Most 911 calls do not have a traditional happy ending. An unidentified emergency dispatcher in Belding, Michigan learned that firsthand when she received a call from a distressed 21-year-old woman this week.
“He hit me, and I shot him. Oh my God,” said the woman, barely able to hold herself together as she sat by the body of her now deceased boyfriend Eric Harrington. The dispatcher, who has not been identified, handled that shocking information with absolute calm.
“What’s going on ma’am,” the dispatcher responded. They proceeded to calm the panicked woman down, walking her through the process of checking whether Harrington was still alive while simultaneously sending emergency services to her location.
The dispatcher asked the woman to tell her what happened to the best of her ability, and she went on to describe an altercation between her and Harrington. On the tape, she describes how Harrington hit her repeatedly in the presence of her infant son and how she shot him in self-defense. Once the police had arrived, the dispatcher instructed the woman to place her hands on her head for her and the officer’s safety while she was being taken into police custody. The woman has been identified only as Harrington’s girlfriend, and is no longer in police custody as no charges have been levied against her.
The dispatcher’s calm questioning made the process easier for the deceased’s girlfriend, and the clarity of that tape could play a huge part in any potential criminal proceedings to follow. A high caliber dispatcher is not only responsible for sending out emergency services, but also for helping callers to keep their cool.
This dispatcher’s work helped keep the woman from potentially harming herself and from taking action that could have muddled the police investigation. While Harrington’s death is tragic, the excellence on display in this dispatcher’s demeanor should serve as an example of how to manage a distressed caller for dispatchers everywhere.