What happens when you let an F-word fly while calling 911? In a case of a young woman in Lincoln Park, it landed her in jail while her father suffered seizures on her kitchen floor (via Radley Balko at Hit & Run)
I’m in a unique position on this story, since I’ve had to call 911 on several occasions because of the First Mate’s health problems over the years. I’ve also run emergency-response centers and trained the people on the other side of the phone. In times of stress, people use foul language, but call center professionals should be prepared to deal with that situation without making the problem exponentially worse.
First, in training, we emphasized that operators should not take calls personally, and that there is a big difference between using the F-word as an adjective or adverb, or using it to call someone names. We trained people to de-escalate stress situations in order to ensure that we provided the proper level of service and didn’t actively make a bad situation worse. That’s exactly what happened here on this call; the sergeant who handled this three times was more concerned about being personally offended over language not even directed at him than he was in resolving a crisis.
That being said, the Lincoln Park PD took the right course of action. A highly-decorated 20-year veteran can have a bad day, too, and he shouldn’t lose his job over it. If he had worked for me, I’d try to save his job, too. In fact, the community owes him more support than others in that situation, especially considering the dedication he has shown to his community; he doesn’t deserve the perp-chase interview he got from the TV station. The chief may want to consider whether he should get a different assignment, but hopefully retraining will keep the situation from occurring again. However, the sergeant should be joined on his “vacation” by the person who decided to arrest the young woman instead of straightening out the situation when she arrived at the station.