POLICE Magazine

JUL 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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THE DISPATCHER IS YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL ON THE JOB; HELP HIM OR HER GIVE YOU THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO PREVAIL. Dean Scoville ➔ The emergency dispatcher is the police officer's lifeline out in the field: coordinating resources, making notifications, running checks, and getting you help when and where you need it. When your butt is on the line, so is theirs. Sometimes the channels of communication are wide open and everything clicks. Information comes through just in time to avert disaster. Suspect descriptions are spot on. Officers speak in per- ceptible tones and dispatchers return information with lightning speed and accuracy. But things don't always run as smoothly as both sides would hope. Sometimes external factors—bad radio reception, stepped on transmission traffic, and the inexplicable delay between a request and an answer—make communication less than effective. Communication, particularly in law enforcement, is a two-way transmission. With that in mind, here are some things that dis- patchers say you can do to help them communicate the critical in- formation that you need in the field. 16 S P E C I A L R E P O R T • M I S S I O N C R I T I C A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S PHOTOS: AMAURY MURGADO Want You to What Dispatchers 1 THAT LOUSY CALL IS NOT THEIR FAULT In larger departments, dispatchers have little or no discretion about which calls they handle. If they get a request for an offi- cer to be sent to a location, they send one. True, they can make alternative suggestions to the caller. And where they are given some latitude, they can screen away some of the extraneous sit- uations with relative ease. e guy who advises that he's out of toilet paper and asks for an officer to help him is not going to get that help. e woman with the spider in the motel room is also not going to see you. Nor will you be talking to the young woman who wants you to roll on a custody dispute, then iden- tifies the involved father as "Adolph Hitler." Dispatchers use their best judgment to the extent that we are allowed to avert calls that you will never even hear about. 2 BE PATIENT Dispatchers are juggling other things. So don't expect them to automatically jump at your beck and call. Cindra Dunaway, state certified public safety telecommunicator/training officer for the Lee County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office, says there can be as high as a 1:40 ratio of dis- patchers to field units. "Recognize that there is a lot going on behind the scenes while you are waiting for a response. e informant may be speaking to a 911 operator, who relays that information to me, while I'm typing the information for you," she says. "ere may be a politically sensitive issue involved that you may not be aware of, or an officer safety concern that may be dangerous to broadcast. Remember that we're in the same boat as you are: doing more with less. While there may not be as many of us as there once was, we are expected to do more." 3 LET THEM KNOW WHERE YOU ARE Dispatchers are your lifeline. But if they don't know where you are, all the cries for help in the world are not going to help you. Let your dispatchers know when and where you are conducting some manner of investigation. Tell them who you are dealing with and clue them in to the nature of the problem. Sometimes that may be enough for a dispatcher to recognize that you need assistance, even if you don't feel comfortable making the request. Dunaway notes that, "We don't know where 'by the red car' is. Unless you tell us where you are, it makes our job that much more difficult and stressful." 4 KNOW YOUR CODES If the radio code you used while requesting a tow truck actually means fire, don't blame the dispatcher if you see a bright red engine pull up.

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