Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PSA Tuesday - Police Academy and Local Foods Presentation

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.


glamah16 said...

Its sounding like a cool class with lots of refrence material for your book!Thats the fun part of writing, the research.

Marianne Arkins said...

do you know how long it took me to figure out what 'PSA' meant?


Sounds like a great course.

I wonder, though... is it better to have 60 phones calls or none? I hope people don't feel so intimidated by the advise that they assume someone else is phoning in a problem. I drove by a massive car fire some months back, and dialed 911... as I'm sure others did.

Should I have not?

::scratches head::

Too much to think about right now.

Have a great day -- can't wait until rhubarb Wednesday *G*

Marianne Arkins said...

advice... NOT advise. Bother. Clearly, brain is on overload.

Jen said...

That's definitely one of the fun parts, Glamah, but sometimes it's nice to just write free-form, too!

Well, Marianne, that's certainly a quandary. I think the main thing is if they say "We've got it," then hang up right away.

Anonymous said...

That class sounds cool! Can't wait to read more about it :)

soccer mom in denial said...

Great piece. And I couldn't agree more that cell phones have made their work more difficult at times...

thailandchani said...

I agree about cell phones, too. Having seen several articles that talk about how insufficient the GPS systems in cell phones can be, I can see where it would lead to a lot of confusion.

Sometimes they can capture the tower the call is using - but if the phone doesn't refresh, it will stay attached to a tower that's in another region.

Not sure I wrote that well.. but I'm sure you understand. :)

Sounds like a very interesting class and I'll look forward to hearing more about it.

Jen said...

It really is a fascinating class. The tower issue has problems, but I can't remember the exact details. I'm a bit out of sync, because this class was actually back in mid-April. It took me a while to get to writing about this.

Patti, Chani and SMID - thanks for your comments!

Momisodes said...

This really does sound like a fascinating class. I never really thought about the cell phone use and the surge of 911 calls and the now increased needs. Thanks so much for posting this. Those little tid bits really opened my eyes.

Liz Dwyer said...

I finally put the non-emergency number into my cell phone because I kept calling 411 trying to get it every time I'd see something I wanted to report. And the impact of cell phones is really something. Everybody does call nowadays if something goes down.

Liz Dwyer said...

Oh, by the way, I tagged you. You may have already had this meme so sorry if you did!

Goofball said...

hmm is it easier to define where a phone call comes from if it is made by a fixed landline??

I never thought about the increase in phone calls though. I must say I once witnessed a motorcycle being hit by a car just in front of me. While I sprinted out of my car, I thought "I must call the emergency services...but I also must go and check the victim". By the time we were at the victim and he had gotten up (he was badly scratched and got his teeth out etc, ...but not threatening wounds) and sitting at the side of the road, the police was already behind me (ok, they happened to be a block away as well). So other people must have called right away, but I was too busy to call right away.

I think the emergency call centers (number is 112 in Europe by the way, not 911!) are manned by the fire department. Don't ask me why.

Jen said...

Glad you're enjoying it, Sandy.

Liz - the 411 number is great for those areas that have it. I think that will probably be a big help in the future.

And I'll check out the tag later. ;-)

Jen said...

Goofball, if I were AT the scene with a victim, I'd call 911. That would go under possibility of loss of life. But it's more the slight crash, the drivers are out and taking each other's information. They've probably got their own cellphones, but 60 people call anyway...

Flower Child said...

Just a rant - we've been paying cellphone taxes for years so that the phone companies could develop technology (or get off their asses) so that when someone called 911 they were locatable. There was a very tragic case in NY where some boys drowned (they were on a boat on LI Sound) and kept calling 911 but they couldn't be located. All these years of taxes and the phone companies aren't doing a damn thing.

Oh yeah, and I called DC's police once because some kids were beating up a homeless man - I told the dispatcher that I was in a particular park and she needed a specific street address (would you know that?!). Morons.

But that's not to say the police aren't otherwise great - they have a tough job with the cards they are dealt.

Jen said...

FC - I totally agree about the cellphone companies. In terms of the park situation, it's part of their protocol, I believe, but I hope she was willing to help even if you didn't have that info? I know the folks here are trained to ask for that first, but if the person can't supply the info, then there are a series of other questions they ask. I also think that, unfortunately, in really big cities, the 911 folks have almost unmanageable jobs and so they don't get the most qualified people doing the work. It's a sad cycle.

Mariposa said...

I had to google PSA too...how fun!

Jen said...

Maybe I need to be clearer on PSA! Thanks for stopping by, Mariposa!

painted maypole said...

unless I'm an actual witness to the crash, i don't call, because I figure someone has already. I've worried about that, because what if everyone thought the same way, but is seems like I'm probably right. Whew.

Having informed citizens is a great reason for them to thank you. Plus, they know that the more YOU know the more you'll be able to share with others, and ultimately help them out.

Jen said...

Well, PM, you're right about all that, and I know that's why they hold the academies in the first place. It's just that I can't believe how professional and amazing most of the presentations have been so far.

Núria said...

Thanks so much for sharing Jen! It's so interesting!!!

BusyDad said...

Definitely a cool program! It's so true what you mentioned in your previous post about this. The media focuses on the bad stories. Why? Because that is not the norm. The norm is these guys lay it on the line. For us. Too bad "the norm" isn't news.

Jen said...

It's been interesting to experience it, Nuria!

Jim, I couldn't agree more. The average good guys just don't make it "news". And while yes, the job is quiet (in most places) much of the time, they more than earn that paycheck during those rare moments when everything comes to a head.

Leslie said...

What a cool class, Jen! I really have to give it up for the police and fire departments in our area. They are so eager to share information. We've taken our playgroup to both the fire station and police department and received not only fabulous tours with great information, but loads of stuff (like stickers to put near the phone, coloring books about safety). What is more, they invited us to return in the fall to give the kids a refresher, since they're so young. They felt like a return visit would be good for them to revisit the information and feel comfortable with the fire and police personnel in our town.

It's interesting - the thing about cell phones. I was always under the impression that it was easier to locate you with the cell phone because of GPS systems and all that. I don't know where I got that impression, but I'm glad I now know that isn't the case!