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Man Arrested for Calling 911 Over Botched McDonald's Order:
An Oregon man named Raibin Raof Osman was arrested and charged with a misdmeanor for calling 911 to get the police to resolve a dispute over a botched fast food order. Osman ordered food, took it home, and then concluded when he was home that the order was wrong (including missing some orange juice, apparently). So he went back to the McDonald's with his receipt, but the manager said that the order was given correctly. Osman refused to leave without his orange juice, and the manager threatened to call the police. Osman said to go ahead. When the police didn't arrive, Osman called 911 and asked for police assistance. Osman apparently did not misrepresent his identity or describe his situation inaccurately: He just thought it was ok to use 911 to get the police to come and get them to resolve the problem. You can listen to the 911 call here.

  The 911 operator dispatched the police, and when the police arrived, they explained that it was wrong to call 911 over a dispute like that. Osman didn't see the problem. The police then arrested Osman for improper use of 911, a misdmeanor. The statute, O.R.S. § 165.570(1)(a), states:
A person commits the crime of improper use of an emergency reporting system if the person knowingly . . calls a 9-1-1 emergency reporting system . . . for a purpose other than to report a situation that the person reasonably believes requires prompt service in order to preserve human life or property.
What do you think -- should the charges stick?

  If you're curious, there has been only one Oregon case interpreting the statute. In In re Strickland, 339 Or. 595, 124 P.3d 1225 (Or. 2005), bar disciplinary proceedings were brought against an attorney who had made a bogus 911 call as part of a broader fraud scheme. The lawyer had been charged and convicted of violating § 165.570(1)(a), and the Supreme Court of Oregon was considering the consequences of his conviction for whether he had committed professional misconduct. The court commented:
A criminal defendant acts “knowingly” when he “acts with an awareness that [his conduct] is of a nature so described or that a circumstance so described exists.” ORS 161.085(8). In other words, the accused's conviction demonstrates, at a minimum, that the accused understood that he was using the 9-1-1 system to report activities that he did not reasonably believe required prompt emergency service “in order to preserve life or property.” ORS 165.570(1).
Given the facts as stated above, has Osman violated the statute?
Ilya Somin:
Wouldn't the rule of lenity cut in favor of the defendant here?
5.29.2009 12:52am
Wisdomcube (mail):
A missing orange juice does not require prompt emergency service in order to preserve property. If by some miracle a judge did not laugh such a claim out of court the public interest in keeping the 911 emergency system smoothly operating compel the judge to enforce the statute.
5.29.2009 12:53am
Tony Tutins (mail):
McDonald's deprived Osman of his property, because it kept his money without giving him what he had paid for. So, Osman was in compliance with the statute, because by calling 9-1-1, Osman was trying to preserve his property
5.29.2009 12:53am
cd:
The statute seems to be poorly drafted. Many situations I would otherwise think would warrant a 911 call wouldn't satisfy they requirements of this section.
5.29.2009 12:53am
AJK:
It seems like he did violate the statute -- even if you want to say that the orange juice was his property it's hard to see how he could have reasonably believed that prompt service was necessary to preserve it. Of course, I would think that the manager's call was also a violation, as would plenty of other common calls (noise complaints, for instance).
5.29.2009 12:53am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Since he paid for the orange juice, its at least arguable that he's trying to preserve his property. But he had to drive all the way back to the McDonalds in the first place -- so I think he was already denied any possibility of :"prompt service."

The opening of the book Confess, Fletch has an absolutely hilarious call to the police that is the inverse of this situation.
5.29.2009 12:54am
Tony Tutins (mail):

A missing orange juice does not require prompt emergency service in order to preserve property.

So, if I reached across the counter of McDonald's and swiped an orange juice, they would not be justified in calling 911?

Good to know.
5.29.2009 12:55am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Forget about "knowingly." The key here is "reasonably believes" requires "prompt" service "to preserve human life or property." "Reasonably believes" is an objective standard. It is not reasonable to believe a dispute over orange juice must be resolved promptly in order to preserve life or property. The dispute can be resolved slowly in small claims court if need be.
5.29.2009 12:55am
CMH:
Seems like kind of a no-brainer to me. Clearly, "prompt service" wasn't required "to preserve" his life or property. His property (whether it be the money, the orange juice, or some combination) was already lost/taken from him (assuming his version of the facts). There is nothing to "preserve" at that point.

It seems like similar stories of people calling 911 over drive-through disputes pop up every now and again. This is the first one that I can remember where someone actually got charged, though.
5.29.2009 12:57am
Tony Tutins (mail):

It seems like similar stories of people calling 911 over drive-through disputes pop up every now and again.

So, you're saying this is part of a pattern of McDonald's taking money under false pretenses. In that case, Osman should have called the AUSA.
5.29.2009 1:01am
Mike& (mail):
So, if I reached across the counter of McDonald's and swiped an orange juice, they would not be justified in calling 911?

Good to know.


Home run.

This is yet another example of disparate treatment regular Joes receive.

If you take a pencil from Wal-Mart, they'll call the police on you. Yet if Wal-Mart overcharges you for something, you're supposed to kindly go to Customer Service, wait in line for hours, and hope it's resolved.

Maybe he should have called the police instead of 911.

Incidentally, I threatened to call the police on a hotel employee who threatened to charge my credit card $200 for breaking a rule I did not know existed - and of which an earlier employee told me did not exist.

If I had left that hotel with a $200 TV, they'd call the police on me. As customers, though, we're not supposed to call the cops.

Why the double standard?

Theft is theft.

Here, the McDonald's was allegedly going to steal from him.

As far as preservation of property goes, yes he needed it "prompt[ly.]"

McDonald's owns the security camera. Who knows if they would have "lost" the video footage had he waited. He needed immediate attention in order to preserver property as well as preserve evidence of criminality.

He should have called the GENERAL police line rather than 911. That said, what he did was not criminal - and it should not be.
5.29.2009 1:02am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Tony Tutins:

If I swipe $10 thousand dollars from a bank vault and hop in my car, that is 911-worthy. If I buy a $20,000 car from you paid on two installments of $10,000, and I fail to pay the second installment, that is not 911-worthy.

See the difference?
5.29.2009 1:03am
Mike& (mail):
"Reasonably believes" is an objective standard. It is not reasonable to believe a dispute over orange juice must be resolved promptly in order to preserve life or property.


He gave them money for orange juice. Money is property. So is orange juice. He wanted to preserve his property.

The dispute can be resolved slowly in small claims court if need be.


Write a bad check at McDonald's or any other large corporation. They'll call the District Attorney on you so fast. There are entire units that deal with check fraud.

Why not make corporations go to small claims court?

Again, go steal something from McDonald's. See how quickly you'll have the cops called on you.

So, you're saying this is part of a pattern of McDonald's taking money under false pretenses. In that case, Osman should have called the AUSA.



Correct. RICO.
5.29.2009 1:05am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Under this statute, if you saw a car hit a pedestrian, got the license number of the car, and then ran over to the pedestrian to find him with a couple of broken bones, it would be a crime to call 911? Neither human life nor property is in danger. Can you imagine someone getting prosecuted for the call then?
5.29.2009 1:08am
epeeist:
He shouldn't have called 911, in most situations I'd agree with the charges. However, in this instance I wonder whether the guy had the requisite mental element (what does "knowingly" mean in this context?) to violate the crime.

I also have to agree to some extent with the double-standard poster. If the McDonald's manager had called 911, the manager would not have been charged with wrongly calling 911 no matter what happened to the customer. Given the exact same incident, it seems odd that it's fine for the manager to call 911 but a crime for the customer to call?

I mean take a situation, I'm in a store complaining and the manager says "I'm calling the police". I think that, hey, I better get my story in first so I'm not arrested because of this guy's lies, so I call 911 first and then I get in trouble?
5.29.2009 1:09am
Tony Tutins (mail):

See the difference?

Yes, your analogy is inapposite.

The most similar situation I can think of is the pigeon drop, where the victim gets home and opens the envelope to find only newspaper. Is he not allowed to call 911?
5.29.2009 1:10am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):

Write a bad check at McDonald's or any other large corporation. They'll call the District Attorney on you so fast. There are entire units that deal with check fraud.


As long as they don't call 911, fine with me.


Why not make corporations go to small claims court?


Corporations go to court all the time after being ripped off. I'd venture that corporations are the number one users of the court system, after the government.
5.29.2009 1:12am
OrinKerr:
I should add that I think the government wins here on the text, but there are intruiging possibilities based on the Strickland case -- did the court read the statute (perhaps incorrectly) as requiring knowledge that the call was not reasonable?
5.29.2009 1:13am
miss p:
This is, at best, a poor use of law enforcement and judicial resources, but I think Osman has a decent claim. First, Tony Tutins is right: McDonalds would certainly claim that its employees were justified in calling 911 if Osman had swiped an orange juice. I don't see why it is any less reasonable for him to believe that his orange juice-deprivation must be resolved promptly to preserve property. Second, he didn't call 911 for any OTHER purpose than to report this incident, which is what the statute prohibits, and he certainly didn't do so knowingly. At worst, he made a mistake about the distinction between criminal and civil wrongs; he believed that police were available to him to resolve this private dispute, and he acted accordingly.

Perhaps an additional factor to consider with respect to this "reasonable belief" is the fact that Osman said something to the effect that the employee "told us that she had called the cops, but no one showed up, so that's why I called." If the employee did say she had called the police, it might be more reasonable for someone in Osman's position to believe (1) that this was the kind of problem police should handle and even (2) that he needed to stay on the premises until the problem was resolved. The latter in particular might make a reasonable person believe that the incident required prompt police attention.
5.29.2009 1:14am
AnthonyJ (mail):
Again, go steal something from McDonald's. See how quickly you'll have the cops called on you.
Cup of coffee or equivalent? Probably never; it's not worth the manager's time, even in the unlikely event that the police responded. The surprise here is that the manager didn't give them man his orange juice to make him shut up and go away.
5.29.2009 1:15am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
A pigeon drop seems like a reasonable candidate for 911 because a conman is likely to run away with the money and never be seen again. If you don't get him promptly, there will be no small claims court for you.

McDonald's, on the other hand, ain't going anywhere.
5.29.2009 1:15am
one of many:
Given the only on previous case I would definitely consider if there is an uneven application of the law. Would a person who has returned home to find their home burgled and already determined that the burglar has left be charged for calling 911 to contact the police? Certainly if the law were applied equally that would be the case and I have difficulty believing that no such calls to 911 have been placed in Oregon yet there have been no prosecutions for them.

I may be biased because there are few small towns in my vicinity where the ONLY ways to get in touch with the police to report anything are to call 911, go through the state police or learn the home number of an officer and call them at home - the existence of 911 has been used to justify the removal of the expense of having to maintain a means of contact with the police.

If 911 has been widely promoted as a means of contacting the police there may be a legitimate public expectation that 911 is the proper means of contacting the police to report any crime. I am not familiar with the situation in Oregon but that is certainly the case on the part of some town officals in New England.
5.29.2009 1:16am
OrinKerr:
Oh, and when I say that I think the government wins on the text, I think the key text is the "requires prompt service" line. Osman wanted his orange juice, and perhaps you could say he was trying to preserve it. But he just didn't need the issue resolved right way to preserve his property: He could have just bought another OJ for now and come back the next day to try to resolve his claim.
5.29.2009 1:17am
Another realist:
Given the exact same incident, it seems odd that it's fine for the manager to call 911 but a crime for the customer to call?


Why does it seem odd?

Ronald McDonald has power. You don't.

The cops aren't going to arrest Ronald McDonald—the cops won't even arrest the Hamburglar.

You're crazy if you think it works any other way. And if you're crazy —and if you persist in your craziness— then you must be dangerous. People who are a danger to society get taken by the cops for behavior modification.
5.29.2009 1:18am
BGates:
if Wal-Mart overcharges you for something, you're supposed to kindly go to Customer Service, wait in line for hours, and hope it's resolved

How much of your life have you spent waiting at Customer Service in a Wal-Mart, Mike? The next time you're there for an hour, let alone several, you might want to check to see if the lights are on.
5.29.2009 1:20am
Mike& (mail):
OK. I'll play law student hypo. Under Strickland, it seems that the standard is subjective. That "the accused understood" seems to imply that, well, he understood what he was doing was unreasonable. Under Strickland, the court should not an objective standard; although the text seems to require only a showing of a violation of the TARP standards ("the person reasonably believes").

Here, the person did not understand what he was doing was wrong. Proof of that was that he identified himself; waited for the police; and told his story without exaggerating it. If he had known what he was doing was wrong, why would he have called the police? Essentially, he would have been calling the police on himself.

More interestingly is this: The call itself was the predicate act. So the defendant literally called the police on himself by calling the police on himself!

Strickland requires that the defendant "understood that he was using the 9-1-1 system to report activities that he did not reasonably believe required prompt emergency service 'in order to preserve life or property.'" At worst, the defendant made a misunderstanding. He should not have called 911.

However, his misunderstanding was made in good faith. The defendant's actions are not to be judged under an objectively reasonable man standard. His conduct was therefore not criminal.
5.29.2009 1:21am
Random Commenter:
Osman looks (and sounds, from this story) as though he's at least one slice of bread short of a sandwich. I question the wisdom of this arrest and prosecution, particularly since Osman seems to have accurately described his situation to the dispatcher. I think if I'd been the police officer sent to check it out I'd have bought him an orange juice and told him to knock it off and hit the road.
5.29.2009 1:22am
Splunge:
If he lied about what was going on, throw the book at him. But if he didn't misrepresent the situation, they're just being vindictive dickheads. Chico's standard is unworkable and antisocial. We're going to hold 7-year-old's, for example, to a "reasonable person" standard for deciding whether to call 911 when Mommy fell over in the kitchen and won't get up? Madness.

Even if children can easily not be held to the standard, what about people with IQ 90, or confused immigrants, or mentally-ill people? These folks shouldn't be allowed to call 911, because they can't meet the "reasonable person" standard to decide whether their situation is truly urgent? Or they should worry about a Court second-guessing their decision to call? This is as bad as HMOs refusing to pay for your visit to the ER for chest pain because, ha ha, it turned out that it was just indigestion and you weren't actually having a heart attack, and if you'd read the recent article in The New York Times "Health" section about how to tell when you're having a heart attack you'd know that, you poor uneducated lower-class slob.

The police are supposed to be the triage experts here. They're not obliged to answer the call. They're supposed to decide for themselves whether this is an urgent call or not, and how fast to respond, if they respond at all. What's wrong with the dispatcher just telling the guy unless he had something else to add, she was going to list him at the bottom of the priority list, so the cops would be around in four or five hours, or possibly the next day, depending on how much paperwork they had going? It's not like they don't do that all the time. I've called them for a burglary in Boston and been told (by the dispatcher) than unless it was actually in progress they wouldn't respond at all; they had too much other stuff going on.

Seems to me that if the police actually responded, then in their judgment, based on the information they were given and for which they asked (if any), it was appropriate to do so. And they're the experts, right? If the cops themselves demonstrate they think they should respond promptly, by actually doing so, what consistent logic lets us criticize the caller for thinking they should, too?
5.29.2009 1:24am
Brent Peterson:
Osman can reasonably argue that, when he made the 911 call, he did know not that it was a crime to call 911 about the missing orange juice. Osman did, however, know that it was a crime after the police showed up and informed him of the purpose of 911. Nevertheless, Osman persisted in his request for assistance. The police then arrested him.

If you believe that Osman violated the statute, it seem to me that you would have to determine that "calls a 9-1-1 emergency reporting system" covers not just the call itself, but also the interaction with police that resulted from the initial call. That seems like a stretch to me. If the police show up as a result of your honestly mistaken view of the purpose of 911, and then you continue to engage the police, you might be wasting the police's time, but you aren't violating the statute.
5.29.2009 1:25am
miss p:
Prof. Kerr:


Oh, and when I say that I think the government wins on the text, I think the key text is the "requires prompt service" line. Osman wanted his orange juice, and perhaps you could say he was trying to preserve it. But he just didn't need the issue resolved right way to preserve his property: He could have just bought another OJ for now and come back the next day to try to resolve his claim.


