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David Griffith

David Griffith

David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.

Melanie Basich

Melanie Basich

Managing Editor Melanie Basich joined POLICE Magazine in 2000 (when her last name was still Hamilton). An award-winning journalist, she has covered such topics as agency budgets, officer suicide, emerging law enforcement technologies, and active shooter tactics. She writes and manages the product section of POLICE.
Editor's Notes

3 Things You Want Dispatchers To Know

Great dispatchers listen to the radio, get more information, and stay calm when dealing with critical incidents.

September 17, 2012  |  by

Photo courtesy of Long Beach (Calif.) PD.
Photo courtesy of Long Beach (Calif.) PD.

An emergency dispatcher is the police officer's "lifeline out in the field," as POLICE Magazine Assoc. Editor Dean Scoville pointed out in his September feature, "10 Things Dispatchers Want You to Know."

For the feature, Dean asked dispatchers what they'd like officers to do to help them better communicate information to the field.

The 2012 Aurora movie theater massacre provided a shining example of a dispatcher at the top of her game. Kathie Stauffer's clear, calm voice guided officers and medical personnel in the chaotic moments following the shooting.

Because communication is a two-way street, took the opportunity to flip the script in this related blog post. We asked several officers for three things they want dispatchers to know.

1. Listen To the Radio

During a critical incident, listening is at least as important as talking, especially as information comes rushing in. Stories abound of dispatchers who haven't been focused on the job at hand. In May, a Montgomery County, Md., dispatcher could be heard snoring on a 911 call. One officer told us dispatchers have been caught playing Xbox in her jurisdiction. Staying alert helps dispatchers stay ahead of fast-changing emergency events.

2. You Can Never Get Enough Information

When talking to 911 callers, dispatchers need to push the limit of information they glean from the caller. Descriptive details of suspects, vehicles, or locations give officers the edge they need to spot a fleeing suspect, safely resolve a disturbance, or know where to go to help victims. Richard Poplawski's mother told a dispatcher her son had multiple weapons, a fact that was never relayed to the three Pittsburgh officers who were fatally shot by him in April 2009.

3. Stay Calm

Set the tone for field officers by remaining calm, because nervousness and excitement can needlessly intensify an already tense situation. A calm voice "lifts everybody up," one officer told us. Officers are trained not to scream into their mics; dispatchers should also remain calm and collected.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please add other advice for dispatchers in the comments below.


10 Things Dispatchers Want You to Know

How to Thank Your Dispatchers

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Matt Pies @ 11/2/2012 7:15 AM

As a full-time dispatcher and part-time Officer, I know there are some secret squirrel type things you have to investigate. But when it comes to things like warrant services, please put the subject's name in the run or give an ID number over the radio. This way if you do get ambushed, we know who to look for in the first 5 minutes.

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