There is no universal rule for how dispatch centers across the United States are run, but almost all of them are staffed by non sworn civilian employees just like me. That is because we cost less to pay than sworn police officers who also get a much higher level of training to operate in public and meet people face to face, where I only ever talk to people from the safety of a telephone. This being the case, dispatchers in 911 centers are like police officers in some ways, but very different in others and the relationship between the two is rather odd. On the one hand, we tell police officers where to go, and on the other, they have to decide what to do when they get there!
Very often I hear callers address me as “Officer” and I try to let them understand I don’t go to calls, I have to imagine the scene they are describing and I have to get the information from them that the responding officers need to know. My job is to find out what is happening, if anyone is hurt, if anyone is armed, and a whole lot more if the caller will cooperate. The more an officer knows before she or he reaches the scene, the more at ease they feel when they move in to take control of the situation to calm things down.
As a result, officers need to trust dispatchers and that can be tough when we don’t have the information they expect to hear over the radio. We as dispatchers have to try to get callers to give us that information and often the caller will scream “Just send them!” and hang up. We tell the officers over the radio “No further, attempting call back,” so they know we are working on their behalf, but it can get frustrating. Especially if they are anticipating a scene with violence.
It would be nice if callers knew this and helped us out by answering our questions. One reason I’d love everyone to have 911Buddy on their smartphone, is so that someone in crisis can call a friend for help if they want to, and that friend can call us and give the information we need more calmly than the person directly affected. I suppose you could say I have a selfish interest in getting 911Buddy out to the public, but it would also be a big help to officers, ambulance crews, and even firefighters coming to your rescue. The more information we civilian dispatchers have, the more we can help the people going to the scene prepare for what they have to do next. Everyone wins.