What about the fact that the employee told him that the police had already been called. Might someone in this situation think that he needed to stay there until they showed up? Doesn't this add something to the circumstances through which we should interpret any "reasonable belief" that the dispute needed to be resolved right away?
5.29.2009 1:25am
Cornellian (mail):
People as dumb as this guy need to be off the streets.
5.29.2009 1:26am
Mike& (mail):
McDonald's, on the other hand, ain't going anywhere.

You're in my house. I have security cameras. I steal your money.

You're just going to leave? Come get it later? Cool.

I'll be sure to preserve the video footage. I won't say anything about "lost video footage" or a "camera malfunction."

Nope. I'll be sure to preserve that evidence for you. Just as your friendly McDonald's manager most assuredly would.

That is silly.

Oh, and consider this: You leave and what happens? The manager ensures that the other employees all have the same story.

So here, I'd argue that the only way to preserve property was to preserve evidence of criminality.

Get the cops there before the manager can "lose" the tape or get his story straight with the employees.

You want that evidence like you want an Egg McMuffin - fresh.
5.29.2009 1:26am
Tony Tutins (mail):

I question the wisdom of this arrest and prosecution, particularly since Osman seems to have accurately described his situation to the dispatcher.

Yes, the dispatcher's role is pivotal. Did she send the police out merely to make the arrest? Or is she an objective person who agreed that the 911 call was justified to preserve Osman's property?
5.29.2009 1:28am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
Mike&:

What exactly do you propose as an alternative to the current system? Should police officers be roving small claims courts? If WalMart overcharges you, should the police come down and hold a hearing right there in the store and pick a winner?

Or, do you really believe that police should not respond to theft at all?
5.29.2009 1:29am
Tony Tutins (mail):
A parting thought, from Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd:

As through this world I've traveled
I've seen lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six-gun
Some with a fountain pen
5.29.2009 1:33am
t. simenon (mail):
The real issue is he didn't know the local number for the police, so he dialed the ever memorable 9-1-1. It's a waste of resources to arrest and prosecute him for that.

I'm betting if his name was Mike Johnson, instead of Raibin Raof Osman, that they wouldn't have arrested him.
5.29.2009 1:33am
Perseus (mail):
Does flight risk matter with respect to deciding whether "prompt service" is needed "to preserve human life or property?" E.g., is a person who swipes an orange juice and runs off with it comparable to an ongoing business that takes your money but fails to give you your orange juice?

He needed immediate attention in order to preserve property as well as preserve evidence of criminality.

Is preserving evidence of criminality implied by the phrase "prompt service in order to preserve human life or property"?

IANAL, so my questions may be totally off base.
5.29.2009 1:34am
cboldt (mail):
-- The police are supposed to be the triage experts here. --
.
I agree. I called 911 to report a minor traffic accident in a parking lot. I even said "not an emergency, nobody injured in the least, but insurance claim depends on having a police report." Nobody got bent out of shape because I used 911 (no phonebook or other number handy) - and if 911 isn't equipped to obtain the service, it takes little time for them to tell a caller the correct number to use.
.
This one really escalated. The dude was in jail overnight for the call. I suppose, if they do the same for all the people similarly using 911.
5.29.2009 1:35am
DG:
{The cops aren't going to arrest Ronald McDonald—the cops won't even arrest the Hamburglar. }

I have a real hard spot for McDonalds - they still trot out Ronald to shill for their crap, but where is Hamburglar? Doing a mandatory minimum sentence for stealing fries? And what of Grimace, I ask? Poor Grimace has probably been reassigned to the McDonald's IT help desk, and is helping an assistant manager from Toledo install a new printer...
5.29.2009 1:37am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
All of this discussion just shows that universal adoption of 311 for non-emergencies is the answer.
5.29.2009 1:39am
Mike& (mail):
Or, do you really believe that police should not respond to theft at all?

Under your logic: If I steal from Wal-Mart, they should sue me in small claims court. It's a civil rather than criminal matter.

I say be even-handed. If Wal-Mart steals from me, let me treat them as they would treat me. Do not threaten to jail me for doing the same thing they would have done.

Let's say that joker had grabbed an orange juice and took off. If the manager had called 911 on this joker, do you really thing the manager would have been prosecuted? I realize this calls for some speculation.... But.... Really..... Do you think the manager would be facing jail time had he called the police? Be honest.

Incidentally, Wal-Mart got so out of hand about calling police; that police in many locales stopped answering their calls for assistance Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart store policy had to change. You can steal under some amount (I think $30) before they'll call the police on you.

My broader point stands. As consumers, we are ripped off by banks and businesses every day. This is not controversial.

When private citizens are ripped off by corporations, we're told to sue. Or fight the charges through our credit card company. Somehow, when a company steals from me, it's a civil matter.

Let me steal from the same company. Suddenly it's a criminal matter.

That attitude is the entire framework for the prosecution. It's a wrong attitude. Theft is theft. Or theft is not theft. Let's just be even-handed.
5.29.2009 1:40am
Steve:
The thing is, when you talk about Wal-Mart "stealing" from you, you are using a definition of the term that bears no resemblance to the actual criminal law.

If I buy a shoddy product from Wal-Mart, I have a civil claim against them, but they haven't "stolen" from me. Let's reverse the roles by saying Wal-Mart hires you to install new flooring in their store; if you do a crappy job, they have a claim against you, but the police are not going to show up and arrest you even though Wal-Mart supposedly has all the power. That's because the law, for lo these many centuries, recognizes a major difference between failure to provide a promised good or service and outright theft.
5.29.2009 1:47am
BGates:
You leave and what happens? The manager ensures that the other employees all have the same story.

Do the McDonald's line workers have undying devotion to the manager in spite of the fact that he's a lying crook, or are they all a part of the crime family that controls the orange juice withholding racket in that part of town?
5.29.2009 1:48am
Nugget (mail):
Do the McDonald's line workers have undying devotion to the manager

Most fast food employees have the wherewithal and resources to take moral stands instead of falling in line.....sure.....
5.29.2009 1:53am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
So your reasoning is that if you go into the automotive section of Wal Mart and smash a head light on the shelf, you should not go to jail, unless Wal Mart's employees also go to jail if Wal Mart unintentionally sells you a defective headlight. Or, both you and Wal Mart should only have a civil remedy and neither should go to jail. Correct?

No thanks. I'll take the current system.
5.29.2009 1:55am
Mike& (mail):
The thing is, when you talk about Wal-Mart "stealing" from you, you are using a definition of the term that bears no resemblance to the actual criminal law.

What are you talking about?

In California, under the "actual criminal law," [insert non-passive aggressive smilie] overcharging is a misdemeanor. L.A. County even has its own enforcement division. A overcharge is a misdemeanor offense.

A brief Google search turns up results in other states. Just type "overcharge and misdemeanor." Omit the quotes.

Here's a result for California: Google results.

So when I say, "steal," I do indeed mean, "steal." If you want to argue that overcharging isn't theft, then I guess I'd say that theft by false pretenses isn't theft, either.

I mean, it really is theft. But, hey, we're all legal theorists now! ;-)
5.29.2009 2:02am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Interesting statute which should be struck down on SDP grounds as it is extremely overinclusive. Among other things, I note that if I walk into your house (and you know me, and know I am not violent) and I sit say I will go and walk in on your wife while she is showering, and you ask me to leave, you cannot call 911 when I refuse to do so. It is not reasonable to believe that anyone's life is in danger, and I am not threatening property.

On the other hand, calling 911 because a deer is wandering (inside the fence) on the side of the freeway is justified. It IS reasonable to believe that the deer might wander into traffic and cause damage to property. Similarly reasonably avoidable but potentially damaging (to the car) items on the roadway would be subject to a 911 call. Furthermore if someone steals my $1 pen (but which has sentimental value so THAT SPECIFIC pen must be preserved) that is reason to call 911, furthermore, if someone fires a gun at you, misses, and drives off, that is not subject of a 911 call.

Apparently neither would rape.

It seems that this specific rule bears no rational connection to its stated basis and should be struck down.
5.29.2009 2:04am
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):

I sit say I will go and walk in on your wife while she is showering, and you ask me to leave, you cannot call 911 when I refuse to do so. It is not reasonable to believe that anyone's life is in danger, and I am not threatening property.


Au contraire, YOUR life is danger!
5.29.2009 2:12am
jellis58 (mail):
Hey long time reader first time poster here a very recent (two weeks) graduate of UCLA Law. I think objectivly speaking, the recovery of his OJ does not require prompt service, and that it is objectivly unreasbale to think so, so he would lose whether he subjectly belived that this situation required prompt service or not.

I think the intriguing thing here is the way the strickland court read the statute. THey seemed to think knowingly attaches not just to the conduct of calling 911 but also to the specific intent element by saying that you need to know that you do not resonably belive etc.etc. which sound a bit like a recklessness standard. I think stickland droped the ball on interpreting the statute, but seeing as its on the books i think this guy gets off becuase he woudl need to know that his belief (assuming he has such a belief; if he does not belive that this situation requires prompt service he loses) was unresonable and why would he make the call if he knew that he was being unresonable in thinking 911 was ok.
5.29.2009 2:18am
one of many:

I have a real hard spot for McDonalds - they still trot out Ronald to shill for their crap, but where is Hamburglar? Doing a mandatory minimum sentence for stealing fries? And what of Grimace, I ask? Poor Grimace has probably been reassigned to the McDonald's IT help desk, and is helping an assistant manager from Toledo install a new printer...

The Hamburglar amicably departed from McDonalds with a settlement which I am not at liberty to disclose the terms of. It was mutually agreed that it would be unwise for him to continue as an employee due to decisions in a variety of negligent-hiring suits.

Grimace has been reassigned away from public relations after that incident with the group of 4 y.o.s who kept calling him by the name of a certain purple dinosaur. After successfully completing the mandatory anger management course he has embarked upon a fulfilling career in inventory control.

Mayor McCheese ran afoul of a term limitations law, I understand he and Big Mac we last seen in Scotland, however this is my personal understanding not official information and should not be taken as a statement by McDonalds.

We have no information available on Captain Crook. We have no records of his actually having ever actually having been an employee. We hope that wherever he is, he is doing well. We cordially invite him to stop into one of the over 31,000 McDonalds worldwide to purchase a delicous Fillet-O-Fish sandwich.
5.29.2009 2:22am
Nick056:
Duffy wrote:


Under this statute, if you saw a car hit a pedestrian, got the license number of the car, and then ran over to the pedestrian to find him with a couple of broken bones, it would be a crime to call 911? Neither human life nor property is in danger. Can you imagine someone getting prosecuted for the call then?


Duffy, if I see someone hit by a car in a bone-crushing accident, I think that acting as a reasonable person, I could still believe his life needed preservation through prompt service. Whether that reasonable belief is correct doesn't matter. It's also possible that a responsible but intentionalist reading could conclude that "life or limb" is sometimes an acceptable substitute for "limb."
5.29.2009 2:24am
Nick056:
Er, a substitute or "life."

Sadly, there are no acceptable substitutes for sleep.
5.29.2009 2:25am
David Welker (www):
It seems pretty clear that he violated the statute. He knowingly called 911, and he did not reasonable believe that it was necessary to preserve "human life" (a phrase I hope would include calls necessary to prevent injuries that may not be fatal) or property. The "missing" orange juice was not in fact threatened with destruction. Even if this dispute would result in a temporary deprivation of property while he brings a small claims case against McDonald's (i.e. he payed for orange juice and didn't get it) that is not equivalent to the "destruction" of property in my mind, especially as I assume he would be entitled to interest on the damages to account for the time value of money assuming a successful lawsuit.

That said, it is probably the case that prosecutorial discretion should be exercised to not bring charges as long as he recognizes that such calls to 9-1-1 are inappropriate for the future.
5.29.2009 2:34am
Ricardo (mail):
I've heard from some cops and other first responders that 911 dispatchers often get calls, for instance, of drug deals currently taking place in their neighborhood. If that happened in Oregon, it seems that would also be a violation of this statute.

It's much more sensible to set up a single, generic, non-emergency hotline that will get routed to the local police dispatcher for these non-emergency situations rather than prosecuting cases like these. 911 has made people lazy so that no one knows the phone number of their local police dispatcher.

In any case, the guy already got arrested: I'm sure he learned his lesson just from that.
5.29.2009 3:06am
secade (mail):
Responding cops frequently inform complainants that the matter at issue is civil rather than criminal. I suspect that there are numerous people who honestly believe that a botched fast-food order, engages criminal codes. This tempest is the result of cops wanting to control 9-1-1 services. In some jurisdictions they do; in some they don't. Those services should be independent, and operators should have an awareness of the elements of the dozen or so offenses, that warrant most cop attention.

Anyone who doubts that cops often civil-ize criminal issues, would do well to read Professor Jerome Skolnick's classic "Justice Without Trial." Skolnick coined the term "unfounding" to explain how cops limit service to substantiable crime complaints.
5.29.2009 3:26am
Nick056:
Ricardo,

I largely agree with you, but do you think a person who saw a local drug transaction end in violence once might reasonably believe that getting the police to a fresh transcation very promptly might be necessary to avoid a specific shooting or stabbing? It might well suffice.
5.29.2009 3:29am
Rohan:
I think the law has the underlying assumption that everyone knows that dialing 911 contacts the "911 emergency reporting system" which is a separate entity from the police. This person on the other hand, clearly believes that dialing 911 is how you contact the police. Which is a reasonable mistake to make. I personally have no idea what the real police phone number in my city is.

I think you could make an argument that the person deliberately called "for a purpose other than to report a situation that the person reasonably believes requires prompt service in order to preserve human life or property", but that he did not knowingly call the "9-1-1 emergency reporting system." In his mind, he called the police. So he violates the second part, but not the first part, and so does not violate the statute.
5.29.2009 3:49am
JLS:
What if the customer decided to engage in self-help and returned to McDonald's and said "I would like an orange juice." When the employee brought the orange juice, the customer says "Thanks, you forgot to give me this when I bought my order earlier" and proceeds to walk out with it. The employee knows who the customer is and where he lives, but calls 911. Would the employee be arrested and subject to prosecution under the statute? If not, wouldn't this be an example of a double standard?
5.29.2009 4:10am
secade (mail):
What if a cop thought - incorrectly - that a fast-food clerk short changed him, and arrested the alleged thief? Surely the cop would be arrested for Assault.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_AZ3J9gtFY
5.29.2009 4:54am
/:
The employee knows who the customer is and where he lives, but calls 911. Would the employee be arrested and subject to prosecution under the statute? If not, wouldn't this be an example of a double standard?

As this is in a professional capacity, I'd expect the restaurant to be fined. Why would that not be reasonable?
5.29.2009 4:55am
AJK:

Would the employee be arrested and subject to prosecution under the statute? If not, wouldn't this be an example of a double standard?


It's reasonable to assume that the customer is going to drink the orange juice unless prompt service is rendered.
5.29.2009 5:55am
Franklin Drackman:
There are some things deserving imediate execution, like keying a mans automobile, especially a cherry red 66' Chevelle with a solid lifter 327...
And this...people die because of crap like this, maybe not this time, but enough..
OK, maybe executions too tough, I'd let this guy slide with a 700 volt taze...
5.29.2009 7:39am
Borris (mail):
I think the most important thing is for us to judge this person based upon "empathy".
5.29.2009 7:49am
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

I think the most important thing is for us to judge this person based upon "empathy".

I detect a touch of bitterness, Borris.
5.29.2009 8:03am
Amiable Dorsai (mail):
Whether he violated the statute or not, it strikes me that it would have better if the police had simply warned him that this was a frivolous use of 911 and told him not to do it again.
5.29.2009 8:04am
Rosooki:
The customer is always wrong.

As a business owner, I would have fired the manager for wasting his time on this. He's not being paid to fight with customers (and scare off others with the presence of the police inside) over a few cents worth of drink.

