Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
The introduction of wireless device text messaging, as an alternative to a citizen placing a telephone call for police help, generates the need for new polices and processes relevant to police call-taker, police dispatcher, and police officer response to reported emergencies. Little scholarly research explores the policy issues around the use of text 9-1-1 within public safety answering point operations. Using systems theory as the foundation, the purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the potential use of written communication via a wireless device text message for reporting a police emergency. Research questions focused on the reciprocal relationships in communication used to initiate an emergency call for service and police response. A maximum variation purposeful sampling technique was used to recruit 16 individuals with knowledge of placing, receiving, or responding to a police emergency request, for this study. Data collection methods also included police call-taker observations of four active 9-1-1 calls, 9-1-1 and police radio recordings of the calls, physical artifacts, and documentation. All data were inductively coded and then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Findings indicate that text messages may be a preferred option in certain types of situations, such as home invasions, where the victim may not be able to speak to call-takers as a matter of protecting personal safety. However, the use of text messages is also perceived as creating a potential for delayed police response due to the asynchronous nature of the process. Recommendations to police executives and policy makers include enhancing call-taker training and citizen instruction prior to the text messaging integration, thereby promoting positive social change through enhancing public safety by providing another mechanism for direct citizen-police communication.