As public expectations in policing have evolved, citizens expect the police to respond immediately when called; however, many calls that the police receive are civil matters and are not criminal in nature. Examples would be things like someone calling the police because a local fast food restaurant closed 30 minutes earlier than their website stated or because they aren’t happy with a haircut or manicure. One of the most common non-criminal calls is someone locking their keys in their car and need it unlocked right away so they will not be late to work or an appointment. Many agencies will not answer these types of calls because they are not matters for the police unless there is a child or pet locked inside the car. If someone is not happy with a haircut, then their recourse is to file a lawsuit or complaint with the State Board and not a police report. Sometimes, it can be so busy in some cities that officers are answering calls back to back and cannot respond to non-emergencies right away, especially if they are not criminal in nature. Because of these heavy call loads in many cities, there are some reports that will be taken by a desk officer over the phone, such as a report of a bicycle stolen from a carport while the residents were gone Out of town for the weekend. Dispatchers are often required to decide on the priority of a call and the type of response it gets. Many citizens in a “crisis”, whether it is an actual emergency or not, may not understand that their situation is not an emergency. This is due to the natural feeling that it is the most important thing going on in their life at the time.
Our chapter this week discusses “rapid response” and “differential response” to calls for service. Given these options, how do you think citizens feel about differential response and having their call be put on low priority or, even worse, having their situation handled by someone over the phone with no response to the scene at all? Do you think it makes the citizen feel better to at least be able to make a report by phone if an immediate response to the scene is not possible? Or, do you think it should be part of law enforcement’s responsibilities to respond, in person, to every citizen’s call regardless of nature or seriousness? Explain your response and assume you are the Chief or Sheriff when formulating your response.