Dealing with People in Crisis

As police officers, we most often see people at the height of emotion. 

Citizens do not call 911 simply to ask their friendly neighborhood police officer to stop by for a cup of tea – they call 911 because they need the immediate assistance of police to deal with whatever situation has unfolded.  In most cases, it is because someone has just committed an offence against them and they need help RIGHT NOW.

And when someone needs help RIGHT NOW, they are usually very focused on what needs to be done.  Either that or they’re running around like Chicken Little and screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

In either case, we as police get to see people acting far outside of their comfort zone.  The only way to help the Chicken Littlers is to get them to calm down and find out what the issue is, and trust me, this is harder than it sounds.  It’s like trying to herd cats.

What I’m trying to get at is this – when in the midst of a crisis, people are not concerned about manners, idealisms, or political correctness.  At times such as these, many people are not on their best behaviour, and not that I would expect them to be.  To act a little wild when someone has done you or a loved one harm is a natural reaction.  Just rein it in and use your energy in a constructive fashion.  Be a good witness.  Remember a licence plate.  Be coherent enough to provide a statement.  Be able to recall just one distinguishing feature.  Sometimes none of this is possible, but you have to try.

Then there are the cases where a person in crisis is very brave and mature beyond their years.  Such was the case last week that found 14 year old Olivia at home alone in Delta. 

At approx 9:40 pm on Friday, April 24th, Olivia heard someone at the door.  Not expecting anyone, Olivia grabbed the cordless phone, locked herself in a bedroom and called her father.  Her father was able to get 911 and Olivia connected on the phone, and as police were en-route, an unknown male suspect broke into the house.  When the suspect entered the room she was hiding in, Olivia hid under a pile of clothes, communicating with the 911 call taker by pushing the buttons on her phone. 

Olivia remained calm and focused all her attention at getting through the situation.  She did a great job – police were on the scene within minutes and arrested the suspect inside the house. 

To see the local news clip and to hear the communication between Olivia and the 911 call taker, visit this link provided by the Vancouver Sun:

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/videos/index.html#lHrLH1JzarrXtRgw4DWrblKrxBOyRyrc

Many Lower Mainland residents have heard this clip already, so this is more for those who have not heard the story or the tape before now.  The 911 call taker, Kelly Pater, is remarkable and proof again that a good dispatcher is priceless.  Kudos to Olivia for being brave.

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