Don’t mess with dispatchers

Chief Concerns

Scott Burroughs is chief of the Port Aransas Police Department.

Scott Burroughs is chief of the Port Aransas Police Department.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger; And you don’t mess around with Jim. -Jim Croce

As we grow older and gain more life experiences we learn, often from the consequences of our errant ways, that there are some people that you try not to upset. Barbers/hairdressers, people that bring or cook your food, and if you are a police officer or other first responder you know that you don’t want to displease your dispatchers.

As a young troop I often took great pleasure in “pranking” the voices on the other side of the police radio.

Me: Unit 211 I need a rolling 28 (meaning I’m following a car and need you to run the license plate for me)

Dispatch: Unit 211 go ahead.

I would then recite the license plate number from the dispatcher’s car that was parked in the parking lot at the courthouse to see if she would read me back her own information.

Another favorite was to run a wanted check on two fictitious subjects. Unit 211 can you run a check on a white male, first name Ben, last name D-O-V-E-R, second subject first name initial only C, middle name Howard, last name Fields.

Inevitably the dispatcher would announce over the radio “211, Bend Over and see Howard Feels” are both negative.

Working in Austin we would often come into contact with high-ranking officeholders. They are issued special license plates that begin with the letters S,O, (State Official) followed by a series of numbers. The higher the official is on the food chain, the lower the number.

One afternoon one of the deputies got on the radio and asked the dispatcher “Does SO-1 come back to who I think it does?” without missing a beat the tenured telecommunicator responded, “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t stop him if I were you.”

Of course, experienced dispatchers have a way of getting even. Running a fictious name with a veteran dispatcher might result with something like “Unit 211, your subject Fields is on the top 10 most wanted list; I have contacted the local FBI office to let them know you made contact with the suspect.”

If you checked out for a meal break, they would wait long enough for you to order your food and then dispatch you to an “alarm call” on the other side of your district, only to cancel it moments before you arrived. They would then spend the rest of the shift bouncing you from one end of your district to the other on meaningless calls, ensuring that you did not get a break.

This being the second week in April it is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week where we pay homage to the men and women who answer your 9-1-1 calls and dispatch the appropriate first responders. In Port A our telecommunication professionals dispatch for Police, Fire, EMS, the Constable’s Office, and the Beach Surf/ Rescue lifeguards. It is often a thankless job, but this week we say thank you for all that they do.

We don’t tug on Superman’s cape. We don’t spit into the wind. We don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger; And we don’t mess with dispatchers.

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