Richard Sherman is obviously a man in crisis. What his personal problems are, it's dangerous to speculate. But he's clearly suffering from mental health issues and hopefully he gets the proper professional care and gets his life straightened out before he hurts himself and others. This post is not about him.
It's about the 911 dispatcher who took this call. Here's a partial summary of the call, via Pro Football Talk:
“I need officers to my house now. My husband is drunk and belligerent and threatened to kill himself,” the caller, who identified herself as Ashley Sherman, said at the beginning of the call, which was obtained by KIRO in Seattle.
Immediately, the 911 dispatcher told Ashley Sherman to stop talking, then asked her for the address and whether there were any weapons.
Ashley Sherman tried to answer and the dispatcher admonished her, “You didn’t let me finish. You need to stop interrupting.”
As Ashley Sherman attempted to convey that Richard Sherman had tried to fight her uncle, the dispatcher seemed more interested in nitpicking her choice of words.
“Trying to fight somebody and actually being physical is two different things,” the dispatcher said. ...
As Ashley Sherman pleaded with the 911 dispatcher to send help, the dispatcher seemed more concerned with Ashley’s tone than with the unfolding emergency.
“I am handling this. You need to stop telling me that,” the dispatcher said.
When someone else in the house tried to give information about how intoxicated Sherman was to 911, the dispatcher said in a condescending tone, “Sir, I only need to talk to one person.”
I want to give this lady as much benefit of the doubt as I can. That has to be an unbelievably stressful job. Not only are their lives potentially hanging in the balance every time a call comes in, you are by definition dealing with people in the worst possible moments. They're afraid, injured, high, drunk, in danger, sick, dying, watching loved ones suffer. Plus they're on the phone, which makes communication maximum strength difficult. My mom fed her family by being a 411 operator - so just giving phone numbers to people too lazy to look it up themselves - and she had 30 years worth of horror stories about the haunted, indigent, deranged, dregs of society she had to spend eight hours a day talking to. Her customers must have been the Supreme Court justices compared to the callers this Redmond, WA police dispatcher deals with on a nightly basis.
But still. What the duck is this? I get the need for precise language at a time like this. Just the facts, ma'am and all that. What it's not the time for is grammar lessons. I get that you need to gather information. That doesn't excuse turning Mrs. Sherman's emergency into an etiquette lesson. And I understand the need to keep control of the phone call. But that doesn't justify talking over the person on the other end like you're Mike Francessa and Mike from Long Island just said that now's the time for the Mets to trade Jake deGrom. Maybe having a pissy attitude isn't the worst thing in that job. But she sounds less like she's talking a frightened woman through a crisis than she's berating a server for not bringing the extra dressing on the side like she asked.
I don't claim to be an authority on what 911 dispatcher professionalism is all about. I just know this wasn't it. If you had to make a call to my wireless provider and the rep handled your billing issue like this, you'd actually stay on the line for the brief customer service survey afterwards. And no one could blame you if you gave them 1 star.
Here's hoping Sherman gets better. And here's hoping the 911 dispatching in Washington gets better for the next person watching their loved one in the middle of a scary meltdown. Even Reno: 911 was better than Redmond: 911.