Citizen's Police Academy: Day 3

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Tonight’s Police Academy was filled with more classroom presentations and lectures. Normally, three hours of anyone jabbering at me with a PowerPoint presentation and laser pointer would send me into a coma; however, tonight’s class had some really interesting lecturers.

911: WHAT IS YOUR EMERGENCY?

First up, we heard from the head of dispatch, Dawn (I can’t remember her last name), who gave us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of 911 Emergency Service dispatchers. The whole entire time she was talking I thought of my friend Kat in Michigan who is a 911 dispatcher (and is also married to a cop—cause she likes to lead a low stress ho-hum life.) I have a whole new respect for what Kat does. Here are a couple of things that I learned:

a) It’s requires the ability to multitask like an octopus under extremely stressful, high-pressure, sometimes life and death, conditions.  (This would explain why the vast majority of dispatchers are women. No offense guys, but you KNOW most men are unitaskers at best.)

b) Training is extensive and rigorous and has a more than 50% dropout rate. They also go through a very similar pre-hiring process as standard law enforcement officers, which includes all the extensive background checks, lie detectors, medical testing, etc. (Last week, one of the instructors said that most people don’t pass the background check and that 70% get cut at the lie detector phase. Interesting, eh?)

c) In the city of Fairfield, the 911 dispatchers are Emergency Medical Dispatcher certified, which means they can handle medical situations over the phone. Not all dispatchers or cities require this training and thusly end up transferring medical calls to another number. (I didn’t realize this; I thought they all provided medical assistance.)

d) Fairfield dispatchers answer about 16,000 calls a month, or on average, 500 calls a day.

e) 70% of all calls are NOT emergency service calls. ARGH!

f) Morons abound and must be shot on the spot. Dawn played the above Jay Leno clip for us … and sadly confirmed that these type of calls are not uncommon. Freakin’ hilarious, but frightening.

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One response »

  1. Hi Everyone!!!

    Mic I glad to hear you are having fun with the Citizen’s Police Academy, we have the same thing here at my department and the people really enjoy learning about the behind the scenes aspect of community policing. People really have no idea how much work is done by dispatcher’s even before an officer or fire fighter is dispatched to a scene, heck even some of our officers have no clue!! I’ve been dispatching for 16 years now and will agree to all Mic has noted in her post. It is a hard job to do, and an even harder job to learn nowadays. In the past 6 years we have had only 3 out of 17 new hires make it through the training program.

    A good example of how much work we do while dispatching was a call that I took yesterday for a suicidal subject (typical for holiday weekend). He was threatening suicide by overdose and before the officers were even dispatched by my partner I had his information, name/dob, the fact that he held a valid ccw (which means there a good chance there are firearms in the home), previous runs to the home (he’s threatened suicide before). By the time officers were enroute I had both his doctor and ex-girlfriend on the phone, a perimeter of the area setup, run all registered guns to him and found out the name of his dog 🙂

    It’s a high stress situation for not only the approaching officers but for the dispatchers on the other end of the phone. We can’t see what is going on at the scene, we have to wait until someone talks and that my friends is the hardest part of my job .. the not knowing and being out of control. I do everything in my power to make sure my officers are safe before they approach a scene, no matter what type of call it might be, their lives are mine to keep safe for 8 hours.

    So when we do get those goofy callers it’s a nice relief for us to be able to hang up and laugh at them. But don’t get any ideas about calling to ask me for directions you might just catch me on a bad day!!

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