If someone went all the way home, then drove all the way back, he probably didn't get his orange juice. Give him the $%^*^$*$ orange juice and get back to managing the operation.

How much business did he lose or ruin and how much damage did he do to the reputation of the store and brand during the incident?
5.29.2009 8:11am
Sean in MA:
On several occasions, I have contacted the police through a non-emergency number to report situations that I did not feel posed an immediate threat to life or property. Every time, I have been scolded and told to call 911.

Caught between my personal experience (told to call 911 whenever police response is requested) and media stories (presenting calls to 911 to resolve minor disputes as extremely inappropriate), I have absolutely no idea what guidelines to follow. So I continue to call the non-emergency number first, and get scolded every time.

For reference, I live in Massachusetts, and the incidents in question included a person stuck in an elevator on the ground floor (the situation was inconvenient, but stable); trespassing; and a neighbor with declining mental faculties had wandered outdoors with a notable lack of pants.

I have directly called 911 twice, to report a tornado (FL) and a malfunctioning traffic light (MA, the green remained lit through the red cycle). These clearly posed a threat to life or property, and seemed like the appropriate use of 911.

The police and media need to do a much better job at explaining the proper use of 911, because a reasonable person can be completely confused. This is especially true if the policies vary from state to state.
5.29.2009 8:23am
Patent Lawyer:
Sean in MA: I've had a similar experience in NY. We have a 311 number that I thought was supposed to be used for non-threatening emergencies, and called it to report some people shooting off illegal fireworks in my neighborhood. Being from a state where it's legal to buy and sell fireworks, I don't consider it that serious. The operator transferred me to 911.
5.29.2009 8:32am
Patent Lawyer:
I should clarify, so I don't seem like a killjoy narc--the fireworks were extremely loud and being fired at 1 AM.
5.29.2009 8:33am
wht (mail):
police do a terrible job of educating people that there are other ways to contact the police (for non-emergencies). People are taught - need the police = call 911. Not need the police in an emergency = call 911/ police are needed but they can take there time = call other number (probably need to call 411 to find it).

Seriously, how often have you ever seen police explaining this to people before there is a problem.

Couldnt the dispatch person just explained that 911 is for emergencies - here is the number to contact police for non-emergency assitance.
5.29.2009 8:37am
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Small claims doesn't work that way. You pay a filing fee vastly in excess of the price of the oj, and you don't get it back if you win, unless you can find a fee shifting statute.

Here, the OJ is property satisfying the statute, and the McDonald's claim they called the cops makes it a non-trivial call. He probably has no recourse for his false arrest, either against McD or the cops. But it's bad publicity for McD.
5.29.2009 8:57am
Boblipton:
The way I read the law as presented here, if you think you're using 911 properly, there is no crime. The caller thought the situation existed, the situation did exist, and it was up to the police department to say "I'm sorry, sir, this is for life-and-death emergencies. Lack of orange juice does not constitute a life-and-death emergency."

Bob
5.29.2009 8:59am
Michael Poole (mail):
I'll echo Sean in MA's experience and concern. When living in Pittsburgh, I was taken aback when I called the normal police department phone number to report an illegally parked vehicle (that was blocking my driveway), only to be asked how I got that number and be told to call 911 instead.

For a similarly minor issue in Fairfax County, Virginia, I was glad to find that the non-emergency police number was able to dispatch officers to help.

I think part of the problem is not just poor communication of what 911 is for -- it is that the number is uniform but the scope of its use is not.
5.29.2009 9:00am
Brian S:

So your reasoning is that if you go into the automotive section of Wal Mart and smash a head light on the shelf, you should not go to jail, unless Wal Mart's employees also go to jail if Wal Mart unintentionally sells you a defective headlight. Or, both you and Wal Mart should only have a civil remedy and neither should go to jail. Correct?


Selling defective merchandise is not the same as taking money and giving NO merchandise.

The poster you're arguing with is arguing for equal treatment for equivalent acts.

The act of exchanging orange juice for money is, by definition, exchanging items of equal value. [The fact that we've agreed on a price establishes that.]

I would say that since the items are of equal value, these two actions HAVE TO BE the same:

1. Taking an orange juice without handing over the price of the juice.

2. Taking the price of the juice without handing over the orange juice.

When you start talking about whether or not the merchandise is "defective" or satisfactory, I think then you're clearly moving into civil law.

With regard to the broader discussion, I think the fact that millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to popularize the notion that when you want the police you should call 911 makes it a bit absurd to criminally punish people who then proceed to call 911 when they want the police. I also would be very interested to see the call logs for the 911 service in this area, because unless every single last call was a real emergency that resulted in the dispatch of police, or unless every caller who was judged to not have an emergency was arrested, I have to presume this defendant is being treated unfairly.
5.29.2009 9:02am
Snaphappy:
I think the government should lose under Strickland. I think the best way to describe what the defendant did is that he used the 911 system to report a situation that he believed required prompt assistance to preserve a trivial property interest, but that his belief was unreasonable; however, Strickland applies "knowingly" to the reasonableness of the defendant's belief. That is, he must not only do what I described above, he must also know that his belief is unreasonable, and I'm not sure he did.

More broadly, I'm with einhverfr. Under the statute, one should be charged for reporting a drive-by shooting in which one bullet is fired that instantly kills the victim. No one could reasonably believe that prompt service is required to preserve life. Or let's say this same individual, disgruntled over the orange juice, walks in and shoots the manager and the drive through clerk in the head and both die instantly. He then says "our dispute over the orange juice is now settled," and walks slowly away. No 911 call because property and life are not in danger. Ridiculous.
5.29.2009 9:02am
Brian S:
I would also question whether there can be such a thing as a "defensive" call to 911.

For example, if I am having a shouting argument with a neighbor, and they call 911, would I be remiss in assuming that when the police respond there will be a bias in favor of assuming that the person who made the call is the "victim", and I am the "criminal", even if our conduct in the argument has been identical? And reasoning that I better call 911 as well, to try to rebut that bias?

Maybe this guy called 911 because the McDonald's people said "We're going to call the police" and he wanted to make sure they weren't the only ones calling the police, and their story the only version of the story that would be considered.
5.29.2009 9:07am
Greg (www):
The court said, "the accused understood that he was using the 9-1-1 system to report activities that he did not reasonably believe required prompt emergency service...." I think the best reading of this is as two clauses separated by the word "that." It seems to me the requisite subjective knowledge is: 1) that you are calling 9-1-1; and, 2) the facts of the case. If you know you're calling 9-1-1 and you know why you're calling 9-1-1, then the analysis shifts to whether those facts would lead a reasonable man to believe that they required prompt emergency service.

So, this attorney would have been legally liable if he had an unreasonable, but actual, belief that the facts constituted an emergency, or if he had actual knowledge that it was unreasonable. Both of these situations can be translated into the language of the court, "the accused understood that he was using the 9-1-1 system to report activities that he did not reasonably believe required prompt emergency service...."
5.29.2009 9:12am
pintler:

This person on the other hand, clearly believes that dialing 911 is how you contact the police. Which is a reasonable mistake to make. I personally have no idea what the real police phone number in my city is.


Indeed. I once found a vehicle abandoned in suspicious circumstances. I eventually found the number of the local precinct and called. The officer there determined that the VIN and license plate didn't match, suggested it was probably stolen, and ... told me to call 911 and report it.

If I were the defendant, I would get copies of whatever publications the PD sends to e.g. block watch participants, or take some video at neighborhood meetings. Around here, the party line is clearly 'if there is any doubt, call 911 and we'll decide if it is important'. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at such a meeting where a deputy specifically asked for people to call 911 and report graffiti - not 'tagging in progress', but graffiti where the perp was long gone.
5.29.2009 9:15am
U.Va. Grad:
It seems to me that there are two plausible interpretations of the statute, depending on how you read "knowingly" and its application to different elements of the offense.

Case 1: A person violates the law if he (1) knowingly calls 911 and (2) knowingly has a purpose for the call (that is objectively unreasonable).

Case 2: A person violates the law if he (1) knowingly calls 911, (2) knowingly has a purpose for the call, and (3) knows the purpose is objectively unreasonable.

Of course, a person is always going to knowingly call 911 and know the purpose for his call. But is the "objectively unreasonable" component used simply to evaluate the purpose, or does the offense require that the person know the purpose was unreasonable?

I'm inclined to favor Case 2. Because I think there are two plausible interpretations of the statute, the rule of lenity should favor that construction, which is more defendant-friendly. I also think there are strong policy reasons supporting this reading: we don't want people to be afraid to call 911 because someone might tell them, after the fact, that their reason for calling 911 was objectively unreasonable.

The Oregon Supreme Court seems to have gone for Case 2 in Strickland, and it's worth noting that Case 2 preserves guilt for, among other things, fraud cases (like Strickland) or prank calls. But with Case 2, you're not punishing people who honestly believed they had a valid reason to call 911, even though that reason may, in hindsight, be objectively unreasonable.
5.29.2009 9:16am
Cash:
I'm confused.

Customer has a dispute with McD's about orange juice he paid for. Manager calls cops. Customer calls cops. Cops arrive and arrest customer for misuse/abuse of 911 system.

Why was the manager not arrested? Because he called 311 or some other non-emergency number? (Which explains why cops didn't bother to show up.)

Or was manager just bluffing about having called the cops as a way to get the customer to leave?

Why didn't the manager just give the guy his juice and be done with it? Juice costs pennies and a savvy manager knows that any customer irate enough to come back into the store over such a penny ante matter ought to be given what he wants.
5.29.2009 9:21am
CMB (mail):
So what does Osman do? He believes he has been wronged. The manager threatens him with a 911 call. But Osman knows he is in the right, so he invites such a call. But Osman may not call 911. What should he have done?

Is the simple answer that he should call the local precint instead of using the 911 system? In which case, the department will send a squad car around when one is available? If this is also impermissible, we are offering all irrational fast food restaurants a license to steal.

On a side note, what a terrible business decision. Even if the manager believed Osman was wrong, just give him a damn OJ. Perhaps there is more to the story.
5.29.2009 9:31am
Waste (mail):
As a 911 operator I have no problem with him being charged. We get a large number of calls like this with over 80% of the calls are non emergencies. Barking dogs, solicitors in the neighborhood, etc. People calling because of car accidents isn't a problem, it's the other calls where the caller doesn't want to look up a number. I hear on a regular basis that the reason they didn't call the regular number was that they didn't know what it was. You can get directory assistance from a cell phone.

A couple other things. Some departments require a police response to any 911 call. Without knowing the procedures for the department in question the fact that the dispatcher sent an officer does not indicate the dispatcher thought it was an emergency. Many agencies require a response because of liability issues.

As for those that say he was just trying to protect his property and that it was theft. I don't know the statutes for that state but I very much doubt it would be considered theft. In most cases it would be seen as a civil issue and not criminal. He purchased a product and then tried to return it because something was missing. The store manager said the order was correctly filled. Basically it sounds like a contract dispute which should be a civil issue.

911 is an emergency number. Please use it as such. Immediate threats to life or property. Not because the neighbor has his bass to high. When we pick up that 911 line we may be putting another one on hold. And the one on hold or the one ringing could be an actual emergency.

I don't know of any agency that routinely cites for this. In the eleven years I've been dispatching I've seen an officer cite someone once for misuse of 911. Though there have been a number of other times it could have been.
5.29.2009 9:35am
Blue:
"On several occasions, I have contacted the police through a non-emergency number to report situations that I did not feel posed an immediate threat to life or property. Every time, I have been scolded and told to call 911."

Yep. In Austin I've been told to call 911 for loud student parties (and we have a 311 system).
5.29.2009 9:45am
Snaphappy:
UVA grad: The Supreme Court just ruled a couple of weeks ago in Flores-Figueroa v. U.S. that "knowingly" applies to all of the elements of the offense. There, the question was whether an alien who used a fake social security number without realizing that it was a real number assigned to someone else was guilty of aggravated identity theft because he "knowingly" used a means of identification "of another person." The Court rejected the government's reading that he could be guilty of the crime so long as he knowingly used a means of identification that was not his own, even if he had no idea whether it actually belonged to someone else.

"As a matter of ordinary English grammar, 'knowingly' is naturally read as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime."
5.29.2009 9:50am
ChrisIowa (mail):
Osman reasonably thought the manager of the McDonald's was in danger, because if the police did not arrive promptly he (Osman) was going to seriously injure him (the manager)
5.29.2009 10:00am
mls (www):
It seems to me that the term "knowingly" can't modify "reasonably believes" because that would negate the term "reasonably." I suppose that it is theoretically possible for someone to actually believe something that they know to be unreasonable, but I doubt that the legislature was trying to make that fine a distinction. It seems more likely that the knowing requirement applies only to the dialing of 9-1-1 (ie, it isn't a misdial or a mistaken belief that you are calling someone else).

The language of Strickland, however, does seem to suggest the contrary. In that case the defendant apparently did not actually believe what the statute requires, so perhaps the court's language is dicta.
5.29.2009 10:14am
Asher (mail):
The statute seems to be poorly drafted. Many situations I would otherwise think would warrant a 911 call wouldn't satisfy they requirements of this section.

Seriously. As I'm sure some above have pointed out, there are all sorts of non life-threatening cases of assault and battery that surely merit a 911 call.
5.29.2009 10:34am
Oren:

Seriously. As I'm sure some above have pointed out, there are all sorts of non life-threatening cases of assault and battery that surely merit a 911 call.

Human life is generally interpreted to include the integrity of that life -- i.e. serious injuries. Moreover, a man that has assaulted or battered you is likely to do so again or, if he ran away, is likely to require prompt retrieval to avoid the chance that he will elude justice entirely.

I'm with Orin on the merits -- he should have called the non-emergency line.

In Illinois, if you call 9-11 and the first words out of your mouth are (to the effect of) "non-emergency", they will happily either forward you to the proper non-emergency police line or just hang up on you if they are busy. We were taught to do that in those cases if you can't remember the non-emergency phone number (and, seriously, who does?). It places virtually no burden on the call center.
5.29.2009 10:42am
Oren:

It seems to me that the term "knowingly" can't modify "reasonably believes" because that would negate the term "reasonably."

Sure it can. For instance, if I leave my phone in my pocket and accidentally hit the speed dial button for 911, I didn't knowingly make the call, even though I reasonably believed it wasn't necessary to call the police.
5.29.2009 10:43am
Oren:

For reference, I live in Massachusetts, and the incidents in question included a person stuck in an elevator on the ground floor (the situation was inconvenient, but stable); trespassing; and a neighbor with declining mental faculties had wandered outdoors with a notable lack of pants.

(1) Non-emergency (stable)
(2) Emergency (threat to property owner)
(3) Emergency (threat to himself/others)

Seems easy enough to me. More annoying is the fact that the 911 operators in Mass have to announce that the call is recorded -- it's 911 of course it's *****ing recorded!
5.29.2009 10:47am
Andy Bolen (mail):
Yes.
5.29.2009 10:55am
Eric Blair (mail):
Wasn't this scenario on "Southland" already?
5.29.2009 10:58am
Fedya (www):
The same thing happened in Florida.

On the other hand, police were called to a school in Vantaa, Finland (near Helsinki) when one of the students complained about not getting enough fish sticks in his school lunch.
5.29.2009 11:03am
Penguins Fan:
I (also in Pittsburgh) had an experience somewhat similar to Michael Poole's. I didn't think a 2 AM noise complaint warranted a 911 call, so I figured out which zone I was in and dialed the non-emergency number listed on the web site. The phone rang, and rang, and rang ... I gave up and called 911. The dispatcher who answered didn't bat an eyelash, even though I felt decidedly foolish.
5.29.2009 11:20am
wht (mail):

As a 911 operator I have no problem with him being charged. We get a large number of calls like this with over 80% of the calls are non emergencies. Barking dogs, solicitors in the neighborhood, etc. People calling because of car accidents isn't a problem, it's the other calls where the caller doesn't want to look up a number. I hear on a regular basis that the reason they didn't call the regular number was that they didn't know what it was. You can get directory assistance from a cell phone.

