9-1-1 Telecommunicator Lauded for Good Old-Fashioned Detective Skills
What does it take to be a successful 9-1-1 telecommunicator? Certainly, solid listening and communication skills are key, as well as a certain ‘thick-skinnedness,’ calm under pressure, manual dexterity and multi-tasking abilities.
Good old-fashioned detective skills typically aren’t part of the job description, but this year’s PSAPs’ Finest Telecommunicator of the Year was able to apply her quick thinking and sleuthing to help police nab the bad guy.
On March 25, 2013 a call came in to the Phoenix Police Department from a mother reporting that her eight-year-old daughter had been shot at outside their apartment. Cassandra, who was relieving the hot monitor position, was listening in on the call as it was being dispatched on the regular frequency.
When officers arrived on scene they immediately made contact with a suspect who gave false identification. The officers radioed back to the dispatcher to run a check for any outstanding warrants. But before the results could come back, the units had to switch back to their primary frequency. The suspect then started to fight with the officers, punching one in the face and the other in the chest. The suspect quickly fled the scene, jumping from a second floor balcony.
Police immediately established a perimeter. While monitoring the primary frequency, Cassandra overheard the police unit again asking the dispatcher to check for any outstanding warrants. Cassandra took it upon herself to run the I.D. number, discovering that the suspect had numerous warrants and was known to be armed.
A short time later, as Cassandra was relieving another dispatcher for a lunch break, she became aware of several other 9-1-1 calls from witnesses in the vicinity of the original shooting call. The witnesses stated that they had seen a suspicious person running through the neighborhood. The officers searched door to door, and in yards and alleyways with no sign of the suspect. One backyard roused their suspicion as it contained a shed that they were certain the suspect was hiding in, but they did not have permission to access the yard.
Cassandra was about to relieve another operator for lunch when a new 9-1-1 call came in. The caller stated he was being pursued by someone trying to kill him. But Cassandra noticed that the cell tower from which the call originated was not anywhere near the location the caller had reported. Instead, it was from the same location as the shooting incident.
On a hunch, Cassandra went back and listened to the 9-1-1 recording of the supposed ‘fleeing’ man. She heard the 9-1-1 operator telling him that it didn't sound like he was running. Next, Cassandra tracked down the cell phone number of the original shooting suspect and checked it against the cell phone number of the ‘fleeing’ man. Wouldn’t you know it – the numbers matched!
The suspect had tried to throw off the search by placing a bogus 9-1-1 call. But he wasn’t able to outsmart Cassandra. Thanks to her uncanny ability to connect the dots, officers were able to jump the backyard fence and enter the shed, where they found and apprehended the suspect.
This is just one example of Cassandra’s stellar police work. In 2013, she received four commendations. Now she adds NICE’s 2013 PSAPs’ Finest Telecommunicator of the Year Award to her growing list of accolades.