I was talking with a coworker this afternoon about an incident that happened last night. I was relaying my frustrations about how I was sitting on the phone talking to another dispatcher at another agency, requesting assistance for my officers and she was asking questions that, if you think about them at all, are obvious.

ME: I have an officer requesting back up. Male ran from him, last seen heading southbound down ROBERTS ST TOWARD NP AVE.

DISPATCH: Is that North or South?

ME: Southbound on ROBERTS ST. (there is no ROBERTS ST south of MAIN AVE. This is your city, you should know that)

D: Where did this start at?

ME: 2 AVE/7 ST N (not that it really helps, since that isn’t where he was last seen)

OFFICER: I have one at Taser point, 1 AVE/10 ST, I need backup.

ME to Officer: 10-4, one at Taser point, 1 AVE/10 ST N.

OTHER AGENCY OFFICER: I’m out with the XXXX officer, 1 AVE/10 ST.

ME to Dispatch: He’s out with the subject 1 AVE/10 ST N.

D: OK, do you still need us to respond?

ME: Yes! He has one at Taser point. (You already have one of your officers on scene!)

Now, the phone and radio sit, literally, next to one another. We don’t wear headsets, so anything said over the radio comes through the phone as if it’s person to person. Their dispatch center also scans our channel, and sometimes jumps on our channel to let us know about weather related events reported on the teletype. (We have had our own teletype for over 15 years, but their protocols have never been updated. We get the same state wide messages they do.)


OFFICER: He’s complaining of chest pains now, send an ambulance.

ME to Officer: 10-4. Ambulance to 1 AVE/10 ST N for chest pains.

ME to Dispatch: Can you send an ambulance to 1 AVE/10 ST, my officer is out with a male complaining of chest pains.

D: Is the person conscious?

ME: Yes. (Because unconscious people regularly talk)

D: Is the person breathing?

ME: Yes. (Because I’ve seen so many people unable to breathe speak)

D: Is the person breathing normally?

ME: unknown

D: Is the person changing color?

ME: unknown

How can she not hear the same radio traffic I’m hearing?  Argh!

One of my coworkers pointed out that in order to maintain their accreditation they have to ask certain questions, in a certain order, even if they seem obvious or stupid. I understand that.

But here’s my problem with it: We are now so deep into political and litigious crap that we are more worried about covering our own asses and keeping accreditation than we are about actually helping each other in a timely manner. To paraphrase Tom Clancy in The Hunt For Red October, this shit will get out of hand and it will get people killed.


And it’s not just an issue with law enforcement. How many times have you been asked the exact same questions by the nurse and the doctor that have nothing at all to do with the reason you came in to see them? I emailed the doctor the other day looking for a referral to a specialist. She emailed back wanting a listing of current medications. Umh hon, you already have that. I can see list in the ‘Myhealth’ account, and you have access to that. My wife called our insurance company the other day, and was required to punch in her insurance number before being transferred to an actual person. The first question the person asked was, “What’s your insurance number?”