9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dispatcher And Cop: A Special Relationship

Dispatchers in some cases may know the personnel that they are dispatching, while others may not, due to the size of the agency or the geographic area which is within their jurisdiction.

There are significant differences in dispatching police, fire or medical personnel due to the different nature of assingments that each discipline deals with.

Law enforcement officers need to recognize that their radio and their dispatcher is a vital link to their survival, and thus a special relationship must develop between officer and dispatcher.

The dispatcher is responsible for the officer and is trained to check on that officer's welfare at regular intervals. This sounds reasonable enough, but a problem arises when officers initiate vehicle stops and fail to notify their dispatcher of the location and nature of the stop. This situation seems to be more prevalent during daylight hours. Some officers become complacent during the day and feel continual updates with their dispatcher are not necessary.

Some officers become frustrated when a dispatcher does not give them an immediate response, and as a result they don't bother reporting in when they make a vehicle stop. Officers must realize that dispatchers are responsible for numerous other units and their specific needs. Dispatchers, on the other hand, must realize that officers are dealing with situations under potentially volatile conditions, and may not have the patience they might normally have under less stressful circumstances.

Recently I telephoned a state police station to advise them of a recovered stolen automobile. The combination call-taker/dispatcher who answered the phone was trying to communicate with a state patrolman on the radio. She commented that the officer didn't understand that, due to radio interference, she was unable to understand his message clearly (and he was clearly becoming impatient!)

Having an officer spend half a shift in the communications center would allow him/her to see what else is happening behind the scenes other than their dispatcher waiting eagerly for his/her next message. Simply transmitting a message does not always mean the message was heard, especially when the dispatcher is also responsible for call-taking and monitoring other radio frequencies. Understanding the dynamics of the dispatcher's side of the radio could reduce the assumption by the officer that the dispatcher was incompetent or inattentive.

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