Phone Calls

Call Taking

Answering the Phone

Answering the Telephone 

Telephone courtesy is an essential part of your function. This is your strongest medium of public relations. More often than not, this is the only contact people will have with the organization. You are the voice of the department. The impression you give affects each and every member of the department. You must take time to handle each call received. If you cannot answer a question, you should obtain the answer or refer them to the person or department that can give them the information they need. When transferring calls tell the caller why and where they are being transferred and to stay on the line until the transfer is complete.

The telephone is the most available and probably the most important means of communication with a law enforcement agency, it is one of their primary means of communication.

Answer Promptly 

Treat each call as an emergency. Put yourself in place of the person calling. Daily incidents common to you may appear to be a crisis with the caller. NEVER pick up the phone and say STANDBY or PLEASE HOLD. Find out what the caller wants or needs first. Calls should be answered within 3 rings. If it is not an urgent nature, tell the caller you are going to put them on hold for just a moment, then complete whatever it is that you were doing. REMEMBER radio traffic is always priority.

Identify Yourself & Your Department 

This insures the caller that he/she has reached the proper agency and will calm the party who may need assistance. Identifying yourself also helps troopers and other staff who call in to be able to connect a voice to a name and build some recognition.

Be Courteous & Show Interest 

A calm voice, speaking in a decisive manner will tend to make the caller more at ease. In closing conversation, say “thank you.” Or “you’re welcome” as the case may be. This is also good practice when speaking with other agencies and helps to build and maintain positive relationships. Avoid debates and arguments. Avoid an unprofessional attitude at all times. The person calling feels his/her call is important, treat the caller as you would like yourself to be treated.

Be Courteous & Show Interest

A calm voice, speaking in a decisive manner will tend to make the caller more at ease. In closing conversation, say “thank you.” Or “you’re welcome” as the case may be. This is also good practice when speaking with other agencies and helps to build and maintain positive relationships. Avoid debates and arguments. Avoid an unprofessional attitude at all times. The person calling feels his/her call is important, treat the caller as you would like yourself to be treated.

Emergency Vs. Non-Emergency

Emergency Calls

A call is considered an emergency when there is an immediate or potential threat to life or serious property damage, and the timely arrival of public safety assistance is of the utmost importance. A person reporting an emergency should not be placed on hold until the dispatcher has obtained all necessary information to ensure the safety of the responding department members and affected individuals. Emergency calls should be dispatched immediately.

Non Emergency Calls 

A call is considered a non-emergency call when there is no immediate or potential threat to life or property. A person reporting a non-emergency may be placed on hold, if necessary, to allow the dispatcher to handle a higher priority or emergency call.

The reporting person should be advised if there will be a delay in the dispatcher returning to the telephone line or when there will be a delay in the response for service.

Critical Questions

Obtaining Information From the Caller

Taking Charge and Effectively Managing the Call 

After the initial exchange of conversation, you will have a good idea of what the person or agency wants. Cut off all unnecessary words by leading the call into who, what, where, when, and weapons (If appropriate).  Politely, but firmly, focus the caller on answering all questions asked. Try to not let the caller offer additional details until the 5 W’s have been answered, especially in an emergency. Help the caller refocus, if necessary, by telling them you need them to answer the questions in order to get them help.

Take all information and type it into CAD into the notes section or make a handwritten note if not call related. Don’t leave anything to memory or chance. Explain any delays by telling the caller why it may take time to check for the information. This being done, will tend to make the caller more cooperative.

Asking Critical Questions-The 5 W's 

Who, What, Where, When, and Weapons

Basic questions of every call.

  • Name of caller
  • What is happening, any weapons involved? How many people/vehicles involved?
  • Location, location, location, (we can’t send help if we don’t know where to send it.)
  • Phone number of caller.

On most calls you will also ask the caller where they are located as it may be different than the call location, and the time of the incident, did this already happen? Is it something in-progress?

When getting information from outside agencies you will want to get all this information, as well as asking if the agency has units en route, how many, or if they are wanting NSP to handle the call.

Asking Critical Questions Match Up

Match the Question with the Defintion 

Match each "W" to their defintion 

  • Who
    Name of Caller/Parties involved
  • What
    What is happening? How many people are involved? Is there a vehicle involved?
  • Where
    LOCATION. Where is the situation happening? Is the caller at that location or somewhere else?
  • When
    Is this a situation in progress? Did it happen earlier?
  • Weapons
    Are any involved parties armed? Have they injured anyone with a weapon? Are they unarmed, but might have access to a weapon?

