Webinar presenter Halcyon Frank of the Dispatch Lab answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Domestic Violence and Dispatch. Here are just a few of her responses.
Host: Samantha wanted to thank you for talking about not providing ETAs. She said that not providing ETA’s is also good officer safety in case of ambush intentions.
Host: Katie also wanted to share that leaving is one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic violence. And we don’t want to encourage them to do something that can get them harmed or killed until they’re ready to do so. So, again, a really great suggestion from Katie
Audience Question: What is the best way to question children that are calling in domestic violence calls?
Halcyon Frank: So, children are kind of their own type of caller, of course. You just want to talk at their level as kind of the general. So, you know, that short sentences Kind of, yes, no [questions]. I think the biggest thing is just kind of bringing it down to what they can understand, re-assuring, letting them know that you’re getting help on the way. But kids are actually they’re very smart and observant. And I think sometimes we kind of assume that they can only give us so much information. But, you know, if you ask them questions at a level where they can understand it, they can be really helpful. The questions are going to maybe be similar to what you would ask an adult, but you would just do it in a different way. You know, they say someone’s fighting, “Who’s fighting?” “Is your mom and dad fighting?” “Has your mommy or daddy hurt the other one?” Just bringing it down to their level, I think, would be the biggest.
Audience Question: From an elder adult perspective, do you have any suggestions for handling calls from older adults calling in about domestic violence?
Halcyon Frank: Kind of an overlap. It’s similar to children in that, like, I don’t want to say that you need to speak to an older person like a child. But sometimes, you know, as we get older, we slow down a little bit. That’s more likely that there might be some hearing things. So you don’t want to do it, and, of course, in like, an insult or intelligence way, but just speaking a little slower, maybe a little louder using, you know, different terms can be helpful when interacting with them, But you also to want to treat them with respect. Even if you maybe have some suspicions that maybe there are some mental health issues going on, or that, if not what they’re saying, it is. You still want to ask the questions as if it is and respond as if it is. Because, you know, it’s not our job to make the assumptions. We just want to take the information they gave us and then respond appropriately. And if it turns out, to be something else then, officers can take it from there.
Audience Question: When a person is calling about a person with developmental disabilities or mental health issues, what would you recommend, be emphasized in terms of those questions?
Halcyon Frank: Um, I’m not really sure, but if there is any kind of mental disability, mental health, that’s like concrete, I guess. If you think that somebody might have this issue, that’s a little different. But that information definitely should be relayed to responding officers like specific information wise. You always want your basics, your address, your caller information, their relation to the call, weapons. If you’re in the dispatch world, you’re probably familiar with the five W’s, the where who, what, when, weapons. So, those kinds of things. But if you do have people involved that maybe have disabilities of any kind or mental health concerns, definitely make sure that it gets relayed.
Audience Question: Are there ways I can ask or tell whether or not an animal abuse call is related to domestic violence?
Halcyon Frank: That’s a great question and out of my wheelhouse, to be honest. Definitely, my focus is more on the dispatch side. Not with all the domestic violence side, so I don’t want to give the wrong answer, but it’s a good question. I’ve seen articles before where they make that, where there’s sometimes correlation there. But that one I can’t really speak to.
JCH: What if the caller is traumatized by the domestic violence and having a hard time putting thoughts into words, how do you recognize this trauma?
Halcyon Frank: That’s a good question, too. I think sometimes it may just even be as simple as, “Do you want to speak with an officer, or do you want to have them respond?” And depending on the reaction, that could tell you something. If they’re like, “No, no, no, no,” then, you know that maybe something’s going on in the background, but that could open it up. I’ve had a few times, not domestic violence-related, but a caller who maybe has some issues, and they’re very hard to understand, and kind of easier to send an officer in person to speak with them. But even just asking if they want to speak with one might elicit some responses that kind of help, you know if there’s something going on. And that’s another way having clear policies and procedures in your agency if there’s any kind of indication that they said someone potentially hurt them. Knowing that we automatically are going to send someone out to that.
Host: We’ve had a couple of folks write in some suggestions for what they called “The Link,” which is the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Some studies apparently have indicated that 80% of domestic violence also includes some degree of animal abuse. I just posted a link for the ALDF, which actually has an article about the link between cruelty to animals and violence. And for those of you that are Justice Clearinghouse subscribers, we’ve actually done, I think 5 or 6 webinars, on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. So, feel free to take a look at those.
Audience Question: Suzanne certainly agrees with the need for being non-judgmental but says it’s sometimes difficult. It’s difficult sometimes with certain frequent caller parents that call a domestic on the children that they’re fostering or adopting. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle the call without completely dismissing these parents and shutting down on them?
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, that’s a great question and I can relate, having worked just a short time in Child Protective Services and dispatch kind of seeing it from both sides. It is hard because you don’t want to judge or assume, but at the same time, you’ve kind of know maybe something didn’t really happen. And this is kind of one of those things that’s like, if I had a super great answer, I would put it in the book and sell it and make a little bit of money off of it. But I think it’s just reminding yourself, in general, that we’re, we’re in a job to provide help. It doesn’t no matter, necessarily if we agree with your situation or how it’s being handled. But we always want to err on the side of caution, that may be this one time something really is going on and we don’t just want to dismiss it. I don’t know that it’s the best way, probably not very healthy for me. But sometimes it even just comes down to I kind of think to myself, what if this was the one time that something was happening, and I dismissed it. How would I feel? And that’s really anything in my job sometimes those days when they want to be lazy. I think, like, what if I didn’t do this and something happened? How would I feel? Probably not from a mental health perspective, not the greatest.
But when it comes down to it, that’s kind of how I think about things sometimes. So, I don’t know if that’s helpful but that’s where my mind kind of goes.
Audience Question: Strangulation is, of course, so serious. Do you suggest dispatchers ask about it if the 911 caller has a raspy voice or trouble speaking?
Halcyon Frank: That’s a tough one. Usually, when people are talking and sharing, they’ll kind of say. The only thing I think though with that is if you do have this active situation may be where they’re hiding, that could contribute to a voice. If you ask what happened, they may already volunteer that information. The other thing that I try to follow when I am taking calls when I’m getting information, I kind of want the caller to speak in the sense that I don’t want to lead a call necessarily. I usually gave an example of a reckless driver. You know, they may call and say, “Well, they’re reckless,” And I’m like, “OK, So they’re crossing the line, and they’re going, the other lane traffic, and they’re doing this, this, this.” And the caller is like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s it.” Which is fine. But you know down the line, if you know working on a court case, it’s better when that caller saying, “They’re crossing the centerline, they’re going into the other lane. They’re speeding they’re doing this.” So, I don’t want to say you can’t ask. But I think sometimes when you ask what’s going on, that’s probably going to open it up for them. And for prosecution stuff later on, you can get that stuff in their own words, especially when it’s just them giving the information. I think that can be really a little more powerful, I would say than if you ask them and they’re like, “Yeah, he did.” Again, not to say you can’t ask it. I just don’t know if that’s something that I would say, like, “Yes, you should ask it.”
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Domestic Violence and Dispatch.