Most Chicago 911 operators do a good job, but some need more training

911 operators, like dispatchers, must be able to think and respond quickly without relying on a pre-written script.

SHARE Most Chicago 911 operators do a good job, but some need more training
Chicago Police Department Station at 3315 W Ogden Ave in North Lawndale.

The Chicago Police Department station at 3315 W Ogden Ave in North Lawndale.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

I had a very disturbing experience calling 911 recently. I was outside near the Schubert School just after 3 p.m. in late October, and heard multiple shots fired.

I immediately called 911 and started to give the operator a description of a fleeing vehicle and its direction of travel. The operator interrupted me wanting to know how many shots were fired. I tried to explain to her that this shooting was outside an elementary school and there were still students and staff in the building. I told her to listen to me, get the information to the police dispatcher with more information to follow. I spent over five minutes with this operator while she wanted me to give her my phone number and then read it back to me. Doesn’t the 911 call center have caller ID?

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She seemed to be reading from a script. By the time she listened to my information, the vehicle it was long gone. If she had taken that information and sent it to the police dispatcher when I first called, it could have been broadcast, any police vehicle in the area would have been aware of it, and the school would have been advised of the situation.

After an initial investigation it was learned that the occupants were involved in an exchange of gunfire with two other persons on the street, who were shooting in the direction of Schubert School’s main entrance. The response from officers was excellent as soon as they received the call, but the 911 operator’s poor handling of the call likely delayed them. If this shooting had happened 10 to 15 minutes earlier, there could have been another tragic shooting of a child, as there were many outside being picked up from school.

I have dealt with 911 operators on many occasions. 911 operators, like dispatchers, must be able to think and respond quickly without relying on a pre-written script. The operator should have told me she was forwarding the information to the dispatcher and needed to ask me some questions to get more information. There needs to more oversight and better training for these operators.

The vast majority of 911 operators do a stressful job with little recognition in a very professional manner. I thank them for a job well done.

Charles Carlson, Belmont-Cragin

Children lose when schools have Election Day off

I am a teacher, and it makes no sense for schools to be closed on Election Day.

We’ve already had 40 days to vote, including by mail. And with schools closed, the funny thing is, fewer people are likely to vote since now many need to stay home with their kids. 

It’s another bad idea with the kids again being the losers.

Josefina Garcia, Morgan Park

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