Call Types

Call Type Categories 

There are many different types of calls. The most frequent ones you will encounter include, abandoned/disabled vehicles, accidents, business/residential alarms, outside agency assists, disturbance, pursuit, reckless driver, suspicious person/vehicle, and possible drunk drivers. This is not an all-inclusive list and you want to be sure you know where your resources are should you encounter a call that you’re not familiar with handling and may have questions.

1-800/*55 Calls 

800 Calls are received by NSP headquarters and disseminated to the appropriate troop area. These calls may require a call for service. Take the necessary information and get the caller’s callback information. Usually these calls are from cell phones and you could lose connection. Do not count on the caller being able to make another call. Assign the call to the trooper assigned to the area/closest to the area. If Fire/Rescue is needed, contact the appropriate agency for the area and forward them the details you have received. You should check if they have already received a call about the same situation and have units en route.

If the call has been misdirected take all the necessary information and get a call back number. Tell the caller you will contact the nearest NSP office to their location. Do not count on the caller being able to make another call. You may also transfer the call, but get the callers information just in case of disconnection. Once you have the information, you can also create a Call for Service and transfer that to the appropriate area. If you create a call, be sure to advise the appropriate office that you have transferred a call either by telephone or using the “NSP Dispatch Only” radio channel.

REDDI Calls (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately)/BOLOs 

Whenever we receive a call of a possible drunk driver the call needs to be documented with a call for service. Take the necessary information and assign the nearest officer. Also advise other agencies. If there is not a trooper available be sure to pass the information to any area outside agencies. Ask the caller for a vehicle description and a license plate, as well as their current location. If a caller advises they are too far to get a plate or are going to turn off soon, advise them that they maintain a safe distance and do not need to get closer, and that they may continue along their original route and do not need to follow the vehicle. Get the caller’s name and callback number in case the call is disconnected or they have additional information later on.

Many times if there is a trooper in the area it is a good idea to place the caller on hold, put out the information and advise the trooper the RP is still on the line. This way the reporting party can continue to provide real time updates to the location of the vehicle as long as they are still traveling behind it. In some cases it can also be beneficial to get the vehicle description of the reporting party and their location in relation to the suspect vehicle to better help the trooper locate the vehicle.

Calls for Service from the Public and to and from Outside Agencies 

From the general public take the necessary information discussed previously and advise the unit assigned to the area and/or the closest unit. Advise any additional units as needed. Create/continue to create the call in CAD at this time as well.

You may need to forward the information to another agency if no one is available. If another agency is not able to handle the call, a NSP officer will have to be called out if the type of call requires it. Check with a supervisor in order to know who to call out. NSP IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE, even if no one is on duty. Advise the other agency that NSP response could be 30-45 minutes. You should not tell them that you are calling someone off-duty, specifically in Troop A. Check with a supervisor before calling someone off duty.

This is a common situation in Troop B. In order to know when it might be appropriate to call someone off duty, be sure to ask the outside agency what they are requesting assistance with. Many of the outside agencies are aware that Troop B is not staffed 24/7. You can advise them “We don’t have anyone available at this time, but we can call one out if necessary, what do you have?”

When communicating with the agencies it is important to use the language that they can understand. For the outside law enforcement agencies in Troop A, it is necessary to use plain speak as they do not use 10 codes and will not be able to understand them. For Troop B, many agencies use the same 10 codes so they may understand, but when in doubt use plain speak to communicate the information. This goes for both communicating via telephone and radio.

Processing Duplicate Phone Calls for Assistance 

There are times when there may be multiple reporting parties for the same incident. When this happens it is important to get any information the party can provide to ensure dispatch has all the most up to date information. If you believe that you may have someone calling about the same incident, refer to CAD or your partner so as to not spend time getting all the same information and both creating a call. If the reporting party is not able to give any more information than the other reporting party, thank them for the information and get their name and callback number should they be able to provide any additional information later on.

Routing Calls for Service and Information to Investigations and Outside Agencies 

Calls may come in that do not require a trooper response, but instead may require something from Department of Transportation or from Investigation Services. When taking a call for Department of Transportation it is important to find out similar details such as what it is about, where, direction of travel (if reference an accident/road hazard), and who called. If it is an outside agency requesting the message boards be turned on it is important to gather all this information so the operations center staff can turn on the appropriate message boards. If there is not a member of the operations center staff in the office, you may have to contact them via the DOC On-Call phone number to have them turn on message boards. If it is someone calling about a construction site or needing signs, you will contact the supervisor on duty. If someone is calling about debris on the side of the road that is not a current traffic hazard, you can email the DOC staff and they will have a crew remove it.

