It was a normal night. A busy night. Calls were stacked up and we were trying to get to them as fast as we could.
I missed my break. A common ordeal for me. I can’t seem to leave the phone’s when the beep of a 911 holding is being heard throughout the center… and as I am taking call after call I realize I missed my break.
I quickly reach for the break sheet. We can’t just walk away when we want… We have to sign up for a free spot.
There are no free spots… which means I now must ask the supervisor and admit I missed my break. Something that happens all to often with me.
I opt for a quick run to the restroom…
And head back to my seat. Forgeting my break today.
I forget my break so often that I actually keep my lunch with me at my desk. I don’t have to go into the break-room… Unless someone brought us in Donuts… or See’s candy.
Oh…. shall we stop right now and thank all those amazing people that remember us dispatchers…… with….. See’s Candy!
Tonight was not one of those nights.
I head back to my desk with the hopes of not being missed… plug back in and take the next call.
“Hello, I need an officer out here.”
The man was calm and rational but the voice was off… You could tell he was uncomfortable and as I listened to him telling me about his girlfriend.. I could hear her in the background.
She was unhinged.
Something you will hear me say often is that we are trained to listen to the background. Not just what we hear going on with the callers voice reflection and words and tone.. but what is also going on in the background of where they are calling from.
So while the caller, a male, is calling to tell me he needs police that his girlfriend is upset and trying to fight with him… and he doesn’t want to fight… this is what I hear that he isn’t knowing…
He is sounding very concerned and on the point of scared. Something you come to hear often in male callers voices when they know police will come out and they are usually considered the abuser in relationships… and they are scared they are going to be the one’s going to jail. He also appears scared of HER… and what she is doing.
Don’t confuse this with the scared to get caught for what I did kind of concern… That’s a totally different sound.
I also get the feeling as I am getting his information and what he is telling me.. that he doesn’t think I believe him.
Stop here… it’s not up to me to believe them.. but to take the facts.. but the fact he is scared he’s going to jail… concerns me… especially since…. I know this guy! and what else I am hearing.
Yes, I am working in one of the largest cities in California and I get calls from people that I know… Often!!!!! But they never know I know them. Ever. Unless they figure it out. which they very rarely do. Calling 911 should remain private. Now if they call up and ask me if I was the one…. different story. Or if they were considered family members of mine.. different story.
Because I work in a call center that is large enough… I get the privilege of determining if I need to keep him on the phone or not for his safety or the other parties. And as I am taking the information… I determine he needs to stay on the phone with me. For his safety… Here is what I am hearing:
The female is in the background outraged… Yelling at him and totally off kilter. So much that I ask him if he can move into another room. “I keep trying, she keeps following me.” He replies. “Let me go to the garage.”
He is now, I can hear the garage door open and close.. and now I hear the echo as he is talking in the garage. I also hear her coming in and out of the garage… screaming… (That echo is amazing for carrying her distant voice!!!) and here is what I hear. ‘You call em! They won’t believe you! They won’t believe you! I’m going to tell them that you hit me!’
I start hearing an odd noise of slapping, in the background, and I ask the caller calmly “can you tell me where in the garage you are?”
“By the large garage door. Standing by the back of the car.”
“Ok, and where is she right now?”
“By the door to the house. She keeps walking into the house and back out.”
“Can you tell me what that noise is that I am hearing?”
He hesitates. “She’s hitting herself.” You then hear his voice break as if he just wants to cry. “She says she is going to tell the police I hit her.”
Now stop for a moment and realize.. in my state I am not subject to the Miranda laws at this time…. I can ask him anything. He can tell me anything and it can go to court!!!
So I take the time to ask him everything!!!!
“Have you hit her?”
“No!!!! I was raised to never hit a girl!!” Remember, I know him…. I actually know his family quite well.. because 1 his father is the only contractor I would use.. and 2 we raised our kids in the same exact church together. I KNOW THIS KID!!!! I know how he was raised…
I also am now, keeping him on the phone. Till officers arrive… and here is why…. If I would hang up the phone.. from the time I hung up the phone and the time the officers arrived… it would have been unaccounted for time and she could say anything she wanted happened… and her bruises would mean … he could be going to jail.
So I put what I am hearing in the call so as officers are en route they are updated on what I am hearing….
Male is calm.. in the garage waiting for officers.. female heard screaming in the background… saying she is hitting herself and going to blame it on the RP when units arrive. Keeping male on phone till units arrive.
And the call is recorded… and since I know the recording doesn’t always pick up the entire background of the call I ask him to explain to me what is going on. While I place what I am hearing in the background into the call.