A couple other things. Some departments require a police response to any 911 call. Without knowing the procedures for the department in question the fact that the dispatcher sent an officer does not indicate the dispatcher thought it was an emergency. Many agencies require a response because of liability issues.

As for those that say he was just trying to protect his property and that it was theft. I don't know the statutes for that state but I very much doubt it would be considered theft. In most cases it would be seen as a civil issue and not criminal. He purchased a product and then tried to return it because something was missing. The store manager said the order was correctly filled. Basically it sounds like a contract dispute which should be a civil issue.

911 is an emergency number. Please use it as such. Immediate threats to life or property. Not because the neighbor has his bass to high. When we pick up that 911 line we may be putting another one on hold. And the one on hold or the one ringing could be an actual emergency.

I don't know of any agency that routinely cites for this. In the eleven years I've been dispatching I've seen an officer cite someone once for misuse of 911. Though there have been a number of other times it could have been.

So you get 80% non-emergency calls. At that rate I would say the problem is yours not the callers. You either do not have a nice 311 non-emergency system, or have the system but have failed to let people know when to call which number. You also have the actual officers and communtity outreach people drum into people's head that the proper way to contact police if you need assistance is to dial 911.

When a system has an 80% failure rate its time to look at the people who designed the system not the users. Either the system is badly designed or poorly explained if your failure rate is that high, while there are loads of stupid people, that failure rate is way to high to blame on the people using the system. Way to blame the citenzenry for implementation of system that seems to be designed to fail 8 out of 10 times its used.
5.29.2009 11:27am
flashman (mail):
As probably the only cop posting on this...and I strongly agree with "Waste's" (the 911 operator) comments posted above.....

This is a dream arrest for any cop and, at least where I have worked, we talk about these things during shift briefings.

We get these types of calls every day, from people unable to control their precious little cretinous children to complaints about how a neighbor is shoveling snow. It’s all part of the belief that “community policing” is a concept designed to solve and / or resolve everyone’s petty grievance. As a result, it has led to poor problem solving by some citizens (they fear talking to their neighbor or that it might result in a disagreement) and an increasingly intrusive law enforcement presence in everyone’s lives. It would appear Oregon lawmakers have made an effort to more carefully define the purpose of law enforcement, with mixed results.

Where I work we typically avoid these situations (we have no law on 911 misuse unless we want to try and charge them with obstruction…an understandably impossible task) by arguing that the dispute is civil, not criminal. In this case I’d make the same argument to both parties, i.e., there was a contract entered to provide a product or service and there is a dispute as to the adequacy or sufficiency of the results. Take it to small claims court! However, I’m not going to second-guess the responding officers’ decision. Simply put, was there probably cause to make an arrest? Was the arrest feasible, acceptable, and suitable, given the situation?

I also suspect there was more to this situation than reported. The law is obviously written to allow what you lawyers would probably see as “loopholes” or “vagueness” while we cops would see the same “loopholes” as opportunities to exercise discretion. Having shown up on literally hundreds of these types of calls, and being told by citizens how to do my job, I could easily envision a scenario where something similar happened here. Osman demanded a law enforcement response, and he got one, albeit one that was unexpected. I’ve arrested the reporting party more than once (especially in situations involving domestic violence) so it’s not too much of a stretch that something similar happened here. Before you jump to criticize and condemn officer discretion, remember, it’s this “discretion” that keeps may of you in business. I’d even go so far as to say it’s this discretion that has prevented some from going to jail because the “totality of the circumstances,” despite what may be reasonably considered “probable cause” for an arrest, results in no arrest at all or, for that matter, a summons and release only.

For those that thing this was appropriate for Osman to call 911....you're begging for an increasingly repressive police state where law enforcement can and should be involved in virtually every dispute of every kind. I suspect you'll parse your arguments without accepting the fuller responsibility they demand, but from a large system perspective, do you really think calling 911 in this instance is appropriate? Osman should have resolved this differently.
5.29.2009 11:29am
Gramarye:
I think Osman loses on the ground that his belief that prompt service was needed to preserve his orange juice was objectively unreasonable. I have seen other posters in this thread, such as U.Va. Lawyer, suggest that the statute should be read in such a way that a defendant is only liable under it if he [subjectively] knows that his belief was objectively unreasonable. I don't think that that's how the statute reads, grammatically ("knowingly" does not modify "reasonably believes" within the prepositional phrase beginning with "for the purpose ..."), and I also think that such an interpretation of a fairly common phrase would be contrary to how that phrase is generally interpreted in other contexts. Courts do not generally inquire whether a defendant knew he was being unreasonable; at least, I can think of no statutes requiring such an interpretation. I think "reasonably believes" is, in practice, a legal term of art that essentially signals any court to apply an objective test to the reasonableness of whatever belief is put in issue by the relevant law.

Therefore, I believe that the court would be called on to assess the reasonableness of Osman's belief that the situation required prompt service, not whether Osman subjectively knew that he was being objectively unreasonable in making the call. (I see little difference between the latter and a flatly subjective standard that would read the word "reasonably" entirely out of the statute.) While that means that a judge has to apply his or her own perspective to the matter, I don't see that Osman's call was "for a purpose other than to report a situation that the person reasonably believes requires prompt service in order to preserve human life or property." It was for the purpose of reporting a situation that he unreasonably believed required prompt service in order to preserve property.

The McDonalds was not going anywhere. A reasonable person would know that the restaurant would have more orange juice available should he prove himself entitled to such a recovery. A reasonable person would also know that the franchisee had sufficient assets to satisfy the claim by paying the value of the orange juice. With all due respect to Mike&, this is clearly a civil matter for breach of a sales contract, not a criminal matter of overcharging, if such a statute even exists in Oregon. (The only one I could find in a quick search was one relating to overcharging by entities engaged in the transport of persons or household goods, perhaps written in response to consumer complaints about being bilked by their movers--a not uncommon occurrence and a subject on which I could engage in a protracted and cathartic rant, but which would be off-topic here.) The 911 dispatcher is supposed to be for emergencies.

The reason a store or restaurant is justified in calling the police on a vandal or shoplifter is that such actions really are criminal, and prompt service is necessary to catch someone who is likely going to be extremely hard to catch once the trail goes cold. A single individual can vanish much more easily than a Wal-Mart. Therefore, the store really does need prompt service to protect its property. The individual with a grievance against the store does not need emergency service from the police, both because the matter in question is civil (at least, under facts like these) and because the store generally isn't going anywhere.
5.29.2009 11:34am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Is the Aloha, Oregon, police non-emergency line manned at 11:41 at night? Or do you merely get a recording to call back the next day?

I blame the late-night drive through. Locked behind glass, the employees are free to ignore the customers they've screwed out of their orange juice.

The one and only time I used a LNDT, at a Carl's Jr., when I unwrapped my sandwich at the motel room I found my chicken sandwich had metamorphosed into a jalapeno burger. No wonder the girl employees were giggling when they handed it to me, I thought.
5.29.2009 11:36am
cboldt (mail):
-- With all due respect to Mike&, this is clearly a civil matter for breach of a sales contract, not a criminal matter of overcharging, if such a statute even exists in Oregon. --
.
That's how it starts. But if the customer refuses to leave, faced with a proprietor demand to leave, then the situation has the potential to become a legitimate venue for action by the police.
5.29.2009 11:44am
wht (mail):

Where I work we typically avoid these situations (we have no law on 911 misuse unless we want to try and charge them with obstruction…an understandably impossible task) by arguing that the dispute is civil, not criminal. In this case I’d make the same argument to both parties, i.e., there was a contract entered to provide a product or service and there is a dispute as to the adequacy or sufficiency of the results. Take it to small claims court! However, I’m not going to second-guess the responding officers’ decision. Simply put, was there probably cause to make an arrest? Was the arrest feasible, acceptable, and suitable, given the situation?

So basically what you are saying is McDonalds is free to steal because you shouldnt be bothered having to deal with it because nobody in their right mind is going to pay more to litigate in smalls claims court than the orange juice is worth.

If McDonald's charged you for something, and refused to give it you - What would you, as a police officer do. I am about 100% sure that you would not end up settling the dispute in smalls claims court.
5.29.2009 11:48am
Some Dude:

Splunge:
If he lied about what was going on, throw the book at him. But if he didn't misrepresent the situation, they're just being vindictive dickheads.



I gotta agree. It didn't have to go down like that. The dispatcher could have politely told him 911 wasn't the place to call and maybe even connect him to someone else. The fact that the dispatcher did send the police is an indication that he did agree that police were needed.

I think a warning would be prudent. If he repeatedly called, that would be another thing.
5.29.2009 11:51am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
I imagine it seemed to him like a crime in progress - the manager is stealing from him right before his eyes at that moment.
5.29.2009 11:53am
DCP:


So he went back to the McDonald's with his receipt, but the manager said that the order was given correctly.


Does this mean that he was never charged for any orange juice? It's possible he ordered some but for whatever reason (intercom glitch, miscommunication, hitting the OJ button on the computer didn't register, etc.) that his order just never went through and he was never even charged for any orange juice.

At fast food places, the people who take the orders punch buttons on a keyboard and those orders are then prepared and sacked by someone behind the curtain who is reading the order off a screen. If they don't see OJ on the screen, they don't put OJ in the bag, and the guy who spoke OJ into the intercom typically doesn't realize any of this until he gets home and unpacks his breakfast, knowing that he ordered an OJ that is missing.

It seems from the story that the manager explained all of this to him using his receipt. Either that or the manager is accusing him of lying and making a second round trip (with gas at $2.50/gal) just to steal a free 6 oz. OJ, which seems ridiculous even by the standards of a fast food employee.

It seems to me the events unfolded as follows:

Idiot who looks like the missing link comes into McDonald's complaining that he never got his orange juice.

Manager looks at receipt and tells him he was never charged for orange juice, and that if he wants one he can gladly purchase it.

Idiot throws a temper tantrum, necessitating the summoning of police.

Idiot calls 911 to report the great orange juice fraud of 2009.

Cops respond to 911 call and politely tell idiot that 911 is for emergency use only and explain the normal procedures he should have used.

Idiot throws temper tantrum #2 over this "injustice" and is swiftly arrested for pissing off the police violation of O.R.S. § 165.570(1)(a).
5.29.2009 12:09pm
Dave N (mail):
I am not taking McDonald's side here, but why is everyone assuming that Osman is completely right and McDonald's completely wrong vis-a-vis the orange juice?

I don't know either way (though I acknowledge it seems like a bit of a hassle to scam McDonalds out of 8 ounces of orange juice) but everyone automatically taking Osam's side is assuming facts not in evidence.
5.29.2009 12:31pm
AJK:


In Illinois, if you call 9-11 and the first words out of your mouth are (to the effect of) "non-emergency", they will happily either forward you to the proper non-emergency police line or just hang up on you if they are busy.


Not in my experience (in Chicago). I've called the non-emergency line several times (mostly to report different kinds of vandalism) and they sent me to 911 every time. Eventually I started calling 911 the first time, and I've never had a problem.
5.29.2009 12:35pm
pete (mail) (www):

I don't know either way (though I acknowledge it seems like a bit of a hassle to scam McDonalds out of 8 ounces of orange juice) but everyone automatically taking Osam's side is assuming facts not in evidence.


Probably because most commentators have a similar experience with going home to find that their fast food order was messed up. My favorite was when my family arrived home with a big order from Sonic and 2 of the hamburgers had no meat in them.
5.29.2009 12:53pm
Oren:
AJK, I think that's in line with what I said -- the advice is call 911 but make it very clear that you are low priority. Maybe when they said they "forwarded" me, they just put me on hold until they had a free minute to deal with a low-priority call.
5.29.2009 12:55pm
Greg (www):
While I think the best reading of the court's interpretation of the statute is to require subjective knowledge of the call and of the facts that would make it objectively unreasonable to conclude it's an emergency, I think the court's reasoning here is best seen as dicta. The court wasn't asked to interpret the criminal statute, the defendant had stipulated he violated it. They were determining whether his violation of that statute also violated the professional ethics standards. So, while the court finds that the statute requires "at least knowledge," they actually determine that he acted with intent.

The better place to look for this would be to see if there are any jury instructions for this misdemeanor. Apparently, the defendant was convicted by a jury and then by a circuit court.
5.29.2009 12:59pm
Mikee (mail):
I have gotten wrong orders also at a McD's and at many other places. Whatever happened to caveat emptor? I learned as a child to count what was in the bag before leaving the checkout or drive through.

A dispute of this type cannot be settled factually, except by the business extending customer good will and giving a juice away to any claimant, or going to the video tapes to prove it one way or another. Is a juice worth this time and effort to McD's? To the customer? Neither, one would think, and in this case be quite wrong.
5.29.2009 1:10pm
Dan Weber (www):
Manager looks at receipt and tells him he was never charged for orange juice, and that if he wants one he can gladly purchase it.

Do we know that he was never charged for the OJ? The linked article doesn't mention that.
5.29.2009 1:12pm
DCP:

Do we know that he was never charged for the OJ? The linked article doesn't mention that.


No, I was just speculating, as was everyone else when they assumed that he did pay for an OJ which was not provided.

If someone came in with a receipt and possibly a bag of food with no OJ and said McDonalds had shorted them, my guess is that any manager would simply assume he was telling the truth and toss him an OJ (which probably represents about 10 cents on McDonald's inventory cost).

I've gone back in without a receipt and told them they forgot something and they usually just hand it over. It's typically not worth the hassle to investigate these kinds of things.
5.29.2009 1:29pm
Aultimer:

Oren:

Human life is generally interpreted to include the integrity of that life -- i.e. serious injuries. Moreover, a man that has assaulted or battered you is likely to do so again or, if he ran away, is likely to require prompt retrieval to avoid the chance that he will elude justice entirely.


Even if the words "preserve human life" magically include "serious injury to human life" that would suggest that I can't call 911 when being threatend with lesser assault - think taser or bullwhip or waterboarding, or with crimes like wrongful imprisonment where injury isn't a element of the crime and may not occur at all. The statute is indefensible and should be redrafted to include the concepts of emergent circumstances and apparently criminal conduct.
5.29.2009 1:43pm
whit:

First, Tony Tutins is right: McDonalds would certainly claim that its employees were justified in calling 911 if Osman had swiped an orange juice. I don't see why it is any less reasonable for him to believe that his orange juice-deprivation must be resolved promptly to preserve property.


the difference is that if he swiped the orange juice, (and committed a crime btw. swiping it is a CRIME. not providing the orange juice, unless you know it was done intentionally is a civil matter fwiw), a crime had just occurred and a 911 call is justified because there is a risk of the suspect FLEEING.

also, it's technically a crime in progress, since taking the stolen property from the store is a continuation of the theft, etc.

mcdonald's is not going to FLEE. the difference is that the man can call the NON-EMERGENCY police # without fear that mcdonald's will run off into the night.

that is the critical difference.
5.29.2009 1:49pm
whit:

I've gone back in without a receipt and told them they forgot something and they usually just hand it over. It's typically not worth the hassle to investigate these kinds of things.



and attitude matters. several articles have pointed out that the guy was arrested AFTER he kept refusing to acknowledge to the officer that he should NOT have called 911.

iow, if the guy could have simply had some common sense and said "my bad", he probably would NOT have been arrested, since the officer more likely would have given a warning.

like i have said 1 million times before (and i see verified nearly every day in my law enforcement experience), talking to the police is often a good idea (even if accused of a crime), but being a buttmunch isn't.

was it an "attitude arrest?" to some extent, probably.

most likely, he exhibited the same attitude to mcdonald's about his allegedly missing orange juice. it's not just what you say, it's how you say it.
5.29.2009 1:54pm
whit:

So basically what you are saying is McDonalds is free to steal because you shouldnt be bothered having to deal with it because nobody in their right mind is going to pay more to litigate in smalls claims court than the orange juice is worth.