If a call is received about an investigation that an individual needs to speak with someone about, it is best to get their contact information, a brief synopsis of what they are calling about, and email that information the investigations sergeant or specific investigator if one is named.

Message Taking 

At times the public or personnel from other agencies may contact the patrol in order to speak with a specific person. If that person is someone who has an office and direct line you can transfer them to their voicemail. For all other parties you can take a message with the person’s contact information and forward it to the appropriate party, either through email, or MACH. It’s always a good idea, if the person being requested is a road trooper, to remind the caller of their shift and that it may be a few days before their phone call is returned.

Taking Complaints 

There will be times that individuals in the public will want to lodge a complaint against a trooper. It is important to explain to them that the complaint will have to be made with the sergeant and that you can collect their information and forward it to have the sergeant contact them. You will get their name and a phone number and email that to the trooper’s sergeant advising them that the party wants to report a complaint. If the sergeant is on duty, you can also message them through MACH.

When an individual calls in wanting to lodge a complaint against another agency, we must advise them that the Nebraska State Patrol does not police other agencies and that they have to contact either that department and go through the proper channels, or they will have to contact the state attorney general. The state patrol is not responsible for policing other agencies and we have no authority to investigate complaints on other agencies based on a citizen’s complaint.

Criteria to Classify and Prioritize Multiple Calls and Requests for Service 

Radio traffic always takes priority over non-emergency phone calls, but at times there may be multiple calls and/or radio traffic and prioritizing is necessary. An emergency phone call will need to be communicated first before a non-emergency call. A request for information from an outside agency or trooper calling in will be the lowest priority to any radio traffic and possible emergency calls. 

Most Common Call Types We Handle

Although you never know what may come across the radio, or who will be on the other end of the phone when you answer it, we do have some calls that we experience more often than others. 

These include: 

  • Other agency assists-helping other agencies with their calls, such as traffic control, helping with accidents, business alarms, or backup on a traffic stop. 
  • Abandoned/Disabled Vehicles a.k.a Motorist Assists 
  • Domestic Disturbance/Disturbance-Can range from family members or a group of people having a verbal or physical altercation **Domestic Disturbances between family members are the most dangerous calls for officers, it is imperative to send at least two units, as well as get AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN.**
  • BOLO/Reckless Driver/Possible Intoxicated Driver-this is one of the most frequent calls that you will receive 
  • Pursuits-you never know when someone is going to try and run, this is not a common call, but definitely an important one to be as prepared for as you can. 

Rank the Calls

  • "Help an Officer"Call comes out from Douglas County. 2 units are already in the area.
  • Injury accident blocking two lanes.
  • Assist Sarpy County with traffic control for a non-injury accident
  • Motorist Assist-Family with two small children on the shoulder of the interstate
  • Dead deer in the roadway.

BOLO Calls

Effective Communication Skills

Controlling the Conversation 

An important part of call handling is taking control of the conversation. Before answering the phone, be ready to type the notes into CAD, or have a pen and paper ready. Don’t try to rely on memory, important details could be missed. After the initial exchange of the conversation you will have some understanding of what the caller’s needs, take charge of the conversation by asking direct questions. Be specific, do not ask leading questions.

It may be necessary to speak at a slower than a normal rate to calm a caller who is excited or at the hysteria threshold. Repeating direct question in a firm voice can direct the caller and break the threshold. “Where are you? Where are you?”  Avoid statements such as “I know how you feel”, or “I know what you are going through”.  “I understand what you are saying is more appropriate. Telling the caller why you need the information may help them understand your questions. Always show interest in the call, this may be the first and only time they have ever had to call for help. Treat the caller the way you would like to be treated. Use a calm confident voice. Never use codes or law enforcement slang.

Calls can be very stressful. A simple stress release is to breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out through your mouth. It is important to keep you emotions under control and always be professional. Never minimize the call or take sides in a dispute-there are always two sides to every story.

Keep the caller on the line with crimes in progress or when the caller doesn’t know their location. Get a call back number in case you get disconnected. If you need to let the caller go, as them to call back if the situation changes. You can let the caller go if they cannot provide any further information, if they are no longer observing the incident or field units are on the scene. Keep in mind the caller’s safety, if the situation is not safe, ask them to go to a safe location and call back if necessary.

