Target: Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy J. Altomare
Goal: Terminate a dispatcher who allegedly told a young girl to “stop whining” after witnessing a car strike and kill her father.
A 911 dispatcher allegedly told a young girl to “stop whining” after she witnessed her father being struck by a car. The dispatcher was trying to get the girl’s location and claimed he couldn’t understand her, but his tone and request were tactless and disrespectful. The 13-year-old girl had just witnessed her father being killed in a hit and run accident and had only herself and her younger brother to rely on—that she would be emotional is understandable, and the dispatcher should have tried to calm her down tactfully, not by telling her to “stop whining.” The dispatcher has been reassigned to a position that doesn’t deal with the public and an investigation into the call is pending.
A dispatcher’s job is to get the information necessary to send help. That means that dispatchers often have to deal with people in states of distress or people who might be uncooperative—this case should not have been unusually frustrating to the dispatcher. Listening to the call reveals that the dispatcher tells the young girl to “stop yelling” and asks her a question only to interrupt her and tell her to “stop whining.” This treatment of someone in a traumatic situation is unacceptable. Dealing with people under great stress means exercising compassion and understanding to get the necessary information. Instead of telling her to “stop whining,” the dispatcher could have reassured her that help was on the way. His handling of the situation only made the experience of witnessing her father’s death more difficult for her.
A situation involving a 911 call is a time of great stress for both the caller and the dispatcher, but we can expect irrational behavior from the caller. Having a dispatcher treat a caller in this way—particularly a caller who had just seen their father being struck by a car—is disrespectful and unhelpful. If the dispatcher cannot remain calm and patient when dealing with people in traumatic situations, he is not doing his job effectively, and, in this line of work, that means lives could be lost. Encourage the Anne Arundel County Police Department to fire this employee before his tactlessness hurts somebody else.
Dear Mr. Altomare,
A 911 dispatcher in Anne Arundel County allegedly told a young girl who had just seen her father being struck and killed by a car to “stop whining.” Though he was trying to get information about their location and he didn’t know the age of the girl, talking to her in that manner did nothing to help the situation. She had just gone through a highly traumatic experience, and it should be the dispatcher’s responsibility to calmly negotiate with the caller, not to interrupt or insult her by reportedly telling her to “stop whining.”
Because dispatchers are the first line of contact between those in a dangerous situation and emergency services, they need to have the utmost tact and training to deal with potentially unstable or uncooperative callers. Failure to do this well can lead to injury, loss of property, or even death. While being a dispatcher is a difficult job, this dispatcher’s failure to remain calm and respectful in this case is unacceptable. If he cannot be trusted to calm a trauma victim down without insulting them, he cannot do his job effectively, and being ineffective in that position is dangerous.
This dispatcher allegedly disrespected the young girl in what will probably be the most traumatic moment of her life. If this had been a situation where more lives were on the line, they could have easily been lost due to his inability to speak civilly to the girl. Please consider terminating this employee before lives are lost to his callousness.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jason Pack via Wikimedia Commons