If McDonald's charged you for something, and refused to give it you - What would you, as a police officer do. I am about 100% sure that you would not end up settling the dispute in smalls claims court.



here's a frigging hint. mcdonald's survives on reputation of providing fast, hot , decent, tasty (at least considering how many people go there, myself included) food.

it is not in their best interests to rip people off, assuming that happened in this case (and i'm not). it sounds likely they never CHARGED him for the orange juice, as several other posters have said.

regardless, i have responded to civil type incidents like this, and i do what the other poster said. i explain that it's CIVIL, that i'm not a lawyer and can't offer legal advice, but if *i* was in the situation i would politely make my case to the management, and if that didn't work, consider small claims court.

if mcdonald's charged me for something and didn't provide it, i would politely explain my side (actually this happened once, but it wasn't at mcdonald's. i was in uniform so i was especially cautious not to appear officious or be using my authority. i simply got charged the wrong price for something and they corrected it) and hope they agreed. if they didn't. i'd ask for the managers name i was talking to and LEAVE.

mcdonald's survives because they treat people fairly. people have the choice not to go to mcdonald's, to picket them, to complain about them, etc. they can call the BBB, they can write a letter to the editor, etc.

but being a buttmunch rarely helps the situation, and sometimes ... wait for it...

even when you are in the right, it's better just to walk away.

i know that may shock some people (especially lawyers) who want to turn everything into a federal case. sometimes, you just accept the loss and move on (i learned that as a futures trader, too).
5.29.2009 2:03pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
AJK, probably depends on the state, but here in Washington State, 911 is sort of a catchall "emergency" services number. I have called 911 from my cell phone for a number of reasons including:

1) Obstacles in roadway
2) Injured deer on the side of the roadway
3) Deer wandering on the freeway shoulder
4) Report motorists in need of assistance.

I have also called 911 (not knowing it was 911) because my car was broken down by the side of the road. Apparently the yellow motor vehicle assistance boxes in Seattle connect you to 911.

Evidently it is different in Oregon. However, in all of my cases except the motorist in need of assistance cases, it would probably meet the basic definitions in the Oregon statute.
5.29.2009 2:09pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I also suspect there was more to this situation than reported. The law is obviously written to allow what you lawyers would probably see as “loopholes” or “vagueness” while we cops would see the same “loopholes” as opportunities to exercise discretion. ...Before you jump to criticize and condemn officer discretion, remember, it’s this “discretion” that keeps may of you in business. I’d even go so far as to say it’s this discretion that has prevented some from going to jail because the “totality of the circumstances,” despite what may be reasonably considered “probable cause” for an arrest, results in no arrest at all or, for that matter, a summons and release only.
I understand why the police like "discretion", but it can be, and often is, abused. What it gives us is a legal system of men, instead of one of laws. You piss of the cops, for example by being an 18 year old male doing what they do naturally, and you get arrested for something that the cops let go by, day in and day out. That isn't "law" in my view, but rather tyranny.

Providing too many laws, and then empowering the police to enforce just those laws that they want to, when they want to, just cheapens the laws on the books and opens the system up to abuse.

I may be overly sensitive to this, having received adverse discretionary treatment from the police starting when I was maybe 16, and extending to the present. At least now, they no longer actually charge me with crimes or offenses for things that they allow 95% of the time (instead, they are used as pretexts for traffic stops). But back in my youth, this sort of abuse of police discretion was common - and I was white middle-class, with an attorney for a father. Imagine if I had been Black under-class.
5.29.2009 2:17pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
OrinKerr wrote:

Oh, and when I say that I think the government wins on the text, I think the key text is the "requires prompt service" line. Osman wanted his orange juice, and perhaps you could say he was trying to preserve it. But he just didn't need the issue resolved right way to preserve his property: He could have just bought another OJ for now and come back the next day to try to resolve his claim.


However, on text, the following should be prosecuted too under the same statute:

Suspect swipes the orange juice, tells the manager it was owed to him, walks outside, and pours it on the ground. THere is no longer any property to preserve, so the manager is barred from calling 911.

Individual arrives home after a two-week vacation to find their home ransacked and some valuables stolen. Clearly there is no reasonable belief that prompt service is necessary to preserve the stolen property.

It seems to me that this statute doesn't seem to pass rational basis review since, on text, one couldn't even call to report a rape after the attacker fled.
5.29.2009 2:23pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Bruce Hayden wrote:

I understand why the police like "discretion", but it can be, and often is, abused. What it gives us is a legal system of men, instead of one of laws. You piss of the cops, for example by being an 18 year old male doing what they do naturally, and you get arrested for something that the cops let go by, day in and day out. That isn't "law" in my view, but rather tyranny.


And this is one thing the due process clause is supposed to prevent.
5.29.2009 2:27pm
M N Ralph:
It seems like the cops tried to be reasonable with the guy but that he pushed his luck a little too much. From the story:


When sheriff's deputies arrived at the McDonald's, Osman was unwilling to listen to deputies explain that 9-1-1 wasn't in the business of straightening out fast food orders, said Sgt. David Thompson, spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

"The deputy basically said, 'You can't use 9-1-1 for that reason,'" Thompson explained. "It's not an emergency. (Osman) said he didn't know how to get the non-emergency number. The guy had a Blackberry. He could have dialed 4-1-1 or got it off the Internet. There are payphones all over the parking lot, with phonebooks hanging from them.

"He could have come up with the non-emergency number just like everyone else does."

Thompson said Osman tried to argue that he had the legal right to call the police.

"He said it was a 'freedom of speech' issue," Thompson said. "He was not open to having the deputy educate him."


Not only did Osman violate the statute, but he was too stupid not to shut up when the police were going to let him off the hook with just a warning. The idiot got what he deserved.
5.29.2009 2:34pm
lucia (mail) (www):
In Illinois, if you call 9-11 and the first words out of your mouth are (to the effect of) "non-emergency", they will happily either forward you to the proper non-emergency police line or just hang up on you if they are busy.


Not in Lisle, Illinois. This issue came up in a village board meeting I attended to excess noise from a sports complex. We are supposed to call 9-1-1 for noise complaints. (I expressed amazement, but afterwards called 9-1-1 when complaining.)
5.29.2009 2:35pm
M N Ralph:

was it an "attitude arrest?" to some extent, probably.

most likely, he exhibited the same attitude to mcdonald's about his allegedly missing orange juice. it's not just what you say, it's how you say it.


As the old saying goes, "you can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride." In this case, the guy shouldn't beat the rap.
5.29.2009 2:36pm
A. Non E. Mouse (mail):
I hope the gummint doesn't start prosecuting people left and right for inappropriate calls to 911.

A very good friend of mine (a highly educated and accomplished person who normally has common sense) called 911 because her kitchen was flooded--turns out the hose to the water dispenser in the fridge had been crimped and cut and was leaking water all over the place. She didn't know what to do and was panicking.

I'm glad she wasn't arrested. The fridge was scooched that day by the caterers of the reception for her husband's funeral. She was clearly distraught by grief and couldn't handle the additional stressor.

But should she be treated more gently than this poor slob because she is college faculty and her husband was a doctor and community leader?

I can imagine how the poor slob felt so defensive, like an animal being backed into a corner, when the store employee said they'd called the cops on him. Just as panicked as the grieving widow.

The store behaved abominably and it's one more reason why I hate McDonald's and do my best never to go there. The bad PR they get out of this cost them a lot more than the $1.29 for the goddamned orange juice. Whatever happened to customer service?
5.29.2009 2:42pm
M N Ralph:
By the way, was anyone else reminded of this gem from the presidential election?
5.29.2009 2:43pm
Eric Muller (www):
Isn't any McDonald's meal "a situation that ... requires prompt service in order to preserve human life?"
5.29.2009 2:43pm
whit:

It seems to me that this statute doesn't seem to pass rational basis review since, on text, one couldn't even call to report a rape after the attacker fled


i would expect nothing better from oregon.

hippies shouldn't be able to write law.
5.29.2009 2:43pm
whit:

The store behaved abominably and it's one more reason why I hate McDonald's and do my best never to go there. The bad PR they get out of this cost them a lot more than the $1.29 for the goddamned orange juice. Whatever happened to customer service?



actually, i think the exact opposite is supported. first of all, as far as i can tell mcdonald's acted reasonably. he refused to leave. what are they supposed to do when they want somebody to leave and a person refuses to do so (the crime is referred to as trespass fwiw)... CALL THE POLICE.

i have probably been to about 100 or more calls by businesses based on (usually unruly) customers who are refusing to leave. the VAST majority of the time, once confronted by police, they... wait for it... LEAVE. problem solved. mcdonald's did the right thing.

oh, and i'm sure the fact that you "hate mcdonald's and do my best never to go there" has NOTHING to do with your analysis of the fact pattern such that you conclude mcd's is the bad guy here.

nope, no bias there. :l
5.29.2009 2:49pm
M N Ralph:

For those that thing this was appropriate for Osman to call 911....you're begging for an increasingly repressive police state where law enforcement can and should be involved in virtually every dispute of every kind. I suspect you'll parse your arguments without accepting the fuller responsibility they demand, but from a large system perspective, do you really think calling 911 in this instance is appropriate? Osman should have resolved this differently.


Best comment on the thread.
5.29.2009 2:58pm
Some Dude:
Payphones!? I find that hard to believe.
5.29.2009 3:39pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Yet another commenter from Massachusetts - in my small city also 911 is the number to reach the police for anything. There is a 7-digit (10-digit) number, but it goes to the same phone.
And our police are regularly sent out on "peace-keeping" calls.

As for McD's, I go there way too much, but sometimes they take the order wrong, sometimes they fill the order wrong, and the other night they sent me to the "Parking for Drive Thru Only" area before charging me, and when the guy came out with my order he was so busy rushing to give the order to the next person, whose order he'd held so he only had to make one trip in the rain, that I didn't have a chance to tell him. Something is wrong more often than everything is right the first time.
5.29.2009 3:48pm
Hippo (mail):
Whit has it right - this was an "attitude arrest". The man didn't want to listen to an explanation of the proper
use of 911 emergency services and the proper way to contact police.
Another poster:
"Whether he violated the statute or not, it strikes me that it would have better if the police had simply warned him that this was a frivolous use of 911 and told him not to do it again."
Which is exactly what they tried to do.
He's learned his lesson and the legal question is moot because the charges will be dropped.
5.29.2009 4:02pm
NickM (mail) (www):
whit - your analysis of why the system is broken if 80% of the calls are nonemergencies has a logical flaw. 80% of the calls is not the same as 80% of the callers or 80% of the population. A few clueless people can make a lot of junk calls, while the average person does not use 911 very often.

I'll illustrate by way of hypothetical.

There are 20 people. One calls 911 eight times to report things that aren't police emergencies. Two each see one emergency and call on it. Seventeen don't see any emergencies, and don't call 911.

80% of the calls were improper, but only 5% of the people don't understand the concept.

Nick
5.29.2009 4:11pm
secade (mail):
Are police generally busy? The average American cop makes 2-3 arrests per month, and these result in a little over 1 conviction per cop, as prosecutors splash at least a third of charges. And I question their delivery of protective service, given that they don't enter a crime scene until they read the voice-print of the 9-11 call, and conduct a suspect, complainant (yes the witness or victim), and address history' data search. It is now judge-made law that cops owe no duty of care to anyone. We have an absolute obligation to pay them, and they enjoy a relative discretion to evading quid pro quo. So, if they have no obligation to serve - other than on their whims - they why do we pay them wages that approach or exceed 6 figures, and grant them 45 years pay for 25 years work? Because we believe that judges are philosopher-kings, void of private purpose.
5.29.2009 4:24pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Hippo:

Agree with all you say, except it's unlikely that he actually learned his lesson.
5.29.2009 4:29pm
wht (mail):

whit - your analysis of why the system is broken if 80% of the calls are nonemergencies has a logical flaw. 80% of the calls is not the same as 80% of the callers or 80% of the population. A few clueless people can make a lot of junk calls, while the average person does not use 911 very often.

I'll illustrate by way of hypothetical.

There are 20 people. One calls 911 eight times to report things that aren't police emergencies. Two each see one emergency and call on it. Seventeen don't see any emergencies, and don't call 911.

80% of the calls were improper, but only 5% of the people don't understand the concept.

Nick

Nick,

I would say that I agree with your statement but it ignores the more logically answer.

The 911 operator can also chime in and correct me if I am wrong. My assumption was that the operator was recieving 80% bogus calls to 911. She did not mention that a huge number of these were coming from the same small subset of idiots who cant figure out how to use the system. If this was the case - the way to fix the system is prosecute the one person over using the system for non-emergencies.

A more plausible reading is that by and large the 911 system in the operators jurisdiciton has a 80% failure rate regariding the necessity of the calls.

My conclusion was that any system that has an 80% failure rate is a poorly designed system and blaiming the systems users is just crazy.
5.29.2009 4:31pm
ArthurKirkland:
My experience -- the amount stolen from my family by fast-food restaurants that charged for items not provided exceeds $100 in just the past five to ten years -- makes me unsympathetic to the position that a restaurant manager is entitled to call the emergency line consequent to a belief that a customer owes for a chicken leg, but the customer is not entitled to call the emergency line consequent to a belief the store took money for a chicken leg it didn't provide. As crime goes, stealing $1 from a customer 1,000,000 times strikes me as no less offensive than stealing $1,000,000 from a single customer. Perhaps one approach would be to consider a "damages floor" (similar to big businesses' lust for a "damages ceiling") for conduct such as stealing from a customer by charging for something without delivering it. If it cost McDonald's a minimum of $500 each time it stole a customer's money, it probably would (a) institute better fulfillment systems and (b) seek to resolve disputes in a manner that did not provoke a call to police.

If a store manager called police because a customer (whose name and address were known) was handed an order including a hamburger not charged for, sat inside the restaurant and began to eat it, and refused to pay for the hamburger in response to a store employee's claim that the price had not been paid, the police would respond without a qualm. I see no difference with respect to the customer who paid for a product not delivered.

Curiously, missing items that were ordered and paid for outnumber unordered items discovered at the kitchen table by a ratio of at least 10 to 1. I would expect to find that takeout suppliers profit in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year from this phenomenon (because charging for items without delivering them constitutes a high-margin practice, as well as a crime). Most customers shrug it off -- is it worthwhile to find the restaurant's telephone number and arrange reimbursement, or drive back to the restaurant, when the stakes are $4.65, you want to spend time with your family and you are tired after a workday?

As I see it, if the store manager can call the police, so can the customer. And I wouldn't be so fast to give the benefit of the doubt to the restaurant, because in my experience they are habitual (small-time) criminals.
5.29.2009 4:37pm
Dan Weber (www):
In retail, many states have laws about how items that are rung up with the wrong price are to be resolved.

In that situation, it's pretty clear what's going on, and there isn't a he-said she-said. The prices are as posted, and you can see them right on the receipt, so just compare.

I'm not sure you can set up a policy like that for someone else putting items in a bag and then not getting exactly what you thought, after one party has walked away. Especially given the scammers in the system; a "friend" in high school thought it was funny to see how much free food he could scam by claiming he never got it, and he always did. He might be in jail now, but more likely is a banker or politician.
5.29.2009 5:12pm
whit:

Are police generally busy? The average American cop makes 2-3 arrests per month, and these result in a little over 1 conviction per cop, as prosecutors splash at least a third of charges. And I question their delivery of protective service, given that they don't enter a crime scene until they read the voice-print of the 9-11 call, and conduct a suspect, complainant (yes the witness or victim), and address history' data search. It is now judge-made law that cops owe no duty of care to anyone. We have an absolute obligation to pay them, and they enjoy a relative discretion to evading quid pro quo. So, if they have no obligation to serve - other than on their whims - they why do we pay them wages that approach or exceed 6 figures, and grant them 45 years pay for 25 years work? Because we believe that judges are philosopher-kings, void of private purpose.



