The abuse of a few slobs calling 911 for help with ludicrously mundane matters has prompted the powers that be to propagandize the public that 911 is for emergencies only and evidently also to train their operators to be very strict, TOO STRICT, in turning away calls for assistance that don't involve impending loss of life. In other words, the number is just there for calling an ambulance for someone having a heart attack, NOT for crimes in progress against you or someone else, and especially not your neighbor's alarm going off.
I have an anecdote that shows what I mean and why I am still angry about this overkill. I had an aging neighbor who drank excessively and was becoming increasingly senile and demented. More than once before, he had left something cooking on his stove and forgotten about it, which resulted in his fire alarm going off and smoke coming out of his house. Each time, his neighbor on the other side and I had to get involved to make sure the house itself was not on fire and in danger of spreading to OUR houses.
One night the alarm went off again, and I could see smoke coming out of the house! I called 911 to report the alarm, whereupon the operator told me I didn't have an "emergency" and that I would have to call another number because the circumstances were not life-threatening. I raised my voice to emphasize that the old man next door was IN the house, at which point the operator began to chew me out for not showing him proper respect! Oh man, I was just about to decide to get this bastard fired when I saw the Fire Department driving up. I relayed that fact to this turd-head operator and suggested he send the Police too because this man was obviously a danger, easily a fatal one, to himself and others. After that, the operator seemed to relent; and soon the cops were driving up. I explained the situation to the firemen and policemen and suggested my neighbor be taken to the Med for observation and emergency commitment, which was done. My neighbor was subsequently admitted to the Lakeside mental facility and ultimately to Western State (mental) Hospital in Bolivar, where he remains to this day. The family repaired the extensive smoke damage to the house that had resulted from my neighbor going out to his shed, grabbing some scrap lumber, building a fire in his converted-to-gas fireplace, and setting the mantel on fire, until fire hoses were stretched into the house to put the fire out. The house is now rented out.
Well, recently it seems some misguided dummy in the Millington Police Department responded to a 911 call by a store manager complaining of multiple shoplifting in progress by citing the manager for 911 abuse. Ultimately the case was diverted, but not before being reported in the paper, attracting 70 comments criticizing what was done to the manager. One commenter pointed out correctly that the Tennessee statute authorizing these 911 districts, TCA 7-86-102, recites as one of the law's principal intents "quicker apprehension of criminals." Now, the whole statute is peppered with repeated instances of the word "emergency," but how qualified is someone at the other end of a telephone line to make that determination, when an operator mistake can result in death, serious bodily injury, rape, or arson? Isn't someone in the process of stealing a family's only car an "emergency" to that family? What if you are walking in the neighborhood and reasonably believe you are about to be mugged or kidnapped and call 911 so the cops can get a GPS fix while you ride out the scary situation?
These 911 operators ought to pass all but the most obviously inappropriate calls on to the precincts involved, which can further evaluate the call and triage their resources to respond. If the call is found to be clearly abusive, a warning ticket should be issued, and subsequent abuse should then and only then be prosecuted. If the people running the 911 show want it as just an ambulance number, then give us 811 to call the cops, something way easier to remember than 545-COPS or your local precinct's number. Direct that 811 to whoever answers 545-COPS now. I've called that number and received the most courteous treatment from the MPD operator. I bet these 911 operators are nowhere near as qualified.