(I rediscovered this post today, and thought I would like to post it again. It is bittersweet, as I am no longer working as a 911 call taker – a job I dearly loved. But I can still look back on this call and be proud, and I want to share this story again.)
In the past I have shared stories about funny call that I have taken. And there will be more of those, I promise.
But there are very serious calls every day that remind me of why I took this job in the first place; calls that make me feel good about what I do each work day.
Often we answer 911 calls from folks who are victims of domestic violence. Domestic disturbance calls are never fun, and can be very dangerous for the responding officers. Emotions run high in those type of calls, and domestic violence is one of the biggest problems we deal with. Many of them end in tragedy (Anger and Tears – Domestic Violence and My Friend) but some of them have a happier ending. So here is one such call:
I took a call from a female today in a neighboring county. Her husband was drinking, yelling, and had hit her in the face. It was a pattern for him. She wasn’t hysterical or crying, but she had locked herself in one of the bedrooms. Her husband had already drank a half bottle of Crown Royal that afternoon, and was pretty wasted. There was a shotgun in one of the bedrooms (not the one she was in) and a pistol in her husband’s pickup outside. I started the deputies rolling with the basic information, then updated them as I got more information from her. This particular site was out in the rural area of the county, and it’s always hard to be patient until I see that “At Scene” pop up on my screen – it seems to take forever, even though I know these guys are responding Code 3 with lights and sirens. Trust me, I have ridden with these deputies when they respond Code 3 – they don’t waste any time!
I asked her if she wanted me to stay on the line with her till deputies arrived. She hesitated, and said there were probably other people who needed my help. Something told me to stay on the line with her until the deputies arrived. I told her that she was the one I was on the phone with now, so she was my main concern. She paused again, then said she would like me to stay on the line. We didn’t talk much, except for me asking her every so often if she could hear her husband moving around or did she know where he was in the house. I wanted to know this for her safety, and for the deputies safety as well.
We had three deputies en route to the house, (one of them is my fave deputy from my ride along back in February – you can read about it here ) and before they could get there I heard her say “He’s outside at his pickup.” I asked for a description of the pickup, thinking that maybe he was going to leave the house and drive off. Then a few seconds later, her voice became more urgent when she said, “He’s heading back to the house with his pistol!” I got that into the information as soon as she said it, to tell the deputies we now knew for certain he was armed. I told my caller to get behind the bed or in the closet and stay quiet – hoping to keep her “off his radar” and not draw his attention.
I watched my screen as it updated, and was able to tell her “We have a deputy on scene, and he’s waiting for backup to arrive.”
“Now we have all three deputies there, and they are going to approach the house and make contact with your husband.”
I had already asked her where in the house he might be, and entered the information for the deputies. In a few seconds she and I could both hear loud voices, then yelling, then sounds of a scuffle as the deputies subdued her husband and took him into custody. She asked if she should go to the deputies, and I told her to stay in the bedroom until they came to find her. They knew which bedroom she was in, because I had her describe the layout of the house to me while we waited for the deputies to arrive earlier. Sure enough, I heard in the background a deputy’s voice as he came down the hall to where she was hiding. I told her goodbye and hung up so she could talk to the deputy.
I actually hung up from that call with a smile on my face. I felt so good about being there for her when she reached out and needed someone.
It can be scary and heart-wrenching to be on the line with a domestic violence caller, and hear everything going bad on the other end of the line. It’s such a helpless feeling. I have had fellow dispatchers who have been forced to listen while their caller was killed by their abuser before officers could get there.
But this time we had a good outcome. And I can take comfort in knowing that I had a hand in keeping that woman safe. Calls like that make all the other absurdity fade away for a while. 🙂