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  • Dispatcher Question... To query or not to query...

    I want an opinion from an LEO, and from a different agency.

    I received a 911 call from a cell phone with an obvious disturbance. Parties yelling back and forth, then hung up. No address given by anyone, no GPS coordinates, and no answer on call back. I contacted the phone company who provided a subscriber name, DOB and an address. The address was quite far away in a neighboring jurisdiction - too far away to be the location the call came from. I had the other jurisdiction do a welfare check just to be sure.

    I cleared the name given by the phone company on NCIC and the state system to try to locate an address.

    It got brought to a supervisor's attention (long story.. office drama...) and now they're talking about reporting it as misuse. Their reasoning is that I couldn't be sure that the person who called 911 was the same name on the account. Thoughts?

  • #2
    Dispatcher Question... To Query Or Not To Query...

    While I certainly have no idea about your agencies policies, I would look at it as if you did your job, in fact above and beyond, and there was no misuse. I will be the first to admit that some agencies are more concerned about staff not doing too much, than they are too little, but it sounds to me like they are just blowing smoke.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks, I appreciate the response. Nothing in our SOGs or policies addresses this at all, and we routinely query folks without the request of an officer (trying to find suicidal people, callers reporting court order violations, etc and for many of us situations as above). I checked the policies for our state's system and it comes down to... queries must be for a legitimate law enforcement purpose, and must be consistent with the responsibilities of the agency... requirements I believe I met. We'll see how it pans out!

      Comment


      • #4
        Nor could you know it wasn't. Most likely the account owner is the caller and within the law what you did would be reasonable.
        Today's Quote:

        "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."
        Albert Einstein

        Comment


        • #5
          Most states have laws that exempt government agencies from failure to act or respond to calls for service. However, there is a caveat to that exemption. It doesn't exist if a special relationship has been created between the person seeking service and the government enforcement agency that fails to provide it. A special relationship means that there has been some promise or commitment to provide service.

          As a matter of public policy, public service answering points hold themselves out to be a place where calls for police service will be screened and referred for an appropriate response. This creates a Special Relationship and an obligation not to ignore 911 calls without a reasonable basis for doing so.

          Based on your description, the call you received suggested a very real threat to public safety. Had you ignored that call and someone been injured or killed, or property been damaged, your agency may have been civilly liable for your failure to act, you may have been subject to discipline for inexcusable neglect of duty, and you department would have been at the top of the news for the next week with headlines and newscasters screaming about 911 Dispatchers ignoring calls for help.

          Remember too, discipline for misconduct is based on a violation of the law, departmental rules, policies or orders of a supervisor. If your SOGs and policies do not address the matter, you did not violate them, there was no abuse, you did not engage in misconduct and this is merely a philosophical difference. Ask them to point out was law, rule or policy you violated so you will know not to do it again.

          Long ago I managed a regional communication center for eight years. If you worked for me, you would have been in the dog house only if you had ignored the call and done nothing.

          I imagine the heat you are getting is coming from a grumpy supervisor who wants to be right just because they are the supervisor. I doubt it is coming from upper management, which understands issues of civil liability, public policy and bad press. Should the matter be pursued further, I suspect a call from your union rep to the local press would do wonders. (It would be inappropriate for you to do so yourself.) The potential headline "Police dispatcher to be disciplined for not ignoring 911 call" may do wonders in solving things.
          Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jim1648 View Post
            While I certainly have no idea about your agencies policies, I would look at it as if you did your job, in fact above and beyond, and there was no misuse.
            x2
            I miss you, Dave.
            http://www.odmp.org/officer/20669-of...david-s.-moore

            Comment


            • #7
              I am going to agree with all of the above.



              However none of our advice or praise is going to stop your supervisors from deciding that you were wrong in THEIR eyes.


              I believe that the NCIC administrators (not your local ones) wouldn't pursue any sanctions against you or your agency based on the situation you described. Your agency might however decide you acted out of policy or out of "common practice" and ding you.

              From your post you seem to have some experience with office drama or office politics................

              Good luck
              Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

              My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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              • #8
                Your PM's aren't turned on....

