Crisis in Progress: Enter At Your Own Risk

by pjmcbride


At the risk of alienating some people (but not much risk, since I doubt those people read this), I am going to engage in old-fashioned C.I.P. rabble-rousing. (Not to imply you all are rabble, you understand.)

This rant deals with “2nd Shift Happenings,” as a sergeant called them in his informative email, over the past couple days.

First: If a department has so many extra grant cars working that I can’t grab enough air time between their traffic stops to dispatch runs, that is a problem. They need their own dispatcher. And I’m not interested in hearing that there’s no money to pay a dispatcher overtime to do that. There was enough money to pay those four deputies overtime.

On to more delicate matters. There were two different incidents which are reflections of the same basic problem. (Unlike the above situation, I was not the person directly affected by either of these.)

–A run was taken, and dispatched, according to police department SOP for an incident not in progress. (It had occurred two hours previously.) A sergeant criticized the dispatcher ON THE AIR, for not handling it as if it were in progress, and a sergeant stated in his end-of-shift email on the incident that “Officers were initially unable to locate the suspect because the run had been held {for six minutes} prior to being dispatched.” As one of us remarked afterwards, if that run had been handled as an in-progress emergency, and an officer had been involved in a wreck going code 3 to the scene, the sergeant would have said,”Why was that run given out as high priority? It occurred 2 hours ago.”

And, another entry in the can’t-win-for-losing category: An off-duty officer called in on the phone that he had seen a couple arguing in a car. There were no cars available at the time to give this run to, so the information was put out as a BOL, in case any officer should happen to see it while enroute to another run. The off-duty officer became irate that the run hadn’t actually been given to a car and said to the dispatcher on the phone, “Don’t you know what disorderly conduct is?” EXCUSE ME? She was going the extra mile in getting that information out on the air at all, considering we had no one available to send. Can you imagine one of us making that snotty remark to an officer? No, you cannot. Which brings me to…

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: I tend toward paranoia, so my reaction may be disproportionate. But this type of problem keeps recurring, and I sometimes get the feeling that there is a culture of contempt for dispatchers among officers, that is often hidden or even subconscious, but bubbles up to the surface intermittently. I remember an officer encouraging a family member to apply for a job at Dispatch, saying it should be easy, because “all they do is talk and type.” (This family member did not make it successfully through our training, as I recall.) I recall a rookie officer picking up my paycheck stub, studying it, and saying, “That’s a lot of money to do this job.”

I know that if you complain this much, you should also offer a solution. (I think of  my stepfather, telling me, “You kids just want to tear things down, but you never say how to build them up.” He was accusing me of being some kind of communist, when I was actually a wild-eyed Ayn Rand capitalist at the time.) I have no solution. There may not be one. When I started, and there were still a few officers in ye olde Radio Room downtown, an assignment to said room was considered punishment detail, which no red-blooded police officer would voluntarily undertake. Then they discovered that lower-paid and lesser breed of being, the civilian dispatcher, who took on the unwanted tasks of taking calls and talking on the radio, freeing them to do Important Stuff. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Yes, I know I’m stirring up and/or prolonging resentment, and I should just let it go. But I’m not good at letting things go, and sometimes I get tired of trying. I should probably let this post wait awhile and re-read it before I hit “Publish,” but let’s just run with scissors, shall we?

911 Emergency dispatch centers (Police)

911 Emergency dispatch centers (Police) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)