he's in his car.

"I have the information you need."

"Ok, let me just pu--"

*mdc dings signaling the arrival of the tag to his car terminal.*

"Efficient as ever, Sassy, thank you."

"Do you need anything else before I hang up?"

"Could you fill out the attempt to locate form for me and save me the fax?"

"DISPATCHER. Not secretary."

*File 2:  request to query BMV database for vehicles registered to a subject.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The After Action Report:

"Woman claims her baby daddy who was sound asleep was plotting on the phone to have her shot. Trying to say his new girlfriend is trying to adopt her kid. She hears "Just get rid of her, she's asleep, shoot her." So she decides to jump from the second floor window in a dilapidated Appalachian back woods house. Mark and I are beating on the house trying to wake George. No avail. We find a ladder, I climb up to the open window see the kid asleep. Go back down, crawl through a first floor window open the front door, Mark and I go through the dark house to find the boyfriend sound asleep. Everything okay. She has no mental health or drug issues. I'm buying that."

Monday, April 4, 2011

RANT: Attempt To Locate

I want to talk about the crock of shit that an "attempt to locate vehicle- no charges pending" entry is. If some dumb ass person in your jurisdiction has lent out their vehicle (in this case to a damn crackhead) and said person does not return with the vehicle-- they have fucking stolen it. That's right, I said it.

But, since my department honors the farce that is ATLV (no NCIC entry, in county radio message only) this is the scenario I dealt with tonight.

Officer calls about an ATLV broadcast two days ago. He would now like an out of county message sent over the teletype system to the "Western area of The Big City" because the owner of the vehicle thinks the thief is buying drugs in the area. I break it down for him: I'm going to send this message, their HUGE, almost New York City sized comm center is going to ignore it because it's not in NCIC and there are no charges. On the off chance they do broadcast it to break up the monotony of a crushingly slow night shift, you're relying on officer memory because the vehicle is not in NCIC and nothing is going to ping on their terminal. I hint in the strongest possible terms that he should push to enter this stolen and then do what he asked.

He calls back. He wants it rebroadcast in county. Fine. I can farm that out to the newbies running districts tonight with minimal effort.

He calls back again. "Hey, I was wondering if you could send that to--"


"What do you mean n-"

"Either this vehicle is stolen or I am washing my hands of it. I'm not kidding. She gave it to a crackhead. It's stolen or she gifted it."

"The owner won't say it's stolen. I can't."


Now, here's the thing. Am I playing the role of bitchy dispatcher? Yes. But with good reason. This is making me do stupid work that the NCIC system would do automatically and much more efficiently. The NCIC police are not going to arrest you for putting a car in. Furthermore, I don't give a damn about your stats. Someone has the car who should no longer have it. It's stolen. Rental cars certainly enter them as stolen if the client doesn't come back on time. IT'S STOLEN. ENTER IT.

Also, multiple phone calls to me to accomplish what could have happened in one? Annoying. Don't do that. Get your shit together before you call me.

End dispatcher rant.