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POWELLS: TNT does call-takers a disservice

Letter by Tracey A. Thomspon, Tukwila on Feb. 10, 2012 at 11:21 am with 12 Comments »
February 10, 2012 11:50 am

Re: “Call-takers criticized for 911 calls in Powell tragedy” (TNT, 2-9).

The News Tribune does a grave disservice to all employees of the Law Enforcement Support Agency (LESA) in suggesting that a communications officer inappropriately handled the call that preceded Josh Powell’s tragic murder of his two sons.

To criticize the officer’s tone as rude, impatient and abrupt shows a complete lack of understanding of the job. Communications officers at LESA are trained professionals who answer hundreds of calls daily and must extract critical details that can be crucial in protecting community members and law enforcement responders.

Over the last three years, communications officers at LESA have taken calls involving a number of high-profile tragedies, including the murder of four Lakewood police officers in 2010, the murder of a deputy and shooting of a sergeant from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, and the murder of a Park Ranger in Mount Rainer National Park on New Year’s Day.

Without exception, they have performed their duties valiantly, compassionately, and with integrity and the utmost professionalism in highly stressful emergency situations. Before leveling unwarranted criticism, it is important to understand the true nature of the work and the outstanding service these men and women provide to keep our communities safe.

(Thompson is secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.)

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    BS…..when seconds count, LEOs are minutes away. There should have been a car on the way within seconds. SOP OFTEN does not warrent dilly-dallying.

  2. SwordofPerseus says:

    If the police had arrived 10 seconds after the 911 call it would have made no difference in the outcome. You cannot prevent all tragedies, or stop someone who has deliberately planned for what he did. When he lit the spark it would have been too late to save the children, I doubt that even in full turnout gear and SCOT pack you could not have saved those boys.

  3. From what I have read,the delay that happened did not change the outcome of what occured.But what about things in the future?Every aspect of what the 911 operator did or didn’t do should be examined.We learn nothing from doing things perfectly but we can learn from our mistakes.

  4. ReadNLearn says:

    The police can come in time for many things, but we don’t need this quirky individual who needs to know what your favorite sweater color is and is too dense to understand what a supervised visit involves on the other end. If they retain him, then the word needs to go out, you’re own your own, we can’t rely upon the dispatches. He’s blocking your response, he’s misinforming the officers.

    Some politically correct thing came into play for this person to get the job, alternative life style, affirmative action, American Disabilities Act, something allowed this person to be in the wrong position.

  5. truthbusterguy says:

    No surprise this letter is from the union front office. What a crock!!

    This guy deserves to be fired and fired NOW.

    I listened to the tape and it sounds like the DSHS worker was disturbing him while he ate his donut and drank his coffee. There was a total lack of concern or urgency in his voice. He is an unprofessional, insensitive, uninformed, poorly trained, non caring, arrogant person. There is NO defending his actions but I knew his union would round the wagon around this loser.

    Those that can’t, teach. Those that can’t be cops, work at LESA.

    He should be ashamed and I await his apology to the public. This guy is no public servant. He is a bean counter robot that has no care or concern for the people he is suppost to serve.

    I want him fired now and no full pay for the next year while they “investigate” and let this blow over.

  6. You the public voted “yes” for millions going to upgrade the 911 system. Need operator upgrades as well.

  7. All of the morons that are blaming the 911 operator for the Powell tragedy need to spend some time answering those 911 calls. I would be willing to bet they would change their tune after a couple of shifts on duty and realize it’s not as easy as they make it out to be.

  8. Whenever one listens to 911 calls, it becomes obvious that the call takers have an extremely hard job. Although some people can speak eloquently and clearly in an emergency, most of the callers are yelling and unclear as to their need. In some cases the need is great, some not a priority in comparison.
    In this case, a social worker was unclearly stating that she needed and officer to come to a residence to end a supervised visit. The caller could not give the address where she needed help.
    All the person (Josh) had done at that point was refuse entry to the social worker. She had no knowledge that he was going to harm his own children. This social worker called 911 and essentially began to make the operator extract information. The judgement call was that this caller did not have a life threatening situation and therefore did not move to the top of the high priority list.
    If one wants to see the proper response to a high priority call, just look at the response that came when the house blew up. Sans the issue with the social worker, the responders were dispatched immediately. A building blowing up, a fire, a murder, a fatal accident of any kind. That is what a high priority call constitutes, a social worker being denied entry into a house pales in comparison.

  9. mollykathleenhoward says:

    Working the 911 call center is a stressful job, but to declare all tasks are done perfectly and without exception, is illogical; everyone makes mistakes. We are not morons because we want to learn from them. I have worked a phone crisis line and have been aware when making 911 calls that a “typeA” personality was inappropriately using her control over me instead of using it to help me. You will always get certain power thrivers in these positions. I once called 911 after witnessing a high profile murder and after telling the operator to stop and listen to me in giving her the direction a car was heading and forget about the wig color of the shooter because it was probably not on her head anymore, I put the phone down and returned to the victim. The Powell social worker clearly stated that she feared for the boy’s safety at that moment. Shouldnt prevention of tragedy be just as high a priority as gathering post trauma info?

  10. elderjustice2010 says:

    Speak for yourself Pierce County and Tacoma needs to be outed on their abhorrence to abuse of citizens who seek justice from those that are elected to uphold the civil liberties of its constituents

  11. itwasntmethistime says:

    Well, I would say that this letter illustrates EXACTLY one of the reasons why many people are anti-union. The guy is a TERRIBLE 911 call-taker, yet here is his union head fully backing him, regardless of the fact he doesn’t merit union backing.

    Why should we even consider the voice of a union official when we know that union officials always, without fail, defend bad employees? It’s about as useless as a glowing endorsement from his mother.

  12. mollykathleenhoward says:

    I understand the need to defend a call center worker who is probably going through his own hell right now, but it is the attitude that mistakes are never made and the declaration of no exceptions to perfection in job preformance that is riling folks up.

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