Here is the link to 9 News report regarding witnesses to a five-hour delay in response to the High Park Fire.
Many thanks to all who read my post about the High Park Fire. Many questions remain about the 911 response and until the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department makes those records public and accurate, including the transcripts of exchanges between the first callers and the dispatchers on duty last weekend, the only answers will come in the current spin by the agency, including that it takes time to do a, b, and c. and that the wilderness is the wilderness et cetera. Unless, that is, those of us with the questions keep putting them out there.
Regarding the several attacks not on my argument in said post, but upon me, let me address one of them: what qualifies me to issue an opinion on the actions of the first responders in Larimer County, or to issue any opinion whatsoever. Who Do I Think I Am?, some of you have implied and/or written.
I have been a voice in this community for a good 40 years, as a reporter for local newspapers, as an antiwar activist, a professor and poet, and in recent years, a civil rights advocate fighting for accessibility for the disabled in Larimer County. I am a hard-working writer, recently publishing poems and essays, in the wake of 80 percent mobility loss, as someone largely housebound. My opinion columns have appeared locally and elsewhere; just google me.
I have also had extensive experience with the 911 staff in Larimer County. One such experience: shortly after Christmas in 2010, my companion suffered a small stroke. My call to dispatch was met with disdain; I was interrogated for five minutes with questions like, “How do you know it’s a stroke?” “Well, what is he doing now?”
I recognize that there are skilled and heroic people on switchboards out there, but many 911 dispatchers, in my view, are notorious for bombarding callers with questions, resulting in a delayed response.
They are also notorious for being rude, sarcastic and invalidating under a variety of circumstances. Re the High Park Fire, I have no trouble speculating that when the first person reported a plume of smoke, the Dispatcher made a judgement call he or she was not qualified to make, taking his own sweet time in relaying the information to the right person. If the Department cares about whether or not I’m questioning their response time, let them prove me dead wrong.
The fact is that the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department abounds with arrogant, macho skin-head deputies of both sexes who treat people arrested on suspicion of a crime, innocent until proven guilty, like they are subhuman. Sit in the booking area of the Larimer County Justice Center any given night and you will see that to an amazing degree, the attitude among those in dark blue and packing is that they walk on water, and that they are not in fact salaried to respond to people who are frightened and in need. In the case I mention, dispatch sent two slow-moving deputies in advance of an ambulance to talk to me and kept the paramedics from arriving on scene to take my companion to the hospital for a good twenty minutes, during which time he could have suffered brain damage and/or died.
I have also had personal experience with the misogynistic attitude of the deputies and their sergeants and their m.o. of arrest now/ask questions later. I had a lieutenant lie to me to try to intimidate me into giving him information when no one else was present and we were in my own home.
In other instances, we know what happened when 911 was called in New Haven to report that Stephen Pettit, M.D.’s wife and children were in peril in their home; they died due to the slow response of the “first responders” and the blatant incompetence of the New Haven PD.
In Maine last year, authorities knew that a man was under protection orders and very volatile; his wife called 911 and they took their own sweet time in responding, driving up too late. They failed to safeguard the family– he shot all of them and himself.
There are many, many more instances in which we have George Zimmerman types manning the switchboards of cities and counties; you can see this for yourself watching any of the myriad of reality crime shows on TV. I mean by this, men and women who view themselves as authorities, with the license to make judgement calls as to whether to dispatch or not dispatch, when they are glorified telephone operators, deputy wanna-be’s, and their job is to act quickly and ask questions later.
Some of you are outraged that I would “dare” come down heavily on the sheriff’s department in particular. Go ahead and be outraged. I’ve demonstrated that provided you are civil, you can disagree with my posts.
Regarding response to the High Park Fire, facts and data speak for themselves, and I and others will continue to explore that information. In the case of the High Park Fire, there are plenty of people supporting and thanking the brave men and women putting themselves at risk. I have thanked them myself; I have shared and tweeted and blogged my gratitude.
In this country we can criticize the government openly, about anything, at any level, at any time. We get to be ourselves in the United States of America. Provided we are law-abiding, we have the right to our individuality, and our opinions.
I stand by my post. Anyone can put up a blog and write about these things, sharing links to the post on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. There’s a thought: if I’ve pissed you off, become a blogger. Decide that you as a US citizen matter to yourself and to others, that your opinions are relevant and that you have a right to be a participant in any community, state or national conversation– on any issue.