In-Service Training for Police Dispatchers on How to Handle a Domestic Violence Call

A highly trained dispatcher acts quickly to help a victim when the call comes.
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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.

Interview Techniques

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.

Officer Safety

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

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.

Call Comparisons

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.

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