10 conversations a 9-1-1 dispatcher would like to have

These conversations are the ones a 911 operator wants to have with officers and citizens alike

This article was updated on July 10, 2017.

As 911 dispatchers, we talk for a living. We talk to citizens. We talk to police officers. We talk to each other. In fact, we talk so much that often when I’m at home I can only muster a grunt or two in response to my family.

My world is full of conversations, but despite this, there are still things I wish I could say to both my fellow police officers and the citizens in my community.

While 911 dispatchers talk for a living, there are some things they never say out loud.
While 911 dispatchers talk for a living, there are some things they never say out loud. (Photo/FEMA/Jessica Stapf)

Five Conversations a 911 Dispatcher Would Like to Have with a Police Officer

Working with police officers can be a challenge. They would probably say that working with a 911 operator is a challenge, but that debate could go back and forth until the end of time.

Both of us have our jobs to do, and while we often don’t see eye-to-eye, at the end of the day we appreciate and respect the work each other does. That being said, if for one day my dispatcher’s inner monologue was broken, these conversations might be part of what an officer would hear.

1. Any More Info?
Officer: Do you have any more info on my call?
Dispatch: Your call is the same as mine. Do you see any more info?
Or Dispatch: No. There’s lots more info; I’m just keeping it a secret from you for kicks.

2. Computer Down
Dispatch: The computer is down.
Officer: Can you make me a card?
Dispatch: Negative, the computer is down.
Officer: Can you run someone for me?
Dispatch: Negative, the computer is down.
Officer: Can you dispo my last call for me?
Dispatch: Negative. What part of “the computer is down” don’t you understand?

3. Calls Holding
Dispatch: Sergeant (or Lieutenant), be advised I have X number of calls holding for an extended period of time.
Patrol Supervisor: Dispatch those calls to the first available unit.
Dispatch: Gee, why didn’t I think of that?

4. Which John?
Officer: Can you run Jose Garcia Rodriguez (or James John Smith) for me?
Dispatch: Is your computer down?
Officer: No.
Dispatch: You do realize that I will also have to read through 30 pages of hits when this name goes through. No magic formula here.

5. Crystal Ball
Officer: Can you tell me what 72B is doing?
Dispatch: He shows available. 72B? 72B? I’m not getting a response.
Officer: Well, can you tell me what he’s doing?
Dispatch: Um, no, but if you wait, I can pull out my crystal ball.

Five Conversations a 911 Dispatcher Would Like to Have with Citizens

I would like to say that every time our headset beeps indicating a 9-1-1 or a non-emergency police number call is coming in, it is greeted with an open mind, a lack of preconceived notions, and a willingness to treat this call and caller with respect and without any exasperation or frustration.

Unfortunately, more often than not I heard the beep, rolled my eyes and took a deep breath, ready to deal with more ridiculousness (or at the least perceived ridiculousness) of some of the 911 calls we receive.

Although patient and tolerant by nature, I found my ability to deal with citizens and their needs was sometimes less than stellar, especially if they didn’t quite know my processes and didn’t really want to answer my questions in a coherent, mature, non-altered state of consciousness.

But, as a 911 dispatcher, part of my job was to assist people in understanding their own needs and getting them met. Of course, on the other hand, I also wish I could have said a few of these things without hitting the mute button.

1. Where Are They?
Citizen: Why isn’t the officer here on my five-car pileup yet?
9-1-1: Do you see the traffic problem you created? The officers have to drive through that mess too.

2. Two-Week-Old Call
Citizen: I called 9-1-1 three minutes a go for my burglary that happened two weeks ago and an officer isn’t here yet.
9-1-1: Do you expect them to drop from the sky? And it is not an emergency. We will get out there when people stop being asses and hurting each other.

3. Non-Emergency Call
Citizen: I know this isn’t an emergency but…
9-1-1: **Click**

4. Listen to Me
Citizen: My eight-year-old won’t listen to me.
9-1-1: What would you like us to do?
Citizen: I would like an officer to come out here and tell him to listen to me.
9-1-1: How about I send out our sharpshooter and we can just take care of the problem for good?

5. Do a Drive By
Citizen: I’d like an officer to come out and do a drive-by.
9-1-1: How many bullets would you like us to shoot?

Snarky? Yes.

Sarcastic? Of course.

Needed to keep our sanity as we work with both officers and citizens on a daily basis? Definitely.

I apologize if any of these conversations offends you, but just keep in mind that these words exist only in our heads (or when we’re discussing with another dispatcher what we’d like to say).

I’m sure there are conversations that our police officers and citizens would like to have with us as well. Since I have been able to purge my mind, I welcome you to as well.

Of course, keep it light. Keep it fun. Remember we all have to work together.

And, for the most part, we like each other and want to keep it that way. 

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