In policing, we find our best successes as a result of teamwork. We train as teams, we work as teams. We know that we do our best work when we work together.
This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, April 10-16. I’m glad this week comes along every year since it gives us a chance to highlight the work of our Police Service Officers.
You may be aware that these are the people who answer the phone calls, both when you call us on 911 and on our non emergency number 248.370-9444. And they answer it a LOT. In 2010 they answered:
19,499 911 Calls and VOIP-335 (voice over Internet protocol calls)
Avg. Answer Time – 4.3 seconds
51,441 Non 911 Incoming Calls
I don’t think many people know much about this complex operation and the skill required. Our PSOs are not police officers but they must know a great deal about policing and about people. All in a day’s work they answer calls from suicidal people, prank callers, crimes in progress, medical emergencies and fires. Every aspect of the human condition comes through a dispatch center. They must get the important information that helps police or fire get to the location with the correct response. While we’re on the way, they must talk with the caller to update information and do their best to calm them. Often they are the lifeline to a person in a potentially life threatening event. At the same time they are giving updated information to responding units so that they are prepared for what they might find. When units arrive on the scene, there is a period of time where the dispatcher waits for a radio call from the officers updating them on the status of the event and at the same time typing detailed information about the call into the Computer Aided Dispatch system to track the call by time and to relay information to a fellow PSO who is the radio operator. AND THEY HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. A mistake could cost someone their life if we go to the wrong location with the wrong response.
I always have a radio operating on my desk so I can listen to the calls dispatched and the radio traffic on events. When I hear a significant event dispatched or a certain tone to an officer or dispatcher’s voice I go into dispatch for an update on what is happening. There is a period of anxious wait time that comes right after officers arrive on scene that is always the most difficult time for me. I know what they are trying to do–to make the arrest or stabilize the scene or confront a violent person. The dispatchers are used to that wait and I’ve seen them wait quietly for that status update to provide whatever resources are might be required. I respect their poised demeanor at those times and I respect the job they do for us every day.
Here is a real life example from the award recommendation:
PSO Harp received a call of a Home Invasion in progress. Three to four subjects were trying to kick in the back door, and the resident had armed himself with a golf club inside the house. PSO Harp immediately dispatched officers, while continuing to speak with the victim. She quickly established a good rapport and did an excellent job helping him calm down, at the same time continuously updating the responding officers. Upon arrival, officers quickly located the suspects and they were taken into custody. PSO Harp’s quick reaction and continued communication with the caller resulted in a safe resolution for both the victim and the officers.
She would say that it was all in a day’s work. I’m sure that the resident with the golf club would say something different.