Retired dispatcher: 911 operators need more training

Call spends 8 minutes on phone with Plantation, Sunrise police dispatchers

PLANTATION, Fla. - A retired emergency dispatcher says 911 operators need more training after a woman stayed on the phone with them for eight minutes while a man hit her car with a golf club.

"They just took a golf club and hit our car with it," said Tina Ratcliff, who was being chased by two men in Sunrise. "I think they're in some sort of road rage or something."

Ratcliff called 911 from her cell phone and was bounced between Plantation and Sunrise Police Departments. For eight minutes, the woman was transferred between agencies, having to explain her situation and location each time.

"Ok ma'am, are you in Sunrise?" asked the dispatcher.

"Gosh darn it. Don't you know where I'm at? I'm giving you the address?" Ratcliff responded.

"Well, you said Sunset. I don't know where that is. Sunset Strip is different," said a dispatcher.

"Okay, argue with me while they are waving a golf club and hitting our car," replied Ratcliff.

"Thank God we were just talking about golf clubs and not guns," said Joe Takach, a retired police dispatcher who worked in Miami-Dade County for 21 years.

Takach said the eight minutes of confusion could have been avoided if the Plantation and Sunrise dispatchers spoke with each other instead of transferring the caller between agencies.

"It's like three-way calling," said Takach. "Why would you not use that if you want to do a conference call? Would you call person one, hang up, and then call person two, and then hang up and call person one and relay the info back and forth? Of course not. You've got the capability of all three of you to talk at the same time."

Earlier in the week, Broward County commissioners rejected a county-wide tax hike to pay for a regional 911 call system to consolidate the current patchwork of city dispatches that can lead to confusion when cell phone towers misdirect emergency calls.

Sunrise and Plantation police acknowledged their dispatchers can speak to each other but said relaying information from a caller between agencies is less efficient and can lead to miscommunication when sending help.

"I think they need to do some more training so this doesn't happen again in the future because public safety is the issue," said Takach.

Takach added he supports the regional 911 call system.

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