“I am keeping you on the phone. Do you mind staying on the phone with me? And telling me what is happening till the officers arrive?”
You hear a sigh of thank you… “Please.. I don’t know what got into her today. I was…” He starts to explain he was working late on his job.. and she was upset since he got home. ”
“You work for your dads business?” I said.
“Yes” He answers. “I just want to go to work tomorrow!”
“I want that for you too.” I confirm.
I hear a banging of sorts… over and over.. and then I hear the female screaming.. I make out the words “Stop hitting me… They going to take you to Jail….”
“Is anyone else in the home with you besides her?”
“No.. Just the 2 of us.”
Hear banging in the background with female screaming for male to stop hitting her he is going to jail… male still in garage on the phone with dispatcher. Just RP and female in the house.
“Tell me what she is saying.” This is where he doesn’t know I could hear her… So if he was lying he could tell me anything. But he repeats what I heard verbatim. “What’s that noise I am hearing?”
He described that she is banging herself against the wall and the garage door entrance into the house.. she is walking in and out of the house… Which confirms why I am hearing her voice fade in and out.
Male saying female is banging herself against the wall and garage door to the house.
“Where are you currently?”
“Still standing in the garage by the back of the car”
If you listen carefully to callers.. you can hear them walking. Their voice moves when they walk. Their breath speeds up slightly… and you can hear the air slightly moving through the mouthpiece… and the shuffling of their feet and clothing.
I didn’t hear any of that.
Male standing in garage still on phone with dispatcher waiting for officers to arrive.
Shortly after that Officer’s arrived at the location… As soon as I hear an officer make contact with the male caller I hang up. No saying good-bye… just hang up.
It is not my job to determine who is at fault. I have no clue what really happened before he called 911. What I do know is he appeared scared. She appeared unhinged and uncontrollable of her own person at the time. And by keeping him on the phone I could at least document any further damage that was occurring.
No longer on LL.. OFCRS W/RP
Had I hung up… there would have been bruises.. and officers would have been left to try and determine if they were self inflicted or not… There would be a chance that the evidence they saw… would be a mandatory arrest for the other party. Meaning he could have gone to jail. Left to explain to a judge what happened in that residence.
While we can’t determine what happened before he picked up the phone to call 911… we can determine from that moment the call was answered.. wasn’t fitting what the female was scheming in the background.
I know this doesn’t fit the ‘normal’ scenario that woman are the abused… But in my line of work.. woman were also abusers… Abusers don’t come in one shape or size… And dispatchers work on facts… and their gut.
Stay in the business long enough and Dispatchers get this gut instinct… it’s the reason I kept him on the phone.. Not because I knew him… I have kept many men on the phone I never even knew… Some while they were literally locked in their cars begging for officers to arrive while the female is attempting to break their windows…. Keep them on the phone if you have the manpower to do so… that information you can get while the officers are en route could be what saves their freedom.
Fast forward a month. I am sitting at the church patio. The man’s dad walks up to me… sits down and looks at me. I smile.. “How you doing?” I ask.
“That was you wasn’t it?” is all he said.
“Thank you. Officers said you keeping him on the phone and your notes in his call were what kept him from going to jail. Thank you!”
Nothing else was said, ever,… as he got up and went to his class.. I enjoyed a break in the morning sun.
Sometimes, in a dispatch center with 20 dispatchers…. a single caller coming in through a computerized phone line… that gets directed to your headset… is not a coincidence. It’s a sign that God Himself is directly in control of absolutely everything!
So let’s look at it through the eye’s of a Believer…
I missed my break.. so I was there to take that call.
There were no other break spots available so I gave up the break for the day.
The call was routed to me… instead of any of the other dispatchers.
I was able to hear her in the background… And document it all!
He was willing to stay on the phone with me.
It was clear as day to me.. that God brought him directly to my console saying… Not today my son… not today!
Today I am sending you to someone that will hear you and her and help keep you safe till My Officers can arrive.
My friends… I have seen God work like this is so many ways… Literally!
I am not saying that I am the only dispatcher that would listen. I am saying that each dispatcher has their own specialty in how and why they take the calls. There were many dispatchers that take the facts and move on the the next calls.. and there are those that listen to the background.. and there are those that hate phones so much they beg and borrow everyone’s radio slots…. (You know who you are). There are also those that are new…and haven’t fine tuned their dispatcher sense yet. Which is what makes a center so amazing. God has a huge array of talent to direct the calls to whom He wants to take them. It’s why dispatchers are a team…. Each one with a special skill or talent that makes the center complete!