Dispatchers are trained to use the 6 Ws -- who, what, when, where, why and weapons -- when answering an incoming call. For a domestic violence call, it is important for the dispatcher to remain calm and remember her training, while maintaining professionalism. Performing in-service training helps the dispatcher follow facility guidelines and keep everyone involved safe. Many dispatchers are women who work a high-stress job, according to a study published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
When taking a domestic violence call, time is of the essence since the caller may be in immediate danger. Training should include how to interview the caller to get the most accurate information. Quickly get the caller’s name and location. Always assume the caller is in danger and avoid taking too long to send help. Also, teach the dispatcher to remain calm and direct when interviewing the caller. Avoid ambiguous or rhetorical questions, like “Are you ok?” since the automatic answer is “I’m fine” according to the State of New Jersey website. Get information from the caller, such as her location and name, the name of the suspect and if any weapons are involved.
The in-service training should reiterate the importance of maintaining the safety of the responding officers. The dispatcher should have training on how to use resources to run checks on suspects for previous arrests and getting help to officers in a timely manner. Also, teaching the dispatcher to call the officer if he does not check in within a specific amount of time based on facility policy is important.
Role-playing exercises can be an effective training method, such as placing the dispatcher in the shoes of the caller that feels her life is in danger. The dispatcher then places a simulated call that is answered by another dispatcher. Dispatchers should follow a checklist that outlines the questions to ask, along with common responses. When the dispatchers determine what they could have done differently, it is important that training is offered in areas that need improvement.
During the in-service training, have the dispatchers listen to previously recorded calls from your facility and other facilities. Pick calls where the dispatcher acted appropriately and have the trainees compare them with calls where the dispatcher committed errors, like failing to ask the caller the name of the parties involved or telling the caller there were no units available due to budget cuts, as an Oregon dispatcher reportedly did in 2013, according to CBS News in Seattle. Also, using calls that end negatively, with someone badly injured, helps initiate an emotional response from the dispatchers and promotes learning.
- The State of New Jersey: Interviewing Techniques in Domestic Violence Cases
- National Sheriff’s Association: Domestic Violence Training
- Police Mag: 10 Things Dispatchers want you to Know
- CBS Seattle: 911 Dispatcher Tells Woman About To Be Sexually Assaulted There Are No Cops To Help Her Due To Budget Cuts
Amanda Maddox began writing professionally in 2007. Her work appears on various websites focusing on topics about medical billing, coding, real estate, insurance, accounting and business. Maddox has her insurance and real estate licenses and holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting and business administration from Wallace State Community College.