What my Police Commissioner from long
ago understood, and what many of
today's police chiefs and commanders
have forgotten – if they ever knew – is
that, unlike technology, people don't
change all that much.  Depending upon
where you become a police officer, you
may find that 911 is a monster.  In
Baltimore, the 911 system became so
popular and utilized that Baltimore
became the first city to implement the
311 system for non-emergency calls.  
While the 311 system has been declared
a stunning success, that's a conclusion
that's open to interpretation.  Again,
you've got people at the end of a
telephone line – rarely police officers
these days – deciding what is or is not an
emergency and prioritizing calls in order
of importance.

The basic problem with 911, or any other
technology utilized by police
departments, is the belief of politicians
and top police commanders that the
more expensive and complicated a
technology is, the less people it will take
to feed the technology.  When you join a
police department, you'll soon hear the
complaints about Patrol's time being
consumed with "chasing 911 calls."  You
see, the uniformed police officers of the
patrol bureau or division of any police
department are the people tasked with
responding to 911 calls for service.

Back to my first Police Commissioner.  
Looking back over the years and all the
changes I've observed, he seems like a
genius.  More realistically, he was just a
highly skilled and competent
administrator.  When it came to calls for
service, he knew that he had to structure
his human resources to meet demand,
and that the police officer's response
time was the measure of efficiency.  He
also knew that uniform patrol, the most
important and indispensable entity of any
police department, had to be viewed and
maintained as such.  

I guess it all comes down to how you
view things.  When you're "chasing 911
calls," don't be too quick to blame the
people making the calls.  First, look at
how your patrol force is structured and
maintained.  If you examine the issue
closely along with all the schemes to
dissect and prioritize, you may eventually
find yourself in agreement with me and a
long forgotten Baltimore Police
"If you examine the issue closely
along with all the schemes to dissect
and prioritize, you may eventually
find yourself in agreement with me
and a long forgotten Baltimore Police
Commissioner." ~ Barry M. Baker
The 911
I often complain about inefficiency.  As
I've stated many times, it's always the
people implementing and using
technology that determines the level of
its efficiency... or inefficiency.

I was a patrol officer when the 911
emergency telephone system was first
implemented.  It's been with us for a very
long time now, and one would think that
any problems associated with the 911
system would have long since been
resolved.  But...remember?  People
remain an intragal part of 911.
When I began my police career, the
citizens of Baltimore would dial 222-3333
for police service.  It was a few more
numbers than 911, but it was easy to
remember and dial, and I never heard
anyone complain about the number.  The
calls were answered in the police
department's Communications Division.  
The Division was heavily staffed by limited
duty police officers who were either
permanently, or temporarily, unable to
work the street due to physical
disabilities.  The officers had street
experience, so they could easily relate to
callers and the problems they'd describe.

We responded to everything.  The Police
Commissioner at that time was guided by
a philosophy of service, and he projected
that philosophy to every aspect of the
department's mission.  For some reason,
I'll always remember a call I received early
on a Sunday morning.  The dispatcher
gave me the assignment, "Respond to
[address] and investigate the woman's
problem."  Doesn't sound like much to go
on, does it?  However, remember that
the dispatcher was a police officer.  I
knew that he probably knew what the
problem was and since he didn't
elaborate, I knew that the problem likely
had nothing to do with police work.  I
also knew that he was not omitting any
information that would affect my safety.  
You'll notice that I use the words
"probably" and "likely," because you must
never take anything for granted when it
comes to police work.  I responded to
this call with the same care and caution
as I would on any other.

Okay...you're probably expecting
something really scary.  Sorry, not so.  A
frail lady in her 80's answered the door.  
She was distraught – not because she'd
been attacked or that someone had
attempted to break into her home... no,
nothing that dramatic.  She was
distraught because the water in her toilet
tank would not stop running.  Now, if
you're one of the tough no nonsense
cops, you might tell this woman to call a
plumber and leave it at that.  Then again,
picture yourself nearing the end of your
life, physically frail, living alone with no
family or relatives nearby, and living on a
fixed income.  I'm sure you could
appreciate having a police officer humiliate
you for wasting his or her time for such
an insignificant problem.  In this case, it
took me all of a minute to fix the
problem, and I doubt the citizens of
Baltimore suffered from my brief out-of-
title task.
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker