Recently three Florida dispatchers were terminated after a breakdown in communication led to two officers being shot. One officer lived and the other didn’t. The suspect was killed by deputies. Sadly, the caller allegedly told dispatch that the suspect was making threats to shoot law enforcement personnel. In a separate incident, a dispatcher allegedly neglected to ass on a comment made by one caller in reference to a child holding a gun. The caller supposedly told dispatchers that the gun was probably a fake. The officers on scene shot the boy.
Would the outcomes of these events had been different had the communications employees passed on critical information? It’s possible in the boy’s case but unknown in the Florida case. In this profession, communications center personnel must be on top of their game. It is easy to get complacent after taking a multitude of calls.
Training will play a key point in the future (I’m certain lawsuits will follow). Were the dispatchers taught to ask about weapons? How was the training documented? In most cases these days, departments have policies & procedures in place with regards to violent persons, weapons, and threats. Were the dispatch personnel aware of the policies?
How does a trainer make certain he/she is covered before the investigation in to questionable conduct begins?
Some agencies have skills or knowledge check-sheets. Others rely on simple read & sign forms for various topics. Which one protects a trainer more?
It is easy for a person to say ‘I was never told that’ after a problem occurs. Proper documentation during the training period can’t be stressed enough. Daily observation reports (DORs) should note what areas, policies, procedures, or skills were covered each shift. Another way to manage the training is to have detailed skills/knowledge sign-off sheets. Proper recording of the training will help when a dispatcher trainee tried to claim he/she had no knowledge of a particular skill. Pulling out the check-list will prove what training was provided and when the student showed she/he understood the subject in question.
Sign-off sheets can also work for permanent staff training. A summary page of the training, along with a place for the dispatcher's name and the date the topic was reviewed is an easy way to record remedial training or information covered during shift briefings. Provide the involved personnel a copy of the signed document and forward the original to your Training Coordinator or HR person.
If your department doesn’t have this tool available, then take some time to create a set. Query your fellow dispatchers, supervisors, and field personnel to make a list of critical information needed by a trainee. Once you have a list, organize the items according to a couple of areas. For example: call-taking, fire dispatch, records dispatch, police dispatch, computer-aided-dispatch, and internal data systems. Have a column for instructing the skill and one for the trainee demonstrating the topic. As each subject is addressed, date and initial the skill/knowledge. The same goes after the trainee is able to demonstrate or verbalize the skill. We use an Excel spreadsheet with detailed. The completed list is printed out at the end of training.
A check-off might look like this:
Task, Skill or Knowledge
Reviewed by - date / initials
Knowledge or Skill Demonstrated by Trainee - date & initials
Trainee has been given an orientation to the buildings
Trainee has been given set of keys
Trainee has been given a headset
Until next time, stay safe out there!
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