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Police Dispatchers Can Also be Liable

Dispatch

When you call 911, you are not just getting a call center telemarketer on the other line, or someone hired off the street. Rather, you are getting a trained professional, and although 911 operators are not in the field, they are as crucial to keeping victims safe as officers and first responders are. Yet, very few people give thought to what happens if a 911 dispatcher fails to do his or her job.

When Dispatchers Fail

There are real life stories of dispatchers having little patience for those panicking over their own emergency, or who are trying to save loved ones. One such incident details a responder who simply told someone requesting help that she “was not going to deal with this,” and ended the call. The victim later died. Other stories detail operators who took calls, but failed to ever dispatch emergency responders.

Dispatcher Training

Most 911 operators go through formal training, which lasts about 18 weeks. They are tested on how well they can listen and type, or how well they can multitask—a common skill needed by dispatchers. Candidates have to demonstrate an ability to handle stress, and in many cases, candidates have to score in the top 10% of their class to move on to a position as a dispatcher.

Training includes classrooms with simulated calls, and if the dispatcher makes it through all of that, they will sit with a certified dispatcher for on-the-job-training. The job is stressful, and many departments bring in professional stress managers to assist dispatchers who may need help or counseling.

All of this means that dispatchers should not get flustered, confused, or offended, the way that you or I would if we were in that situation. They are trained to be tolerant, to deal with people who are frightened, angry, or distressed, and to ask direct and pointed questions.

Liability for Negligent Dispatching

Dispatchers and police departments that hire dispatchers know that it is not enough to be correct 99% of the time. Their goal is 100%. Sometimes there are errors that cannot be corrected—for example, one dispatcher misheard an address and reported what she thought she heard, as she could not get the victim back on the phone line.

When dispatchers make mistakes, cities and police departments can be liable. Remember that many police departments have backup systems, or ways of double checking a dispatcher’s instructions, so even an understandable human error by a dispatcher may lead to liability for a police department if they do not catch and correct the error in time to get to victims in a timely manner.

Dispatchers can be held liable even for giving blatantly poor advice, or advice that anybody would know is incorrect, but they will not be liable for giving good faith advice over the phone. A good police misconduct and personal injury attorney can assist you in discovering whether a dispatcher’s error arises to the level of wrongful conduct.

Contact the Alabama police misconduct attorneys at Lasseter Law Firm today to discuss whether you have a cause of action for damages if a police officer, dispatcher or law enforcement agency failed to assist you when you needed help.

Resources:

stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-settles-lawsuit-for-over-dispatcher-s-deadly-mistake/article_8d8b2b2e-81e1-5831-bd35-ef42d80d3f10.html

postandcourier.com/staff/brian_hicks/what-it-takes-to-be-a-dispatcher-perfection-or-as/article_41e1403f-5b08-5a98-b314-3ada38fd573a.html

ktla.com/2015/07/29/deal-with-it-yourself-dispatcher-hangs-up-on-911-caller-trying-to-keep-gunshot-victim-alive/

https://www.lasseterlaw.com/police-and-cities-are-using-bankruptcy-to-escape-civil-judgments/

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