                For what it's worth - we ROUTINELY use LEIN/NCIC in that scenario and it's actually expected of us. The feeling is that it falls under exigent circumstances and finding the location for the safety of the caller(s) is more important than the cell phone owner's right to privacy. We would actually be in more trouble if we stood by and DIDN'T try everything possible. Do you work for a LE agency or a regional (privatized) dispatch center? That might be the difference. We go through the same background check as the deputies and have full access to LEIN/NCIC (for legit purposes, of course!) and am able to use it for LE-related purposes at my discretion.

                And turn on your PM's!
                Originally posted by RSGSRT
                We've reached a point where natural selection doesn't have a chance in hell of keeping up with the procreation of imbeciles.
                Why is it acceptable for you to be an idiot, but not acceptable for me to point it out?

                Comment


                • #9
                  I did the exact same thing in that scenario when I was a dispatcher. Good work.

                  Even if it wasn't the owner of the cell phone, if you tracked down the owner maybe they could have told you where the phone was. Your decision seems win/win.

                  Like L-1 said, at my previous agency, you would have been in trouble for not doing those things to follow up.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sounds perfectly fine to me. It's called going the extra step beyond, and you've been trained for it. Granted HP dispatch doesn't have the risk to life factor that regular 911 has when fielding calls, but there's been plenty of times that I've taken the initiative to cross subjects for out of state records when in-state info doesn't come back, only to discover that the subject is DUS and probably was hoping he/she would get off only with a no DL ticket.
                    SCFC Dispatch Manager

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree with the majority, including, unfortunately, that none of us can do any more for you other than sympathize. Sounds like the "drama" initiator may be spending too much time conducting a visual self-exam of the inside of their colon. Maybe we could all send you some cash and you could buy that person, or group, a nice strawberry-scented enema kit and banana-shaped inserter.
                      #32936 - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 1975-10-27 / 2010-12-29
                      Proud Dad of #54266 - RCMP - 2007-02-12 to date
                      RCMP Veterans Association - Regina Division member
                      Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada - Associate (Retired) member
                      "Smile" - no!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree with all of the replies submitted by my colleagues. That said, I'll be brief. You did well. You know that, we know that. Your "Supervisor" seems to be having some difficulty with what we're here for in the first place.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wow. Thank you all for the intelligent, informative and humorous (lookin' at you Pete that made my day) responses. Sorry that I haven't been around to thank you all. Basically when I started raising a stink, printing off pages from NCIC policy and got the highlighter out, they tried to back off. I requested a meeting with my supervisor's supervisor and explained the situation and my thinking - basically that I'd rather sit in a courtroom and explain why I queried her name rather than why I didn't try very hard to find her. It seemed there was some misunderstanding about what actually happened because as soon as I explained she commended me for going above and beyond and sent me on my way. Prior to this meeting they did submit it to the state as a possible misuse, and the state immediately dismissed as completely kosher.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Aerohead View Post
                            Your PM's aren't turned on....

                            For what it's worth - we ROUTINELY use LEIN/NCIC in that scenario and it's actually expected of us. The feeling is that it falls under exigent circumstances and finding the location for the safety of the caller(s) is more important than the cell phone owner's right to privacy. We would actually be in more trouble if we stood by and DIDN'T try everything possible. Do you work for a LE agency or a regional (privatized) dispatch center? That might be the difference. We go through the same background check as the deputies and have full access to LEIN/NCIC (for legit purposes, of course!) and am able to use it for LE-related purposes at my discretion.

                            And turn on your PM's!
                            Thanks! I turned on my PMs had no idea they were off. It's a combined municipal center for PD/FD/EMS, and a separate entity from all the other departments. I'm starting to think the cons of such a system outweigh the pros. Not just because of this incident of course, but I digress.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Lucid View Post
                              I requested a meeting with my supervisor's supervisor and explained the situation and my thinking - basically that I'd rather sit in a courtroom and explain why I queried her name rather than why I didn't try very hard to find her. It seemed there was some misunderstanding about what actually happened because as soon as I explained she commended me for going above and beyond and sent me on my way. Prior to this meeting they did submit it to the state as a possible misuse, and the state immediately dismissed as completely kosher.
                              Many times the "system" works...............

                              Glad this turned out good for you
                              Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                              My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                              Comment

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