Have you ever read the Book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie? If you haven’t, I STRONGLY recommend that you do. Not because it will make you a better cop (though of course it will), but because it will make you a better human being.
Despite having read this book a few times and considering myself a pretty good communicator, I’m going to relay a story about how to NOT win friends or influence people.. Especially with your dispatcher.
Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of the emergency response community. A good dispatcher can greatly assist with coordinating resources, operating the radio, adding information to calls, making phone calls, conducting data work, performing complicated database searches to find out information about involved parties and numerous other nearly impossible simultaneous tasks.
If you ever really want to be impressed, try sitting with a dispatcher for a few hours and watch them juggle phone calls, perform data entry and searches and handle radio traffic all while keeping track of who is where and doing what. Having the dispatchers friendly with you can make things infinitely easier… Or harder if you decide to be a jackass. This is an example of what NOT to do when dealing with dispatch.
MCT’s (Mobile Computer Terminals) are your friend in law enforcement. It allows instant access to remarkable amounts of information at the push of a button. It also allows messaging back and forth between officers of the same or nearby departments and with dispatch. This is a great tool for sending and receiving information without having to get on the radio and add a bunch of unnecessary traffic. Like all things technological it can be taken advantage of and used in ways it was not intended. Sometimes with embarrassing results.
I had been on my department for several years already and at that point was becoming much too comfortable with my interactions with others via MCT and may have occasionally sent messages that while usually hilarious (in my own mind anyway), would certainly be frowned upon by the admin.
The day I pissed off dispatch…
It was a very busy summer day with people everywhere drinking and fighting, driving recklessly and generally acting like idiots. There were two simultaneous high priority calls going on at that time, with another half dozen other calls pending.
We had a large disturbance in one area that required several officers, plus a K9 track of an armed suspect who had just violated a No Contact Order and attempted to shoot his soon to be ex girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Every available officer from my department as well as several from nearby agencies were involved in the investigation and subsequent K9 track. Many of us were on a high visibility perimeter to try to box in the suspect and force him to go to ground so the K9 officer could locate the suspect and take him into custody before he could finish the job.
So there I was… Sitting in my car in a high visibility perimeter position, diligently looking for the suspect or anyone who may be trying to pick him up. The dispatcher was that one dispatcher whose voice was like the proverbial nails on chalkboard. Think combination droning of the Farris Bueller teacher with his nasally “Bueller… Bueller…” and the shrill sound a hissing cat would make after it’s tail was stepped on and then throw in a condescending, sarcastic tone and you will pretty much have it. It was agony on the ears. Nobody has ever accused me of having a radio DJ voice though, so who am I to judge?
I’m sitting there looking around for said bad guy when the shrill nasally sound of the dispatcher comes over the radio and announces a “Vehicle Prowl, Clear” call. Someone’s car had been broken into and they were waiting for a phone call.
Meanwhile we are on restricted radio traffic for the track. Of course the entire department was tied up on one of the two priority calls. After a minute or two of waiting the dispatcher puts it out again. And again. I’m a bit incredulous. I mean… She can see the same screen as us and not a single unit was available, including the sergeant. On the third time, I get on the air and advise radio we were all tied up and to just hold any non priority calls until the track was completed.
Thirty seconds later she puts out another non priority civil problem. This time I send an MCT message explaining that we are all tied up and requesting she just hold the non priority calls until we clear. She again acknowledged and said okay. Aaaand thirty seconds later puts out a fraud phone detail and again goes through the agonizing drawl putting it out over and over again, even cutting off the heavy breathing of the K9 officer as he was trying to call out the track.
At this point, I was irritated and sent an MCT message to my buddy saying “This dispatcher is an idiot.”
Only… I didn’t send it to my buddy. I sent it to “County” which sends the message to 4 different dispatcher terminals. The dispatchers rotate through different positions and you never really know whether your actual dispatcher is there or you are talking to someone else who is filling in while they are on break or whatever.
So I send out my shotgun blast MCT message and suddenly my MCT starts blowing up with messages. I get a “??” and “Wow” and someone else who sent me really long “Hahahaha.” With a sinking feeling, I realize that I had just done the equivalent of walking into the middle of the dispatch center, pointing my finger and yelling “She’s an idiot!” And in the process, I showed who the REAL idiot was.
Knowing I’m about to get my peepee slapped, I call the Sgt and let him know that I was just an idiot and told him what I did. He laughed, because that particular dispatcher really was the one truly awful dispatcher we had to deal with. I ended up going up and making an apology. She was remarkably unruffled about the entire thing, but I felt like a complete ass and made an effort to be extra nice to our hard working dispatchers after that.
I also learned a very important fact that made me extra dumb. The dispatcher HAD to continue to put out asinine calls even when everyone was busy or she would be written up.
So… Moral of the story? Don’t be like me and be a dumbass. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People and then remember:
Everything you do on the MCT is not only recorded, but it’s also public record. Don’t write anything on your MCT that you wouldn’t write with your most overzealous administrator staring over your shoulder. If you absolutely MUST talk smack, just call your buddy. That way it won’t come back to bite you later.
Do you have a funny MCT story that got you into trouble? Feel free to share so I know I’m not the only dumbass out there who has done it. And don’t forget to like and share please!
Also published on Medium.