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Home  >  Topics  >  Communications

February 12, 2013
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Michelle Perin Communications and Communicators
with Michelle Perin

10 conversations 9-1-1 communicators would like to have

These conversations — really a dispatcher’s inner monologue — are the ones Police Telecommunications Operators would love to have with officers and citizens alike

As police telecommunications operators, we talk for a living. We talk to citizens. We talk to officers. We talk to each other. In fact, we talk so much that often when I’m at home I can only muster a grunt or two in response to my family.

And if the phone rings? Forget it. The machine can answer.

There’s no way I’m putting that thing up to my ear and responding to anyone. My world is full of conversations.

In light of this, there are still things I wish I could say to either my officers or my citizens.

Sometimes both.

Many of these conversations go through my head during the day (or night) and usually I can prevent myself from saying those things out loud. During the times I cannot, I just hope that I remember to have my headset clicked off and that the academy trainer has not chosen that moment to bring the entire class silently up to stand behind me in dispatch.

So, sit back and enjoy these conversations we wish we could have, but do not due to decorum, professionalism and the fact that most of us are pretty nice most of the time.

Five Conversations a Dispatcher Would Like to Have with an Officer
Working with officers can be a challenge. They would probably say that working with us is the challenge but that debate could go back and forth until the end of time.

Both of us have our jobs to do, and generally pretty specific ways in which we see these jobs being completed. We often don’t see eye-to-eye, but at the end of the day we appreciate and respect the work each other does. That being said, if for one day my dispatcher’s inner monologue was broken, these conversations might be part of what an officer would hear.

1.) Any More Info?
Officer: Do you have any more info on my call?
Dispatch: Your call is the same as mine. Do you see any more info?
Or Dispatch: No. There’s lots more info; I’m just keeping it a secret from you for kicks.

2.Computer Down
Dispatch: The computer is down.
Officer: Can you make me a card?
Dispatch: Negative, the computer is down.
Officer: Can you run someone for me?
Dispatch: Negative, the computer is down.
Officer: Can you dispo my last call for me?
Dispatch: Negative. What part of “the computer is down” don’t you understand?

3.) Calls Holding
Dispatch: Sergeant (or Lieutenant), be advised I have X number of calls holding for an extended period of time.
Patrol Supervisor: Dispatch those calls to the first available unit.
Dispatch: Gee, why didn’t I think of that?

4.) Which John?
Officer: Can you run Jose Garcia Rodriguez (or James John Smith) for me?
Dispatch: Is your computer down?
Officer: No.
Dispatch: You do realize that I will also have to read through 30 pages of hits when this name goes through. No magic formula here.

5.) Crystal Ball
Officer: Can you tell me what 72B is doing?
Dispatch: He shows available. 72B? 72B? I’m not getting a response.
Officer: Well, can you tell me what he’s doing?
Dispatch: Um, no but if you wait, I can pull out my crystal ball.

Five Conversations a Dispatcher Would Like to Have with Citizens
I would like to say that every time our headset beeps indicating a 9-1-1 or a non-emergency police call is coming in, it is greeted with an open mind, a lack of preconceived notions, and a willingness to treat this call and caller with respect and without any exasperation or frustration.

Unfortunately, more often than not I heard the beep, rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and was ready to deal with more ridiculousness (or at the least perceived ridiculousness).

Although patient and tolerant by nature, I found my ability to deal with citizens and their needs was sometimes less than stellar especially if they didn’t quite know my processes and didn’t really want to answer my questions in a coherent, mature, non-altered state of consciousness.

But, alas, being a police telecommunications operator, part of my job was to assist people in understanding their own needs and getting them met. Of course, on the other hand, I also wish I could have said a few of these things — out loud — without hitting the mute button.

1.) Where Are They?
Citizen: Why isn’t the officer here on my five-car pile up yet?
9-1-1: Do you see the traffic problem you created? The officers have to drive through that mess too.

2.) Two-Week-Old Call
Citizen: I called 9-1-1 three minutes a go for my burglary that happened two weeks ago and an officer isn’t here yet.
9-1-1: Do you expect them to drop from the sky? And it is not an emergency. We will get out there when people stop being asses and hurting each other.

3.) Non-Emergency Call
Citizen: I know this isn’t an emergency but…
9-1-1: **Click**

4.) Listen to Me
Citizen: My eight-year-old won’t listen to me.
9-1-1: What would you like us to do?
Citizen: I would like an officer to come out here and tell him to listen to me.
9-1-1: How about I send out our sharpshooter and we can just take care of the problem for good?

5.) Do a Drive By
Citizen: I’d like an officer to come out and do a drive-by.
9-1-1: How many bullets would you like us to shoot?

Snarky? Yes.

Sarcastic? Of course.

Needed to keep our sanity as we work with both officers and citizens on a daily basis? Definitely.

I apologize if any of these conversations offends you, but just keep in mind that these words exist only in our heads (or when we’re discussing with another dispatcher what we’d like to say).

I’m sure there are conversations that our officers and citizens would like to have with us as well. Since I have been able to purge my mind, I welcome you to as well.

Of course, keep it light. Keep it fun. Remember we all have to work together.

And, for the most part, we like each other and want to keep it that way. 


About the author

Michelle Perin spent seven and a half years as a police telecommunications operator with the City of Phoenix (Ariz.) Police Department. She is a Navy veteran and holds a graduate degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Her publication credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Law & Order, Beyond the Badge, Police Chief, Police Times, and Police Magazine. Michelle has done volunteer work as an advocate for sexual assault victims and veterans. She is currently a volunteer firefighter in the small Oregon town in which she lives. She rides a Triumph America with the Patriot Guard honoring those who have served our nation. She currently works at Jasper Mountain, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for severely traumatized children. Michelle enjoys spending time with her two adolescent sons, watching ice hockey, and volunteering at the local ferret shelter. Michelle has been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association since 2005 and has been the Contest Coordinator since 2007.

Contact Michelle Perin





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