The recent line of duty shooting of Lac-Simon police member Officer Thierry Leroux is a tragic event. HIFR sends condolences to his family, friends, and co-workers. While not an abandoned 911 call, it does highlight some of the dangers of walking into a domestic disturbance situation.
Here on Hornby Island, especially during the non-summer months, we have a very limited police presence. As a result, HIFR is occasionally called out to investigate abandoned 911 calls. If a 911 caller hangs up before the dispatcher feels that the situation is resolved, someone must attend the scene to ensure everyone is OK. Normally that is the job of the police, but since they are two hours away we sometimes get the call to “have a look”.
The RCMP tries to vet the call so that if there is an obvious threat they won’t put us in harm’s way, but it can be very hard to tell with just a hangup on the other end. Is the caller in the middle of a heart attack and unable to speak? Was the caller cleaning the phone and accidentally hit the 911 speed dial? Or is there a domestic disturbance and the caller was unable to get a message across?
It is an agonizing decision for the HIFR Duty Officer to refuse to attend the scene knowing that they could be putting themselves and the rest of the crew in peril but also knowing that a fellow islander could be in trouble. We have the right to refuse to attend these calls and sometimes make the decision to do so.
If you should accidentally make a 911 call, please do not hang up. Stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher what has happened. You will save several people a great deal of time and stress.