Do not make promises. Always tell the caller what action you will be taking. Tell them you will send a trooper or send fire and rescue or you will document the call. When taking a message for a trooper to return the call tell the caller you will pass on the message. Don’t promise the caller that the trooper will call them right back.

NEVER give legal advice. You may tell them what a law is, but do not interpret the law. They can seek legal advice from an attorney. When dealing with bad weather or road conditions, you can only tell them not to travel if the roads are closed. When travel is no recommended, but roads are open the caller will have to make their own determination whether they should travel or not. You may suggest they allow extra time and use caution when driving.

Techniques to Effectively Communicate with People Who May be in Crisis

Don’t let a person’s use of foul language influence your response. When dealing with angry or belligerent callers never take it personally. Anger is often a result of feeling out of control. This also applies when the public wishes to call and make a complaint against a trooper. They may want to tell you the whole story and make rude and derogatory statements about the trooper. Advise them that you will have to forward their information to the appropriate supervisor and that you understand they are upset, but they will have to speak with a supervisor.

Use repetitive persistence if necessary. Give the caller an action, followed by a reason for complying with the action. “I need you to tell me _______, so I can get you the appropriate help.” Repeat this using exactly the same phrasing in a calm, level voice. Repeat this as much as necessary to get needed information and the caller to cooperate.

You may need to ask the caller to slow down so you can understand them. If you have still have difficulty understanding the caller, ask if there is anyone else there you could talk to. They may have witnessed a very traumatic event and are not able to get their thoughts in order.

When taking calls from children use simple words and ask simple questions. Prepare them for what is going to happen. Give the child the name of one of the responders so they can have someone they can identify with. When dealing with the elderly, do not yell-it could distort your voice. Speak slowly and articulate your words.

Calm Direct Instruction

Use a calm and confident voice. You may need to slow your speech to help the caller understand. Ask clear direct questions and provide clear direct instructions depending on the situation. Never display irritation with the caller. Keep your voice calm and level.

Telephone Technology

Audio Recorder 

The NICE Inform recorder is a system that is accessed through the computer. All NSP radio channels and almost all phone lines are recorded using this system. Using the recorder, calls and radio traffic can be reviewed. The recordings can also be transferred to a CD for use by troopers and/or for court purposes. In order to obtain a copy of the recording, the person requesting must request a copy from the dispatch site manager who maintains a log of all requests.

Multiple Phone Lines 

Each phone in dispatch has access to the 4 Omaha phone lines and the 2 lines that are Troop B lines. Each phone also has its own line, and access to the “Trooper” line. The 331-8587 number that is a blue button.

Phone Features 

The phones used in dispatch have multiple lines. They also each have keys preset to dial each of the OPD precinct dispatches, as well as Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, Cass, Washington, and Saunders County dispatches. The preset keys also include the Red Cross, Iowa Highway Patrol-Atlantic office, Douglas County Corrections. OPD and Douglas county warrants, Headquarters Radio, and EPIC. There are also preset keys to help easily transfer calls to the command staff, evidence technician, NDOT supervisor/maintenance, community service officer, ISO, and troop secretary.

The paging line is to page someone in the building. Select a phone line and then hit the paging key. After the phone rings and there is a beep, announce the person the phone call is for and the phone line it is on.

In order to transfer a call, while on the call hit the transfer key and then dial or press the preset key of where you wish to transfer it to, then hit the transfer key again. Troopers may use this function to call someone without having that person know their phone number. They call in, dispatch hits the transfer key, then dials the number, and hits transfer again, then hangs up to connect the trooper to the person.

Each phone also has a specific phone line that rings directly to that phone. When at one station and a phone at an unmanned station rings, simply pick up the phone and hit the “Pickup” button and the call will be transferred to your line.

Initiating Phone Pinging Through Phone Providers 

When there is an attempt to locate a party either due to them being a harm to themselves or others, or possibly in some kind of danger, we may request a phone ping through their cell phone provider. The communications specialist will need to get the cell phone and provider. The communications specialist will then contact the provider and request the ping reference the person possibly be in danger of harm. The provider will send a written request that will be required to be signed and sent back. At this time they will also attempt to ping the phone and most often will provide the results in the form of latitude and longitude and an estimate of how far from a specific tower the phone is. They may be able to do this at the time of initial contact, or will call back once the pinging is complete. Once the request has been made, the phone may be continued to be pinged while the call is ongoing and the trooper continues to request it.

Fax/Copy Machine 

The fax/copy machine in dispatch is used by both NSP and Department of Transportation. The DOT employees are able to print to this printer, but NSP can only use it to send faxes, documents to emails, and make copies.