On May 11th I was able to attend a training that was a very difficult topic to discuss and a very moving experience. A Victim’s Plea: Meeting Expectations is a training provided by the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. Our training was presented by Nathan Lee, president of the foundation, and Ryan Chambers, a public safety instructor.
|Lt. Haight doing the introduction and talking about the certification proposal|
Nathan Lee is the widower of Denise Amber Lee who was murdered on January 17, 2008. She was just 21 years old and a mother of two small children. A random stranger named Michael King abducted, raped, and murdered Denise. The most heartbreaking part of the story isn’t that she was a beloved wife and mother. The most heartbreaking part is that the 911 system failed Denise. If it hadn’t, she might still be alive today.
While this training was very emotional, it was also very professional. There was a balanced mix of the personal story (as told by her late husband Nathan and as we watched the story unfold on a network television show) and of the professional aspect of being a 911 dispatcher and the experiences in public safety as told by Ryan. The hardest part to watch was at the very end when we watched a video set to music of photos of Denise, her husband, and her kids. That really tugged at your heart strings.
Denise’s father worked for a local police agency, the same agency that failed her. Denise fought hard and several witnesses who suspected something was wrong didn’t call police. At one point Denise even called 911 after getting a hold of her captor’s phone. Finally a witness called 911 with really solid information. As a dispatcher, and working for a 911 agency for six months, I would have broadcasted that information the second I had it. Sadly, it appears the dispatchers working that day didn’t get along. And they let their personal tiff affect giving 100% service to their caller. The only opportunity to intercept Denise, who was tied up in the backseat of her captor’s car, never happened because the information was never given to the officers that were in the area looking for any green car that might be a match.
It is very sad to think that Denise could be alive today if it weren’t for the mistakes made that fateful day. The Denise Amber Lee Foundation has made it their mission to get education out to dispatchers all across the USA. Several states, including Idaho, do not have any type of certification for dispatchers. If you are a hairdresser in Idaho, you are required to be certified. However, you can answer emergency calls and get help to a person during a crisis without having to hold any type of certification or without keeping up with any type of continued education. The Idaho PSAP Standards and Training Committee are currently working with the legislature to change that. We are hoping that really soon we will have a certification in place and a requirement for continued education.
I was really thankful I was able to attend this training. If you have an opportunity in your area, please do so. To learn more about the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, visit their website at: http://deniseamberlee.org/