1) whether a cop is "busy" or not is only somewhat related to how many arrests he makes. i don't judge my performance (or my workload) based on arrests. that's a bad metric. i wouldn't respect a cop who thinks that's the sign of a busy cop, and neither should you.

the vast majority of the stuff we do doesn't involve arrests.


2)

"And I question their delivery of protective service, given that they don't enter a crime scene until they read the voice-print of the 9-11 call, and conduct a suspect, complainant (yes the witness or victim), and address history' data search"

utter rubbish. do you make this stuff up? i've entered at least 1/2 dozen crime scenes in the last week. those things don't necessarily happen.

also note tht in a two man car, all of the above can be done while ENROUTE. we have these things called computers.
5.29.2009 5:17pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

A more plausible reading is that by and large the 911 system in the operators jurisdiciton has a 80% failure rate regariding the necessity of the calls.


I would be willing to bet that in Washington State, the percentage of non-emergency 911 calls is MUCH higher than 80%. For example, in Seattle, the freeway motorist assistance boxes call 911 and phone switches seem to be set up to forward 911 calls to the ordinary line for the police dispatch (911 is the emergency number, 663-9911 is the non-emergency number, and if you get disconnected on 911, you get a call back from 663-9911).

Now, what this means is that 911 is a general number to emergency services (ambulance, fire, police) and this is probably a good thing. It enforced predictability, ensures that people don't worry about which number to call when there is a real emergency, etc.
5.29.2009 6:53pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Suppose the guy did this on a regular basis, calling 911 for various comparable small incidents. Every time, the police explain to him that he should not use 911 that way, and every time he refuses to accept what they say and persists in his belief. At some point, surely the police have to arrest him, right?

Since it seems he persisted in his belief that 911 was the appropriate way to resolve the problem, why isn't once enough?

That is, assuming we have the whole story. If his persistence was based on something unusual about this event, that's another story. For example, it's possible he said something like, "I only called 911 because I believed the manager called 911 and I was not free to leave until the police arrived. I therefore still believe that my decision to call 911 at that time based on the information I had was reasonable."

But if he persisted in his belief that it's appropriate to call 911 over missing orange juice, arrest is reasonable. There's no need to wait for the next time he calls 911 over something miniscule.

And I don't like the idea of low-priority 911 calls. A person should be able to call 911 and get a prompt police response. That's the whole point of the number.
5.29.2009 7:48pm
epeeist:
Yes, he was wrong to call 911. The question is given what we know and the statute was he CRIMINALLY wrong, and I think not based on what I've read and the reasoning below.

As some others have adverted to, there's a big problem with the law as written also, as being too narrow. According to the life or property qualification, if you pull out your cellphone and call 911 because e.g. you were raped and the rapist is now fleeing, you're guilty of a misdemeanor because since the rapist is fleeing neither your property nor life is at risk.

So unless the statute is interpreted so narrowly that e.g. even a rape victim is a criminal for calling 911, it has to be interpreted more broadly (permissively). Not to mention if the jurisdiction is one in which callers are encouraged to call 911 for non-emergencies, as several posters have noted.
5.29.2009 9:21pm
flashman (mail):
I certainly agree with "Whit," but that's probably because we're in the same line of work.

To Bruce Hayden....I should of written that a "mature" application of discretion is appropriate. It doesn't always happen (the "mature" application), but the legal system provides a number of checks and balances that help "right" the "wrongs" suffered by those arrested.

Also, though I arrest more than the reported average in these posts, I have a great respect for the authority and responsibility that comes with taking someones liberty, even it's for a short period of time because they'll bond out.

Also, thanks to M N Ralph who appreciated my comment and concern about a growing police state if citizens expect law enforcement to respond and resolve even the most minor and mundane civil matters.

Obviously, Osman expected the police to resolve his civil issue in his favor. That didn't happen and he got a free legal lesson in the process.

Finally...yes, I would go to small claims court on the issue if I felt strongly enough about not having been provided a cup of orange juice valued at somewhere around $1.00. If I'm in uniform I'd ask, nicely, once and if the problem wasn't corrected I'd walk away. I'd likely do the same out of uniform and then take my business elsewhere.
5.29.2009 10:29pm
whit:

Also, thanks to M N Ralph who appreciated my comment and concern about a growing police state if citizens expect law enforcement to respond and resolve even the most minor and mundane civil matters.

Obviously, Osman expected the police to resolve his civil issue in his favor. That didn't happen and he got a free legal lesson in the process.




it is actually pretty amazing what a large percentage of my (our) time is taken up by citizen calls who want police action on matters that they WANT to be criminal but aren't.

iow, we spend a lot of time discouraging complainants who WANT SOMEBODY ARRESTED for X.

guy calls the other day (and we get dispatched) because a man is walking around with a gun on his hip. groovy. i'll respond, but i can't DO anything about it, nor will i contact the guy if i see him because open carry is a civil right (in WA).

people OFTEN try to make civil matters criminal, also fwiw.

iow, contrary to the implication that we are just looking for stuff to arrest people for, we more frequently spend our time poking holes in "victim's" complaints, referring them to proper venue for their grievances, etc.
5.29.2009 10:55pm
DennisN (mail):

Thompson said Osman tried to argue that he had the legal right to call the police.

"He said it was a 'freedom of speech' issue," Thompson said. "He was not open to having the deputy educate him."

So Osman was taken to jail. His education will continue with an appearance in court, set to be scheduled at a later date.



This was an attitude arrest, or perhaps a Contempt of Cop arrest. Osman committed the unpardonable offense of irritating a cop. He will pay dearly, in legal fees and the trauma of being unjustly imprisoned, for his offense. But he will have been taught a lesson - The police are dangerous. The officers in question should have a strip ripped off as a minimum.

The cops could have diffused the situation. "Leave the property." That would have been sufficient. They could have simply have ordered the dangerous perp off the property, got into their vehicles and left. Rather, they decided to "teach him a lesson."

Most police departments have the 911 number painted on their cars. It is obviously the proper number to contact the police; they told you to do so. Every child knows that. And that's a good thing.

If you make it a policy to persecute prosecute people who "improperly" call 911, fewer people will call 911, because it is dangerous. "Piss on it, I'm not taking the chance." If you don't make it a policy, then barring repeat offenders, the selective prosecution is tyranny.
5.30.2009 12:25am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Schwartz:
There are a couple of compelling reasons to allow and even encourage low-priority 911 calls. These include:

1) If you have a larger sample of calls coming in, you are more likely to be able to properly handle call volume spikes due to statistical distribution issues. This means better guaranteed response times in emergencies. Consider this: You get an average of 4 calls a day. So you have two operators. But one day you get 8 calls, and they all come in on a 15 minute period while one operator is out to lunch. This could happen, for example, in a more major incident involving a larger number of people. This is more likely to be an issue at a low call volume than a high one. AND you get better utilization of resources. This is a good reason for 911 to be the number to call for everything down to and including stalled vehicles on the side of the freeway.

2) If people are encouraged to call 911 when reporting a crime, they are more likely to do so then to look up the phone number for law enforcement. Better reporting of crimes would ensue. Of course as whit notes, there is a downside to this in that what people think is a crime and what is a crime may not be the same thing.....

Given a choice, I think police ought to be to consolidate emergency services numbers to 911 and then encourage that number as a single point of contact. This allows better response time, lower costs of operations across all emergency services, and better reporting of crime. That isn;t enough to make the Oregon statute unconstitutional but I think the wording is sufficiently underinclusive as to make it problematic.

Another interesting hypo....

A man attempts to rape a woman kills him in self-defence (let's say there is no reasonable belief that a fast response time will save the assailant's life due to the nature of death whatever it is). According to this statute at this point neither life nor liberty is in danger and therefore if she calls 911 she is guilty of a misdemeanor? So she should call the normal number and wait for a longer response before leaving the scene? Stupid law.....
5.30.2009 12:57am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Let's look at the larger life lessons here.

The police let matters get out of hand. First, they showed up. Osman obviously expected that the Cavalry would set things right. If that is not their job, so be it. But then, they didn't deftly defuse the situation. They need training how to deal with citizens made irate by a business that mocks them, takes their money, doesn't deliver the goods, and doesn't try to make things right.

Osman's first mistake was to expect honest service at a McDonald's. As has been emphasized time and again in this thread, they have all the leverage, and the patron has none. "Mistakes" that they make are in their favor, 90% of the time. There is no resolution mechanism but small claims court, whose processes take time and money out of all proportion to the sums customers are cheated of.

His second mistake was to force money on a business whose employees laughed at him and made fun of his accent. The third mistake was made by the Portland Oregonian, who mocked the man screwed out of his orange juice by a giant corporation and their employees and franchisees.

Back in the day, newspapers would have investigated business that ripped off consumers. They would have sent personnel, accented and not, through late night drive throughs, to see if they got what they paid for. But it's easier for them to sit on their butts and ride their swivel chairs to oblivion.
5.30.2009 1:54am
whit:

Osman's first mistake was to expect honest service at a McDonald's. As has been emphasized time and again in this thread, they have all the leverage


utter rubbish. mcdonald's has exactly zero power to make ANYBODY buy their food. people buy it because they want it, and to a lesser extent because they respect the company.

he has PLENTY of leverage. better business bureau, small claims court, letters to the editor, the internet, heck, he can picket friggin' mcdonald's as long as he doesn't block ingress/egress etc.

iow, he has LOTS of redress

of course you are assuming that his complaint is valid. i highly doubt it. like others have pointed out, it's to their benefit to resolve these things peacefully and with a happy customer. i've received that sort of service at mcd's, as have all those "billions served"

yes, i know mcdonald's is a (gasp) CORPORATION. omg! they are all evul and corporaty.

blame the oregon legislators for writing a dumb law (like i said, hippies shouldn't be allowed to write law!), but i am not going to shed a tear for this ignoramus.

i would betdollars to donuts, the cops did give the guy an opportunity to leave, but since none of us have the police reports yet, etc. we don't know.
5.30.2009 2:26am
Brian S:
For those that thing this was appropriate for Osman to call 911....you're begging for an increasingly repressive police state where law enforcement can and should be involved in virtually every dispute of every kind. I suspect you'll parse your arguments without accepting the fuller responsibility they demand, but from a large system perspective, do you really think calling 911 in this instance is appropriate? Osman should have resolved this differently.


I realize that many people are arguing on the thread that McDonald's failing to give an orange juice that was paid for is the equivalent of swiping an orange juice, and that from this you conclude that we're saying that in response to Osman's call the SWAT team should have rapelled down onto the McDonald's from helicopters and arrested everyone working there.

I can't speak for anyone else, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that Osman should not have been arrested, because his call was not frivolous, unless all other minor theft calls are frivolous also, and/or unless all other calls to 911 that turn out to not be emergencies are investigated with an eye to making an arrest.

If the nature of the dispute makes it impossible for the police to assist Osman, hey, fine. Don't get involved in the dispute. But don't arrest someone for requesting assistance you can't or won't provide.

If we can arrest people for calling 911 "unnecessarily" because it places a burden on the 911 system, why can't we also arrest people for filing frivolous lawsuits, and placing a burden on the court system? Or arrest people who make "unnecessary" driving trips on public roads, for placing a burden on the highway system?


yes, i know mcdonald's is a (gasp) CORPORATION. omg! they are all evul and corporaty.


I think the opposite phenomenon is taking place. I think many people in this thread are arguing that since established businesses are "solid citizens" in the community whose location is well known and who have lots of assets to pursue, if they engage in minor thefts "of course" it's a civil matter - but if a young person [with dark skin perhaps?] engages in minor thefts, they aren't "solid citizens" and the police need to come get them.

Personally I think the failure of imagination some people are showing here - where they literally can't conceive that two different individuals who take items of the same value are committing the same offense - has to be rooted in those posters' perception of the actors involved. What else could it be based on?
5.30.2009 10:23am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Brian S:

If we can arrest people for calling 911 "unnecessarily" because it places a burden on the 911 system, why can't we also arrest people for filing frivolous lawsuits, and placing a burden on the court system?


Why draw the line at frivolous? Why not simply arrest people for lawsuits which are "unnecessary?" I.e. the plaintiff could be right as a matter of law and entitled to redress, but if the plaintiff hand not exhausted every other avenue of dealing with the problem, let's make the filing of the lawsuit a misdemeanor, right?

However getting back to the question at hand, it seems there are three opinions.

1) My opinion which is that the law is so overinclusive as to what it allows prosecution for that it can't be Constitutional, hence Osman is not guilty.

2) Illya's viewpoint which is that the rule of lenity would work in favor of the defendant and presumably this would make him not guilty.

3) OrinKerr's viewpoint which is that the government wins due on text.

Personally it seems to my mind that the defendant could have reasonably believed that if he left the premises the matter would never be resolved in his favor. Since the money/orange juice is property, this would make him not guilty.

Note that the above reasonable belief is factually incorrect. He could threaten to take the McDonalds branch to small claims court, or even McDonalds as a corporation. If the individual franchise is not a sole proprietorship, the costs of responding to a small claims suit are so much higher than the cost of the orange juice that it makes no sense to fight (of course filing the small claim would cost much more than the juice too, but given that lawyer time would be involved on the part of the defendant, the plaintiff still has the cost edge by far).
5.30.2009 11:11am
whit:

I can't speak for anyone else, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that Osman should not have been arrested, because his call was not frivolous, unless all other minor theft calls are frivolous also, and/or unless all other calls to 911 that turn out to not be emergencies are investigated with an eye to making an arrest.

If the nature of the dispute makes it impossible for the police to assist Osman, hey, fine. Don't get involved in the dispute. But don't arrest someone for requesting assistance you can't or won't provide.

If we can arrest people for calling 911 "unnecessarily" because it places a burden on the 911 system,


we only can in states that right stupid laws like oregon (hippies write dumb laws).

no such law in my state.

nor should there be.

also, he was arrested for more than just the call itself. but we've gone over that a million times. of course MOST people who make frivolous 911 calls in oregon aren't arrested.


I think the opposite phenomenon is taking place. I think many people in this thread are arguing that since established businesses are "solid citizens" in the community whose location is well known and who have lots of assets to pursue, if they engage in minor thefts "of course" it's a civil matter - but if a young person [with dark skin perhaps?] engages in minor thefts, they aren't "solid citizens" and the police need to come get them.



utter rubbish. that assumes they committed a "minor theft
or any theft at all, which is simply not established, and is very likely not the case.

making a mistake, ASSUMING they made a mistake (which is still an assumption), is not making a theft.

also, spare me the race crap. nobody has brought up this guy's race (or the mcd's employees race) nor do i care. i know for some people it's just GOTTA be about race.
5.30.2009 12:28pm
whit:

(of course filing the small claim would cost much more than the juice too, but given that lawyer time would be involved on the part of the defendant, the plaintiff still has the cost edge by far).



i don';t know about oregon, but in WA lawyers are not allowed to be involved in small claims.

the fee is $25 iirc.

and i am pretty sure if you are filing for a loss of $1, the judge could issue a ruling for $26 which would cover your extensive court costs!

the limit iirc is $5,000

but again, does oregon even ALLOW lawyers in small claim court (i mean lawyers working for the plaintiff. obviously a lawyer can BE a plaintiff).

WA doesn't, and my understanding is that this policy is common
5.30.2009 12:32pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Whit:

making a mistake, ASSUMING they made a mistake (which is still an assumption), is not making a theft.

Agreed, but how is that relevant to whether he is guilty? The statute doesn't say anything about whether the "situation" must involve a crime in progress, right?

For example, it seems that under the Oregon statute, I could still call 911 to report a deer wandering down the freeway shoulder since it is a "situation" which I could "reasonably" believe requires a "prompt" response in order to protect someone's property, correct?
5.30.2009 12:33pm
whit:
ein, i wasn't saying it was relevant to whether he was guilty. i was addressing a point, arguably tangential, that was false and needed correction.

also, like i said. this was clearly a "yer honor he needed arresting arrest". i would bet big $$ that those involved in the arrest, and the prosecutor, and the fair citizens of oregon (lol) could not care less if he is actually convicted.
5.30.2009 12:42pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
einhverfr,

The problem I see with the small claims court route is the same as in the store itself. Okay, you show up with a receipt, perhaps even a picture of the meal, sans OJ. How do you prove that no OJ was delivered?

