Chandler 911 operators get special training for kids - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler 911 operators get special training for kids

February 16th, 2022 development
Chandler 911 operators get special training for kids
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By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler is one of only three Valley police departments that gives its dispatch officers extra training to help them deal with missing children.

Communications Director Michelle Potts said it’s easy to see why Chandler PD makes it a priority.

“These are our children,” Potts said. “The children of our community matter, and I think that we have a responsibility, to our community in general, but especially have a responsibility to the most vulnerable in our community, and I think our children are some of those.”

Chandler renewed its membership in the Missing Kids Readiness Program sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in January and has belong to the program since 2012.

Potts said operators have seen the value of that extra training.

“We had one call where a little boy went missing,” Potts said. “One of our call takers specifically asked, ‘Is he prone to anything specific, or drawn to wander toward a specific location?’ And the mom said, ‘yes, he likes this one park.’

And the call taker said, ‘Does he like water?’ And she said yes. So, we went and looked on a map, we found bodies of water and the officers were able to go to those bodies of water and we did find him close to the water. That was a real great success story.”

Potts said the training mostly focuses on what questions 911 operators need to ask when a caregiver tells them a child is missing.

“This certification, which offers the most thorough training for telecommunicators in our industry, and I think it shows our community that we’re devoted to protecting the children in our community,” she said.

“It’s additional training, it shows really start to finish what is needed for every second along the way where we can make sure that  we’re dotting every I and crossing every T in asking all the questions when we receive that first call that comes in.”

Potts said when they get a call about a missing child they have no way of knowing if it’s a serious emergency, or just a child has stayed too late at a friend’s house.

“We don’t know, we never know,” Potts said. “And that’s the value of know what questions to ask as soon as possible. We have to ask the parents those critical questions. … We never know exactly what we’re dealing with, and that’s why we treat it as urgent as possible right from the very beginning.”

Besides Chandler, Mesa and the Gila River Indian Community also have law enforcement communications offices that are certified. Potts said there’s not a lot of cost to get certified, just the annual application fee.

However, there is a cost as far as devoting the time for staff to get the training needed.

“It is an investment of time,” she said. “It’s time, and training, and certification. We have to align our policies and it takes time.”

“People calling 9-1-1, they call in crisis,” she said. “In everyday communication, we’re thinking critically and we’re thinking rationally. When people call 9-1-1 they’re not thinking critically, and so this training really provides us a way, to guide those questions to help people to answer the questions we need.”

People calling 9-1-1, they call in crisis, In everyday communication, we’re thinking critically and we’re thinking rationally. When people call 9-1-1 they’re not thinking critically, and so this training really provides us a way, to guide those questions to help people to answer the questions we need.– Michelle Potts

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