Police Academy - Communications:
I can't write about the juicy stuff.
As part of the course, we agree to confidentiality in terms of specific cases, incidents, etc. that are mentioned in class.
Having said that, the first week was astounding. We work in a large room with white walls and long tables. Every few feet are phones marked with positions ("Mayor," "Chief of Police," "AATA," etc.). There's a large, flat screen TV at the front and a big, blank screen. Pictures of tornadoes and floods are on the walls, along with a huge wall map marked in districts and colors.
If you guessed that we meet at the center for Emergency Operations, you would be right.
It's an ideal classroom setting, really, because it's functional, but more importantly, it reminds us of the fact that the police are here to serve. This is something that's all too easy to forget when you receive a speeding ticket, or an officer refuses to do forensics in order to recover your stolen textbook (that you left in your UNLOCKED car).
In any case, the opening was darned impressive due to the gaggle of folks at the front of the room. We were greeted by the Chief of Police, Barnett Jones; County Prosecutor Brian Mackie; no less than two Judges; Lloyd Powell and Delphia Simpson, Public Defenders; and Adele El-Ayoubi, who designs this program and whom I mentioned last week.
We were really made to feel valued, and we were actually thanked for taking the course. This struck me as odd, as it's these professionals who are giving us so much of their time. We need to thank them, not just for this wonderful class, but for what they do every day.
After the introductions, we were given an in-depth discussion on Communications by Sgt. Robert Pfannes. Sgt. Pfannes's talk was jammed with information and filled with entertaining stories. He really could box up his act and take it on the road. His stories were absolutely fascinating, as his career has spanned many years both in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and he's been everything from a beat cop to a SWAT team member, narcotics agent to Director of Communications.
As far as Communications goes, here are some of the more pressing issues:
1. Cell phones have greatly increased the difficulties of running a strong communications center.
a. You don't know where the person is calling from, and if they need help, that can be an issue.
b. Now, each time there's a traffic issue or something similar, whereas you had one or two people call 911, you now might have 60, within just a couple of minutes. And every one of those calls must be answered and given consideration in case it's a call for help.
c. With this increase in phone volume, given the country's economy, communications and other police staff are experiencing cutbacks, so that the work load is increasing exponentially, and the professionals to handle that workload are decreasing.
2. Communications centers hold several different positions - a 911 operator is not the person who dispatches help to your accident/health issue/fire/crime scene, etc. That's handled by the dispatcher, and in addition to those processing the information and answering the phone calls and to those who dispatch, there is also a L.E.I.N. (Law Enforcement Information Network) Officer who runs subjects, vehicles and property to determine if it is wanted or stolen. They also do research to ensure officer safety. Also, Police Dispatch and Fire Dispatch are separate. All of these various officers and civilians are generally in one location and coordinating carefully through a variety of systems.
Yes, it is very, very complicated.
3. Call 911 ONLY if life or property are endangered. The rest of the time, call the non-emergency number. I can't stress this enough. Think about having to process those 60 cellphone calls when you really need to focus on getting help to the cars who have had the crash in the first place.
Great Local Food Presentation:
Slow Food Huron Valley has put together a wonderful, free presentation at the main branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, this Thursday the 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
It's called "Finding Local Food and Bringing it Home" and you can read all about it here at The Farmer's Marketer.
Even if you're not local to the Ann Arbor area, I'd strongly encourage you to read the post, and maybe you'll be inspired to set up a similar program at your local library.