Dispatchers Brighten Young Man’s Christmas – After He Calls 911 4,000 Times
By Ken K. Gourdin
What should dispatchers do who receive more than 4,000 911 calls from a single cell phone number in less than a week? Is there any difference between such a situation, and say, someone using a computer to disguise his location and his identity to abuse the 911 system and tying up first responders (whose valuable time would be far better spent elsewhere) by making bogus emergency calls to report an alleged major incident at a particular address – often known as “swatting,” since police special weapons and tactics (aka “SWAT” teams) often are dispatched to such incidents – either as a supposed prank or to get revenge for some slight?
In many cases – probably in the vast majority of cases – perhaps there is no difference between the two situations I describe above. Usually, I’m in favor of anyone who does either of those things being subject to an appropriate criminal penalty. Although I only spent a short time as an emergency dispatcher because it was a nonbenefitted position with no guaranteed hours, I’m sure that the vast majority of people who answer such calls would agree. On the other hand, things are not always as they seem, as this Deseret News story illustrates (last accessed December 22, 2014):
Merry Christmas to the young man and to his family, and kudos to the dispatchers (both for their generosity and for thinking outside the box).
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At the risk of turning this heartwarming post entirely too serious, while this young man obviously is incapable of forming any criminal intent, I might as well take this opportunity to reiterate appropriate use of the 911 system (see here, last accessed December 22, 2014): http://911.utah.gov/index.php. In Utah, falsely reporting an emergency is either a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, or, if the false report is of a weapon of mass destruction, it is a Third-Degree Felony punishable by up to five years in prison. See here, last accessed December 22, 2014):
The lesson? No matter how bored one might be or no matter how badly one might want to get revenge on someone, don’t do it. It’s not just a joke, and it’s not just a prank; it’s a crime. And, while I am not a lawyer and have not researched this area of the law exhaustively, if one were to prevent first responders from responding in a timely manner to a real emergency by doing such a thing, and if harm or death were to result, I believe I could make a persuasive case that the person ought to be held civilly liable. (And agencies and their municipalities have sent sizeable – think six figures – bills to people who have done such things.)