This is where I think the manager was wrong either way, either the OJ was on the receipt in which case you had better give it to him, or it wasn't which is easy to point out. A no receipt situation is the only hard one. In any case but the with receipt but no OJ listing the store should just hand over the drink as a customer relation matter.
5.30.2009 1:02pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

i don';t know about oregon, but in WA lawyers are not allowed to be involved in small claims.


But a corporation can't represent itself in court.... This means the corporation has to hire a lawyer to do that.
5.30.2009 2:44pm
Aaron B Brown (mail) (www):
Of course this kind of thing is perhaps hard to understand for people who make a hundred grand a year or more, but when you're poor, and only got a few dollars left in your pocket, and you stop at McDonald's, and they give you the equivalent of dog food that's been sitting there for hours because the employees have been instructed by corporate not to throw away any food in order to save money, and you're going to go hungry that night otherwise. Maybe you would better understand such frustration.

Perhaps when people start shooting people for a Happy Meal in this country, perhaps then the lawyers and law enforcement will understand.

Here in St. Louis, folks are literally shooting each other over a cheeseburger. So if the choice is between calling 911 to voice your complaint, or smoking the guy behind the counter because he won't give you your money back, I'd prefer that angry people call 911, and I'm sure the cops would prefer that as well.
5.30.2009 3:11pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
i don';t know about oregon, but in WA lawyers are not allowed to be involved in small claims.
That's not what the website says; it says that lawyers can appear on behalf of parties if the court grants permission.
5.30.2009 3:16pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The problem I see with the small claims court route is the same as in the store itself. Okay, you show up with a receipt, perhaps even a picture of the meal, sans OJ. How do you prove that no OJ was delivered?
Same way you prove anything else: you testify that no OJ was delivered.
5.30.2009 3:17pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
David M. Nieporent,

And with the customer in front of the judge saying "I didn't get my juice." And the manager saying"I can't prove one way or the other."

Is that really enough to settle preponderance? I would hope not.
5.30.2009 4:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Nieropont:

That's not what the website says; it says that lawyers can appear on behalf of parties if the court grants permission.


And the court has to grant permission for corporations since they can't represent themselves. Of course asking for permission also consumes lawyer time.....
5.30.2009 4:55pm
David Schwartz (mail):
einhverfr: This means you can't treat every call to 911 as an emergency, defeating the purpose of having 911 in the first place. If you want to argue for an easy-to-remember, universally available non-emergency police number, then you can do so. They can be dispatched by the same operators (just give 911 calls priority) so you still get the economy of scale.

But if I call 911 and am unable to continue to phone conversation, or the intruder points a gun at my head, takes the phone from me, and explains that there's no emergency, I want an emergency response.

911 should be for "I need the police now". The statute here is hopelessly broken, of course. It means the homeowner who shoots and kills an intruder can't call 911 unless they reasonably believe there is a second intruder.
5.30.2009 5:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Schwartz:

This means you can't treat every call to 911 as an emergency, defeating the purpose of having 911 in the first place.


The solution is more phone lines and operators who can prioritize. This doesn't defeat the purpose of having 911 in the first place since emergency calls get handed appropriately. As I noted, in my state the fact that one calls 911 for just about ANYTHING requiring law enforcement department, fire, or ambulance response (for example, deer obviously injured by a car and dying a slow death, but not on the roadway) and we don't suffer from a lack of response time. If you don't believe me, ask whit.

The purpose of having 911 is to provide rapid response to emergencies. Actually, when you look at the statistics and planning considerations, opening up the lines to general fire/police/ambulance services IMPROVES this rapid response and so instead of undermining the purpose actually helps fulfill it.
5.30.2009 6:33pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Solonel:

And with the customer in front of the judge saying "I didn't get my juice." And the manager saying"I can't prove one way or the other."


If those are the actual statements, I would say preponderance met.

If, OTOH, the manager brings in the employee who says "I am pretty sure he got his juice" then preponderance not met.
5.30.2009 6:36pm
whit:




That's not what the website says; it says that lawyers can appear on behalf of parties if the court grants permission.



fine. the point is people go to small claims routinely w/o lawyers, it's not frickin' rocket science, and the system is DESIGNED to work w/o lawyers (how refreshing).


The solution is more phone lines and operators who can prioritize. This doesn't defeat the purpose of having 911 in the first place since emergency calls get handed appropriately. As I noted, in my state the fact that one calls 911 for just about ANYTHING requiring law enforcement department, fire, or ambulance response (for example, deer obviously injured by a car and dying a slow death, but not on the roadway) and we don't suffer from a lack of response time. If you don't believe me, ask whit.




well, pierce county (just for the record) just won out as the slowest average response time in the country :)

like i said, WA doesn't have a stupid law like this. we DO have non-emergency #. generally speaking, 911 is somewhat overused (mom calling 911 because her kid is refusing to go to school), but i don't see it as a major problem.
5.30.2009 7:37pm
whit:

Of course this kind of thing is perhaps hard to understand for people who make a hundred grand a year or more, but when you're poor, and only got a few dollars left in your pocket, and you stop at McDonald's, and they give you the equivalent of dog food that's been sitting there for hours because the employees have been instructed by corporate not to throw away any food in order to save money, and you're going to go hungry that night otherwise. Maybe you would better understand such frustration.

Perhaps when people start shooting people for a Happy Meal in this country, perhaps then the lawyers and law enforcement will understand.



y'know, i went to mcdonald's this morning (before training). i got a "big breakfast". it was hot, fresh and they filled my order perfectly.

i have gone to mcd's before where they have given me (for example) fries that weren't fresh, a mcchicken that had wilted lettuce, etc.

in EVERY case, when i asked for a replacement, they gave me one. heck, on more than one occasion, they gave me an extra (like a sundae) while i waited.

like i said, i have almost no doubt that the guy in this case was probably acting like a buttmunch. was he NOT charged for the orange juice and claimed he was? more likely than not.

the reason mcd's has BILLIONS served (do the math) is due to REPEAT customers.

mcd's cannot survive by routinely pissing off its customers.

so, enough with the evul corporaty hatefest. don't like mcdonald's? don't go there.

but they are not the enemy of the poor downtrodden people.

fwiw, how many places can you get a hot tasty treat for $1? at mcd's you can... 2 apple pies or a double cheeseburger, etc.

they provide a product that people enjoy. over and over again.

that's why they are one of the most successful long running companies in the history of the US (and they do great business in paris, too believe it or not)
5.30.2009 7:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:


fine. the point is people go to small claims routinely w/o lawyers, it's not frickin' rocket science, and the system is DESIGNED to work w/o lawyers (how refreshing).


Probably a misunderstanding then.

My original point is that when a private individual sues a corporate entity in small claims court there is a massive difference in costs to show up. The private individual represents himself. The corporate entity retains a lawyer and asks permission to be represented.
5.30.2009 7:48pm
David Schwartz (mail):
The solution is more phone lines and operators who can prioritize. This doesn't defeat the purpose of having 911 in the first place since emergency calls get handed appropriately.
That's a nice system, it's just not the 911 system. The point of the 911 system is that you don't have to convince the operator that you have an emergency, because that's not always easy to do when you have an emergency.

The idea of the 911 system is that you call it when you have an emergency, and you get an emergency response. You don't have to convince anyone of anything. You make that decision by deciding to call 911.

I'm in favor of non-emergency systems with consistent phone numbers like 311. I'm not in favor of extending 911 to non-emergencies.

If an intruder comes into my house, and I dial 911, no matter what the intruder says into the phone while a gun is pointed at my head, I want an emergency police response.
5.30.2009 7:50pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Sorry to follow up to myself, but the point is this: It's vital that the police be able to say, simply from the fact that a call to 911 was made, that they had reason to believe someone was in immediate danger. If the intruder answers the door after I called 911 and refuses to let the police in, they need to be able to legally justify barging in.

A mere call to 911 has to mean that an emergency response is needed. Otherwise, what if a person having a heart attack calls 911 but can't speak? Do the police even have justification to break down the door?
5.30.2009 7:52pm
whit:

Probably a misunderstanding then.

My original point is that when a private individual sues a corporate entity in small claims court there is a massive difference in costs to show up. The private individual represents himself. The corporate entity retains a lawyer and asks permission to be represented.



right. that was kind of my point. many people were claiming the poor hapless juice deprived d00d had no "leverage" and the evil big corporation (tm) held all the cards.
i am definitely not very familiar with the civil system (although i am in the process of filing a small claims suit as we speak), but my understanding is that orangejuicedeprived d00d goes down to the courthouse, pays his $25 fee and that's it.

assuming he wins (and if mcd's doesn't want to waste the time/money to respond, isn't that basically a given?), he can get his (alleged) orange juice money back, plus (i assume) his filing fees.

either way, he has metric buttloads of options to complain LTTE, BBB, picketing, etc.
5.30.2009 8:21pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
David Schwartz,

Unless there were obviously something amiss with the house I would not expect the fact of a 911 call to privde justification for busting open a door. OTOH, one of those remote pendants I beleive would. The level of service you just described would require an extremely low tolerance of non-emergency use in order to maintain.

Given the numerous statements from this thread where people have been told to use 911 for simple police contact I doubt that is true in many locales, you have to be far over the frivolous use line before being cited.

In the burglary example, if the person actually came to the door, I would expect most such people to be able to social engineer the cops away. The heart attack example I would think the cops would most likely do a walk around the house, but until it gets to the point of a kid calling up saying "I haven't been able to get ahold of Dad for a few days now" they probably would have to leave.
5.30.2009 8:23pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Whit,

Perhaps really small amounts are different, but normally the filing fee is not recoverable.
5.30.2009 8:29pm
David Schwartz (mail):
SH: You should not be able to make a 911 call and social engineer the police away from your door. If that happens, the 911 system has completely failed to serve its intended purpose.
5.30.2009 8:35pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
David Schwartz,

As simple examples, blame the cat or the kid.

A different example that actually happened to me, I was making a call from a hotel room and needed to dial 9 to get an outside line. I thought I hadn't successfully pressed the 1 the first time afterward and so hit 1 again. This completed the 911 call and I got an operator.

Now, I realize this would fit the unknowingly call provision, but after explaining to the operator, what possible reason would there be to send anyone to my hotel room?
5.30.2009 8:59pm
whit:
we get a lot of 911 calls from indian people.

the international code for india is 119
5.30.2009 9:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Schwartz:

This is not a hypo as it happens quite frequently.

A call comes into 911. THere appears to be no body on the other end. The SS7 system provides the information as to where the call came from so police go out there expecting an emergency. They are greeted by a surprised individual who had no idea that 911 was called. He has two kids however, and presumably one kid managed to call the number.

What is a proper police response? Search the house for evidence of crimes? Wouldn't that be a due process violation?
5.30.2009 10:18pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

Country code for India is 91. However you are still mostly right. 011 (international call marker) + 91 + city code + number. If the city code started with 1 and they omitted the international call marker, the number would start with 911.
5.30.2009 10:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David schwartz: I meant reasonable search violation, not due process violation.
5.30.2009 10:23pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
David Schwartz,

Also, since 911 is usually a combined response line for police, fire and medical who should the operator send in your examples? Sending the police to a medical or fire emergency without more information just wastes more time and resources. What you describe might or might not be nice but afaict it's also not what we have.

A different but related situation my great grandmother was living with me at the time of her death and the doctor had examined her and filled out paperwork for an expected home death. I was told to call the hospital line rather than 911 because a 911 call would require resussitation effort regardless of the EHD and DNR paperwork. I can see that not being the case for a larger town though.
5.30.2009 10:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

I would expect a mere threat of going to small claims court would be enough to get the guy his orange juice, although McDonalds managers might not be well enough on top of things to understand the significance of this sort of problem. The best way to address this would be to leave, and come back with a written complaint addressed to the head manager of the location threatening small claims action.

Of course there are far more mean things that one CAN legally do than that...... When I was in college I worked at the cafeterial. They cheated me out of about $100 in retro pay. After my verbal and written complaints to the company fell on deaf ears, I sent letters to the college board of trustees explaining the problem and suggesting that since their contract was up, the contract shouldn't be renewed. I don't know what part my letter played in the contract being dropped the next year (they had a few other... issues... so I can't take all the credit). I never did get my $100, partly because I moved away and was making enough it didn't make financial sense for me to try to recover it. However, I also did complain to the IRS and suggested in my complaint that the allegations of embezzlement which had caused several top-level managers to resign as well as my experience on the bottom might suggest financial dishonesty at all levels of the corporation, so it might be a REALLY good idea to take a close look at their tax filings and financial records and make sure they matched....

One can go up against corporations and win, or at least cause all kinds of pain.........
5.30.2009 10:34pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit:

Further research:

New Delhi's city code is 11........

So a properly dialed call to New Delhi starts with 0119111....
however if you forget to start your international call with 011, it starts with 9111.....
5.30.2009 10:36pm
David Schwartz (mail):
A call comes into 911. THere appears to be no body on the other end. The SS7 system provides the information as to where the call came from so police go out there expecting an emergency. They are greeted by a surprised individual who had no idea that 911 was called. He has two kids however, and presumably one kid managed to call the number.

What is a proper police response? Search the house for evidence of crimes? Wouldn't that be a due process violation?
The proper police response is to try to talk to the person who called 911 and ensure that there is no emergency. Any other response means that 911 won't work if one of those children is abused.

A different example that actually happened to me, I was making a call from a hotel room and needed to dial 9 to get an outside line. I thought I hadn't successfully pressed the 1 the first time afterward and so hit 1 again. This completed the 911 call and I got an operator.

Now, I realize this would fit the unknowingly call provision, but after explaining to the operator, what possible reason would there be to send anyone to my hotel room?
How do they know that there isn't someone in the room with you pointing a gun at your head? You are supposed to be able to call 911 and get a response.

Also, since 911 is usually a combined response line for police, fire and medical who should the operator send in your examples? Sending the police to a medical or fire emergency without more information just wastes more time and resources.
I'll trust the dispatchers to work out the proper response. But in no circumstance should the response not involve a reasonable effort to make sure nobody is in trouble.
5.30.2009 11:03pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
DS,

Alright, at least you are consistent. But as been amply demonstrated by this thread the system you describe is not what we have, at least in a great deal of the country. Perhaps there are pockets where what you describe is in fact what is available.

On another topic, I thought 311 was utility information for things like marking pipe corridors before digging up your yard.
5.30.2009 11:20pm
whit:

A call comes into 911. THere appears to be no body on the other end. The SS7 system provides the information as to where the call came from so police go out there expecting an emergency. They are greeted by a surprised individual who had no idea that 911 was called. He has two kids however, and presumably one kid managed to call the number.

