911 Operators Describe How They Handle Calls From Typical 'Karen' Types
Photo by Miryam León on Unsplash

Karens... female and male.... 911 is for actual emergencies only! And there are some real emergencies happening all over the country right now! So don't commandeer the line. Everyone has gotten just a little too comfortable reaching out to the guys and gals in blue for any little thing. That action has led to a few too many dangerous situations for innocent people. 311 is non-emergency. Unless there is actual peril I think people who misuse 911 should be charged not just fined. Let's hear about a few examples of when NOT to call.

Redditor u/dormeowmeow wanted to hear from emergency dispatchers out there about their calls from some pesky people by asking.... 911 phone operators, what do you do when you receive phone calls from 'Karen' types?

Good Day Ma'am....

Tom Cruise GIF Giphy

"Good day, Ma'am. I'm officer Brody. We have received a call about a suspicious person driving around the area. Thank you for your contribution to keeping this neighborhood safe for all of us. Can you describe to me what they looked like and what suspicious thing thing you saw them do, so we can look further into it?"

I wonder if she'd realize that something about that whole situation is off once she realizes that she has the same answer for both of those questions.


Verbal Judo

Short answer: I send them who they ask for, and do so while making sure everyone on the scene is as safe as possible using all the resources I can.

Long answer: If everyone's safe, I use some verbal judo to try to get the caller to realize what they are doing. I'll act like a 3 year old asking "why" to everything. I've gotten a few people to openly admit it's because of the color of a "suspicious" persons skin color.

If they say something offensive, I ask them to repeat it into the recorded phone call for clarity, and remind them they are being recorded.

I dispatch for a number of cities. A few of them affluent, a few of them less so. My favorite example is when "Karen" called in one of these affluent cities to inform us of a black man driving around a city police cruiser. That black man responded to her house for more information.


Dial Tone...

Reminds me of a time my mean old Karen of a neighbor called the police because she "saw a black man driving a nice car." They told her it wasn't a crime and ended up having to hang up on her.


The Connecticut state police think otherwise. If not a crime, at least an excuse for selective enforcement.

I'm friends with a black man (we're both musicians) who was a very successful executive at a computer company. He was in a line of cars traveling through Connecticut on the interstate, all going the same speed, somewhat over the speed limit.

He was the only one pulled over. A black man in a red Ferrari.


The Legend

We had a Deputy who had retired, and then came back part-time as a call take (she started her career as a dispatcher). Well, she had a Karen caller. The caller had called a number of times with non-emergency issues. The retired deputy finally had it and literally told the caller to "screw off". She was obviously called to the office for it. She told them to screw off too. She was "let go from her temporary position." Kinda sucks but she's a legend now for saying what we have all wanted to at one time or another.



Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC Giphy

We had a woman in an upscale white neighborhood call about a suspicious black man. It was the police chief (in business attire) meeting the mayor at his house. He was in an unmarked car and wasn't in uniform so I'm sure nothing about him screamed that he was a cop. Still, she was a flat out racist.


No you don't...

We roll our eyes, then do exactly what we do in every 911 situation- try to tease out the relevant info and dispatch the appropriate resources. We can't tell them "no, you don't need police/ambulance," so we then waste resources and let the cops/medics sort it out on-scene. Having been both a 911 dispatcher and a paramedic, I can assure you that a good time is not had by all.


Life of an EMT....

Former EMT and dispatcher here, who had to come off the streets and move into dispatch.

I had two answers to that question, both true:

"Closest car goes. I'm not good enough at dispatching to dispatch punitively, I send whoever's closest."

"Management prioritizes private transfer contracts over 911 calls, and I can't exactly tell them to go get screwed because I have a kid to raise and rent to pay."


I'm Karen. 

Just realized I was one of those Karen's one time. I was jogging in a park early in the AM and saw a tarp wrapped around an exact body sized lump in the woods. (Called non emergency line though) But it was just a bunch of clothes wrapped up lmao. Still creepy! But not a dead body haha.


Are we doing this again?

People call the police for EVERYTHING.

A number of years back we had a huge snowstorm and there was no power for days. I would wake up and go work 17 hours dispatching police for 3 days, leave to a freezing house where i couldn't sleep.

On day 4 a guy called 911 asking what was open like I had any clue and when I told him I had no clue he asked what to do.

My response was "you know the book you get every year from the phone company, the one that has white and yellow pages, open to the first yellow page and start dialing." He was so appreciative and my coworkers were dumbfounded as to why i could be saying that.

Some people just have no common sense.


"listen to your parents"

Super Troopers Police GIF Giphy

My mother called the cops on my brother and I for cooking vegetables on the stove (when we were 13/15), which she asked us to do. one officer showed up, said "listen to your parents" and left. We make jokes that the cops drew straws to see who had to show up at the house for her stupidity because she called them so much.

Edit to clarify: shared this story because it just shows they have to send an officer no matter how ridiculous the complaint is.


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