I will not be using this platform to speak about motives, the suspect, or the eventual politics and finger pointing that is, sadly, inevitable. I will first refer you to my friend’s post on ambulancedriverfiles. Kelly speaks eloquently and succinctly and I’m proud to know him.
What I want to focus on is the radio traffic during this tragedy. What follows is about 16 minutes of police radio traffic. I strongly urge you to listen to the recording in its entirety. First responders spend the lion’s share of their day risking their lives for you. You can spare 16 minutes.
As a police officer and a former dispatcher, I could not be more proud of my brother and sister officers in Aurora, CO. When met with unbelievable chaos and carnage, the professionalism heard in this recording is inspiring. There is the occasional panicked moment when an officer can be heard yelling. That is a normal human reaction when faced with something as heinous as they were experiencing. You’ll notice that by and large, most of the radio traffic is clear, concise, and given at both a moderate pace and tone. Perimeters were set up, mutual aid was called for, and updates were given about locations to evacuate the walking wounded.
I’d like to single out the female dispatcher in particular. Her calm delivery and parroting of officer radio traffic, requests, and updates were given without panic, fear, or anxiety. Speaking from experience, when I hear a good dispatcher on a hot call, it calms me in a way that isn’t terribly obvious at the time and it allows me to focus on the job at hand. Her contribution to this call can not be overstated.
When incidents like the shooting in Aurora happen, it has ripple effects that resound all over the world. We will be hearing about this for weeks to come. Pundits will pontificate. Armchair quarterbacks will analyze. But those cops that responded and the dispatcher that worked the channel? They’ll be at work.
There will be tears shed by families, friends, and first responders. While the incident is happening, though, there is no time for tears. There is time for action. Calm, efficient, professional action. This was exemplified by the Aurora PD and their dispatcher.
If you’re reading this post and are a civilian, please realize the inherent difficulty in not only doing what Aurora PD and their fellow first responders did today, but in having to compartmentalize their personal feelings and emotions in order to effectively save lives and apprehend the suspect.
If you’re reading this post and you’re a first responder, please realize that all of our radio traffic should sound like what you just heard. Do all of us a favor and before you just start yammering away into your mic do two things: 1) depress the mic before you start talking and 2) take a breath first. The breath takes about a second and will help clear you mind by getting oxygen to your brain. Think about what you need to say, breathe, and say it as succinctly as you can. Remember that there are other people at the same detail that may need that air time.
Finally, my prayers are with the people of Aurora and those effected by this terrible event. I don’t pretend to understand the will of God, but I have to have faith that there is a purpose to it. To lack that faith would make me question why I do this job.