What ithe a proper police response? Search the house for evidence of crimes? Wouldn't that be a due process violation?



we get these a LOT.

in some cases, the call will be cancelled while we are enroute. for example, somebody at dispatch will confirm with caller that it was kids playing, a misdial, etc.

our dispatcher DO have the authority to cancel dropped 911 if they reasonably believe it's not necessary to dispatch.

in cases where we are dispatched, it's (like so much) a TOTALITY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES thang.

do we hear arguing when we walk up to the house. do we hear anything? does the person who comes to the door seem nervous, out of breath, that he's hiding something? are there kids in the house (usually we will talk to the kids and school them on playing with 911 calls), etc. etc.

iow, there are few hard and fast rules.

otoh, if we know somebody is inside (like we hear them inside, or they are inside and turn out the lights when we approach, etc. we will probably force entry if they don't come to the door.

there was a case a ways back where officers pulled up to the house, and as they did, they saw a light go out. nobody came to the door when they knocked. being as there was nothing immediate, they radio'd a sgt. for permission to kick the door (we don't NEED to get permission,. but when time permits it it is preferred). sgt. said to leave. next day, we were there again. turns out the 911 call was in relation to an assault ... a fatal assault.

needless to say after that, we got more proactive.

i've probably gone to several hundred dropped 911 calls. have i forced entry in some? yes. in most? no.

in most (and i repeat - it is an oft repeated lie/bad advice not to talk to cops when questioned) cases people can provide an explanation, etc. and we go away rather quickly.

but remember this. a 911 call is a REQUEST for help. in a sense, you are inviting cops into your home. you are saying i need help and it's an emergecy. we would WAY rather pay a couple of hundred dollars for a door, if it's determined we shouldn't have kicked it, than let a person die or be assaulted because we didn't.

but in brief, in the situation you gave, we would not "search the house for evidence". depending on the circ's we might do a sweep for BODIES iow other people in the house. remember, just because the cops make a forced entry, or are searching does NOT mean it's NECESSARILY a search for EVIDENCE. see: community caretaking function etc.
5.30.2009 11:46pm
whit:
ein, i agree. we have a lot of people (usually on the left, imagine that) who paint corporations as all powerful, evil, oppressive, etc. and any accusation made against them as obviously justified, and any poor citizen (especially if he;'s a "person of color" as not having the "power" etc.).

it's rubbish.

i think we both agree on that. mcd's does as well as it does because it offers a product people want, at a price they want, in the manner they want (fast and hot).

today was the perfect example. i had to run out of the house, and acctually because of this thread, mcd's was on my mind, so i swung through and got a big breakfast on my way to mow the lawn at my other house (just put it on the market) and then to training.

and like 95% of the time, the food was hot, fast, and the order was completed perfectly. and every time they have screwed up in the past, they have more than made it right.

i have great respect for mcd's, and even though i am a TOTAL foodie and love really good cuisine (i had geoduck sashimi appetizer, and some pan fried striped bass tonight. with cucumber kimchi. ), i also respect some basic fast food.
5.30.2009 11:53pm
ReaderY:
On the one hand, the case clearly wasn't an emergency in the ordinary sense. On the other hand, the poorly worded statute doesn't appear limited to "emergencies".

I think the caller more likely than not violated the statute but under the rule of lenity doubt in this awkawardly worded statute should be resolved in the caller's failure. In other words, no harm no foul -- the caller is not guilty, but the police had probable cause to arrest and committed no wrong by doing so, and everybody stops paying the lawyers and ends the matter.

The legislature might want to step in and clean up the wording to clearly address whether cases of this sort should or should not be covered. I'd suggest they shouldn't be, but it's of course the legislature's call.
5.31.2009 12:22am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
whit, I am not saying one should never force entry into a home after an call without content. My example was designed to show something so far away from where that would be acceptable as to create a clear-cut case for Mr Schwartz as to why his reasoning was wrong.

Obviously if there is reason to believe that there is something wrong, then additional measures would be appropriate.
5.31.2009 1:30am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Schwartz:

The proper police response is to try to talk to the person who called 911 and ensure that there is no emergency. Any other response means that 911 won't work if one of those children is abused.


Ok. Man seems ok. one kid is home, the other left about half a minute before cops showed how. Kid who was home denies playing with the phone. Neither the kid nor the man seems distraut. Do you still think the cops should force entry since the person who presumably made the call cannot be immediately located?

I would bet dollars do donuts that unless officers thought something seemed amiss at that point, they would go home, and they should.

Next question:

so suppose the kid did call by accident.... The police can't locate the kid, but nothing else seems amiss. The police enter the home and discover a marijuana plant. Admissible?
5.31.2009 1:35am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(for above entry, suppose the entry was, as you suggest it should be, over the apparent owner's objections)
5.31.2009 1:36am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Re: 311....
ANAC reserves N11 numbers for special services.

211 is approved to connect folks to social and health services

311 is for non-emergency municipal services. The big issue here is that usually where this is implemented these go to 911 operators as a second priority. This is not necessarily a good idea since 311 also includes things with no relation to fire, medical, or police services (things like reporting potholes, city utility problems, finding lost pets, etc. Also since 311 calls go to 911 operators, you can;t be sure that answering a 311 call is not delaying answering a 911 call. Additionally it requires additional training since in addition to dispatching to fire, ambulance, and police services, you have to make sure that you are also dispatching to the city utility departments, etc. Imagine the problems if an assault case got accidently misrouted into a very low priority queue. While emergency personnel would discover the error and work to correct it immediately, non-emergency personnel might not be in the office at the moment. Ideally, I think 311 should be for business-hours-only services and go to separate operators.

411 is for directory assistance

511 is usually the travel inforamtion system of your state

611 reports a problem with your phone or connects you to customer service

711 is an assistance number for deaf folk (telecommunications relay services)

811 tells you where it is safe to dig.

911 is for police, fire, and ambulance emergency services.

Personally I think that 311 should be for anything OTHER THAN police, fire, and ambulance services. Once you start throwing in non-emergency servics there....

Finally on the point of every 911 call needing to be an emergency, it is quite possible to misdial and dial 911 instead of 811 or 611. Police shouldn't be able to enter your house just because you tried to are digging in your front yard after calling 811 (and after miscalling 911 in the process). Beyond this you have issues where several cities in India have city codes starting in 1. If you accidently omit the 011 because you are not use to the North American dialing plan...... that's right, you get 91 as the country code plus a city code starting in 1......

I think you
5.31.2009 1:51am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
hit submit by accident. Continuing from start of sentence.

I think you would run into valid search and siezure issues if EVERY 911 call required a search for the caller.
5.31.2009 1:52am
David Schwartz (mail):
Ok. Man seems ok. one kid is home, the other left about half a minute before cops showed how. Kid who was home denies playing with the phone. Neither the kid nor the man seems distraut. Do you still think the cops should force entry since the person who presumably made the call cannot be immediately located?
I think that's a judgment call they would have to make, but I think they'd be justified in doing so. They have a reasonable suspicion that the person who called 911 required emergency assistance because that is the only reason you are supposed to call 911. It's their call whether the conversation dissipated that suspicion or not.

so suppose the kid did call by accident.... The police can't locate the kid, but nothing else seems amiss. The police enter the home and discover a marijuana plant. Admissible?
Absolutely. If the entry was justified and the contraband was in plain sight, it's absolutely admissible.

To clarify, I am not saying the police need to bust the door down for every 911 call. But they should be able to, and it is reasonable for them to. Don't call 911 if you don't want the door busted down. It's for emergencies -- cases when you're happy to get a maximal response.
5.31.2009 2:48am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
David Schwartz,

An even sillier example that makes your rule unworkable in many areas.

Troublemaker sneaks around a neighborhood and opens the exterior phone utility box, which contains a test jack that a phone can be plugged into. Troublemaker calls 911 and then flees. There is no way to determine that the caller wasn't actually in the house.

Police show up and bust in the door, find nothing then leave. Home owner comes back to find their door broken.

How many such incidents will it take for this policy to change? I would think home owners would get irate very quickly, especially if they are charged (financial not criminal) for these false responses.

Such a system would also open up great abuse potential for pretext searching of houses.
5.31.2009 11:06am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Absolutely. If the entry was justified and the contraband was in plain sight, it's absolutely admissible.


Suppose the contraband was NOT in plain sight, for example, locked in a closet. Does this power give the police the power to break down every interior door too on the off chance that a body might be in the closet? Would the space used by a marijana plant (likely more space than child's body would take up) automatically grant power to search everywhere that this was possible?

Also having done wiring for telephones inside my house, I can tell you that even where one doesn't have a phone jack in the phone utility box it is EXTREMELY easy to wire one.

Note, I am not saying police should not have the power to break down doors when responding to 911. I think this ought to be up to the officers, their departments, etc. within Constitutional limits. This means that if nothing else appears to be amiss, it does seem likely that it was the kid (no longer at the scene) who called, etc. I don't think the search at that point is reasonable.

Similarly "Oops, I dialed 911 by accident because I dialed 9 for an outside line and then didn;t think I pressed 1 the first time" given no other overriding factors is no grounds for a hotel room search. Worse still if, "I was trying to call New Delhi.... Did I not dial 011 first?" grants search conditions by itself, that would seem to be a possible equal protection violation in the sense that Indian immigrants would have far less protection under the 4th Amendment than any other group.
5.31.2009 11:39am
DennisN (mail):

I was told to call the hospital line rather than 911 because a 911 call would require resuscitation effort regardless of the EHD and DNR paperwork.


This has got to be highly variable, dependent on jurisdiction. When my late wife passed, the EMTs on the scene were able to pronounce her and no resuscitation was attempted.

I think one of the problems with this discussion is we are trying to wargame a universal system that automatically discriminates between emergencies and non-emergencies. I don’t think this is possible, or even desirable. Joe Sixpack needs a number to call when he “needs” police – fire – emergency services. Joe is not an expert, and cannot be expected to be skilled at determining whether there even IS an emergency.

It requires trained professionals, using their brains, (Yeah, I know, that’s asking a lot.) to triage the calls, determine the proper response, and dispatch it. Then it requires trained professionals on the ground to determine the actual proper response, as opposed to what the dispatcher told them to do. That’s why we have people in the loop.

Yeah, the cops may be sent on a number of wild goose chases – it’s called reconnaissance, and is a valuable part of police work. If you don’t understand the situation, you send out an eyeball attached to a brain to find out.

In the case of an non-completed 911 call, I'd rather trust the cop at by back door to make the right decision, than some REMF sitting at a telephone console. Imperfect, Hell, yeah.

The user interface to 911 should be relatively universal. Unless you’re calling from home, you may not even know what jurisdiction you are calling, and certainly not what their rules are.

I frequently call 911 from the Interstate, to dispatch emergency and support services. “There’s a property damage accident on the median wall at mile 93.5 Southbound, with people milling around. No one appears injured. You might want to get a help truck out there to cover them with their lights.” G_d help them if I have to figure out which maintenance district to call, or what is the non-emergency number. That’s not an emergency. But it could become one. The same with a blown-up truck tire in Lane 3.

Sometimes it’s not even police or fire that are needed. A bunch of years ago, I had an argument with a 911 operator. There was a new utility trench across a busy roadway. It was driving down rain, and the water was causing a progressive erosion failure that was causing a hole to expand into the traveled way. These things can swallow cars if the get bad enough. How big would it get?

“That’s not an emergency, sir.”

“It will bloody well become an emergency if some mope drives into the hole and wrecks!”

They dispatched a Public Works truck. Of course, by the time he arrived, the rain had stopped, the situation had stabilized, and he guarded the hole with some cones. Inappropriate use of 911? I think not.

Even when the incident is accurately and precisely described, the system cannot necessarily trust the report, and must send out a pre-planned standard response.

I walked into a fire station once, to report a fire. This was in the BC era, Before Cellphones. There was a small fire in a neglected burn pile that had burned down mostly to embers. There was a moderate chance of it spreading, but not quickly. One man with an Indian pump would have been an adequate response. They turned out the whole station, because that’s what “the book” said. Given that they did not know me from Adam, it was probably the proper response.

In many areas (e.g. Chicago) the 311 system is hopelessly incompetent. Heck, 911 is often incompetent, but that’s a different argument. If people are required to deal with multiple numbers without a firm understanding of what calls belong where, and the systems are not of equal quality, then calls will be dropped.

Chicago does have a good advertising campaign to discriminate the difference, “Lost child – call 911. Lost dog, call 311.”

Still, you can’t expect people to get it right. You can’t even expect professionals to get it right all the time.
5.31.2009 12:29pm
DennisN (mail):
David Schwartz:


I am not saying the police need to bust the door down for every 911 call. But they should be able to, and it is reasonable for them to. Don't call 911 if you don't want the door busted down. It's for emergencies -- cases when you're happy to get a maximal response.


I have no problem with that, just don't persecute callers for getting it wrong unless it is a truly egregious case.

The case that triggered this thread wasn't egregious - Based solely on the information presented, (I know, that's never adequate but it's all we have.) it called for an arse chewing, not an arrest.
5.31.2009 12:37pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
DennisN,

I was trying to point out just that, 911 might be a universal number, but what you connect to varies wildly. I have been told that in other jurisdictions an autopsy would have been required due to the fact that she died at home. This despite the fact she was 97 years old, had suffered multiple strokes and had been ill for months.
5.31.2009 12:46pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
DennisN:

In the case of an non-completed 911 call, I'd rather trust the cop at by back door to make the right decision, than some REMF sitting at a telephone console. Imperfect, Hell, yeah.


Also in cases of clear abuse of discretion, I do trust the courts to work things out. A call to the police which is apparently accidental which later is followed up with a search which turns up contraband, I figure the court can exclude it and all things stemming from it.
5.31.2009 12:47pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(assuming no additional evidence)
5.31.2009 1:00pm
DennisN (mail):
Soronel:

Variable, hell yes. This is another reason why a universal number is desirable. It takes at least one variable out of the equation. IMX, with regard to variables, the chances of things going wrong are proportional to V^2. In the worst cases, it may be 2^V.

The autopsy situation may be pretty common. You can evacuate an expected deceased with a doctor's order, and dodge an autopsy, just as if a person died in hospital, but once the corpse is in the hands of the system, the situation becomes more complicated. I would expect, even in the direct evacuation case, the deceased would be examined for extraneous holes, unexpected bruises, etc.


einhverfr:

In any event, this discussion has reminded me to keep my contraband under lock and key. ;-)
5.31.2009 2:05pm
David Schwartz (mail):
SH: There are many systems in widespread use with similar flaws. If the flaws are exploited, the system adjusts to deal with the flaw.

For example, air traffic control clearances are given to civil aircraft by voices that are generally known to the people on either end. They are given on published frequencies and in a known language.

Had someone proposed such a system, you could argue that it wouldn't work because the first person to come along with a radio and issue bogus clearances would cause dozens of air crashes.

Examples abound of similar things. That a troublemaker can wreak havoc with a system does not make the system unworkable. It just means the system occasionally has to deal with a troublemaker.
5.31.2009 11:44pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Suppose the contraband was NOT in plain sight, for example, locked in a closet. Does this power give the police the power to break down every interior door too on the off chance that a body might be in the closet? Would the space used by a marijana plant (likely more space than child's body would take up) automatically grant power to search everywhere that this was possible?
If it's reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, yes. If not, no. This is a decision that police have to make, subject to suppression (and civil liability) if they get it wrong.

Is the answer "yes" in every case? Of course not. But it's not "no" in every case either.
5.31.2009 11:46pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
DS:

Before you argued that 911 calls should generally require police to force entry (the hotel room hypo, for example), but now you seem to be backing off to the situation as whit described it, the totality of circumstances.

It seems to me that the totality of circumstances is the correct approach. I have no problem with this. However, with short number sequences there will be many misdials. Certainly given this, it doesn't make sense to prosecute people for using the 911 system to contact police for non-emergencies, provided they are clear about this with the dispatcher.
6.1.2009 3:51pm
Joe Sixpack:

I think one of the problems with this discussion is we are trying to wargame a universal system that automatically discriminates between emergencies and non-emergencies. I don’t think this is possible, or even desirable. Joe Sixpack needs a number to call when he “needs” police – fire – emergency services. Joe is not an expert, and cannot be expected to be skilled at determining whether there even IS an emergency.


I concur. A few weeks ago we stopped by to check on a neighbor going through chemo. She seemed a little disoriented. Her pulse was 128, temp 102. I've had first aid of the bleeding/splint/heat stroke variety, but I am in no way competent to assess the degree of urgency here (for example, I know emphysema patients that frequently have that kind of pulse). After some digging, we found the attending MD's call number, and the oncologist eventually called us back. He heard her vitals and took 6.3 seconds to instruct us 'call 911 and get her to the ER now'. We did. The 911 operator wants to talk to the patient, who is fairly disoriented, then us, and keeps asking why we think it is an emergency, and I keep repeating 'because her doctor told us so' (maybe people lie about that?). The EMT's came, they were great, and she is much better after a few days in the hospital.

Adding 'will I get prosecuted for calling 911' to that mix seems unwise to me. Indeed, we should have called sooner.
6.1.2009 7:24pm

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