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Crime / JusticeIAmA Police Officer in the US. Ask me ANYTHING

Dec 24th 2016 by Throwbocop4412 • 62 Questions • 138 Points

Proof: http://imgur.com/e6ORMwZ

Hey Reddit! I'm a 911 dispatcher here to welcome your questions, provide insight, and hopefully gain a little visibility for a profession that usually only enters the public eye when we screw up!

I work in a PSAP (Public Safety Access/Answering Point) meaning that we dispatch for every agency in my county, which includes Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, and other agencies. My center specifically handles calls and radio dispatch for the County Sheriff, local Police, 10 separate Fire Departments, the Forestry Service, EMS, the local Rescue Squad/independant first responders, State Parks, and Animal Control!

Ask away!

*******EDIT***************

Thank you, everyone, for your support, your time, and your questions! I have to sign off for a bit, but I promise I will return and try to answer everything that's been asked!

Call us if you need us!

Q:

How do you and other people feel about the scrutiny over police brutality recently? Does the force empathize with the "black lives matter" cause at all, or do they see it as "anti-cop"?

A:

Thanks for doing an AMA. So I just want to know, what ship you designed changed the most from the first idea to the final model? Oh and what do you think about the newer ships in the SW franchise that are based on your ideas?


Q:

Do you ever accidentally slip into dispatcher mode when you're on a regular ol' personal call?

A:

Unfortunately BLM and other forms of protest are viewed as purely "anti-cop". There is still a strong us vs them mentality here.


Q:

The Millennium Falcon was originally designed in a lizzard shape. We learned that another film had created a similar design, so it was immediately modified into its final form.

A:

Ha.. yeah, I do. Especially if I have to spell something over the phone, the phonetic alphabet comes right out


Q:

Well where do you think that mentality came from?

A:

As lead designer of the Death Star, do you ever worry about potential Rebel Alliance assassins?


Q:

What's your reaction/thoughts on callers who use phonetic alphabet?
Does it happen often or is it rare?

A:

Cops in the 70s and 80s had it rough. Policing was nowhere near as standardized as it is now. Outmanned, outgunned and undertrained, It truly was "Us vs Them". But that mentality carried over to my generation, where policing is far from safe, but nothing like the war zone it once was. So you have young men who want to belong, be a part of something powerful, to be feared, and that's why we have cops acting like suburban America is Afghanistan.


Q:

All the time!!

A:

It does happen, but they usually use the Military version because that's what ends up in movies and stuff, so sometimes it throws us off for a second


Q:

Assuming you know a good amount of police... What's the ratio of honest and fair, to cooked and unfair?

A:

I have one more question - would you be open to attending the largest gathering of sci-fi model builders, at Wonderfest in Louisville Kentucky, in early June? It will be a celebration of everything, but also a specific showcase of the Star Wars 40th anniversary.

I think I speak for all the fellas when I say we would love to have you attend and show you what we have made, inspired by your designs!


Q:

Which phonetic alphabet do you guys use?

A:

It's a melting pot. A better question is how many cops lack common sense and want to be hailed as heroes VS cops who want to serve the public. THAT'S where it gets messy. No doubt, this job is incredibly dangerous, but I've had it with this Call-of-Duty themed ThinBlueLine™ Nonsense from cops who WANT to feel like they're in a war zone. Those are the "cooked and unfair" cops who want to drop 3k on a patrol rifle but not a dime towards educational courses on de-escalation or effective communication.


Q:

Send me your email and we can talk.

A:

We call it the "Law Enforcement Phonetic Alphabet"

Adam, Boy, Charles, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry...

instead of the Military version or the Greek Alphabet


Q:

Who do you think should push for that mentality change? Or better yet how could you?

What would you personally like to do? Are you in it for the rush? Or to be a bigger part of your community? Or was it just a steady pay check with benefits.

A:

Hi, just wanted to ask a small question about the Star Destroyers. Did you include any turrets on the model, or did you omit them because they were too small to put on such a large ship? I can't help but notice in the movies that the lasers come out of seemingly nowhere on the ships.


Q:

Are you required to know the NATO alphabet anyway? I know I would start using it the second you asked me to clarify something, and now I'm worried I'll make it worse.

A:

All of it. No bullshit. Anyone who tells you they didn't become a cop for the steady pay or adrenaline rush is lying. But more important to me is the impact I can make. The fact that I have the power to change lives or situations for the better(when possible). I think we should all push to change the current mentality, but that train hasn't even left the depot. If I said HALF the shit I've said in these comments to my fellow officers, I'd be on someone's shit-list, marked for dismissal on some bullshit policy violation that they can catch in the next few months.


Q:

You are very perceptive.

A:

I am not, thankfully it's pretty intuitive, so don't worry :)


Q:

Do you enforce laws you do not agree with?

A:

Did you ever think Star Wars would get as big as it is today?


Q:

If I'm being pulled over by a civilian vehicle with a siren light on the roof like a detectives car in tv shows should I call 911 before pulling over? I'd be concerned that it was someone trying to rob me with a $10 light off eBay. What should one do in this situation to confirm the "officer" is legit?

A:

It's a must, unfortunately. I have the option to not immediately take an individual into custody upon finding out that they have misdemeanor/traffic warrants. I hate putting someone in cuffs for an unpaid ticket, but in a lot of situations I end up having to for liability purposes.


Q:

I knew that the opening scenes had to be exceptionally successful, but little did I foresee the outcome.

A:

If you feel the other car may not be an actual cop, absolutely please call in. All our units advise us immediately that they are doing a traffic stop, for everyone's safety.


Q:

What kind of liability issues?

A:

Wow, your résumé is crazy! What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?


Q:

My five-year-old brother called 911 once because he saw a stray cat and he thought it looked hungry (he was sobbing on the phone hahaha). An officer came out and had a chat with him about when we call 911 about a real emergency and when we can just try to help stray kitties. It was sweet.

Anyway, what's your favorite (not sad!) little kid calling 911 story?

A:

If I pull you over and your license is suspended, I'm more than likely gonna cut you a break as long as you're trying to better yourself. No insurance? I'll do the same. Have a warrant for an unpaid ticket? Could've got lost in the mail. Or maybe you knew about it and simply don't have the funds. Now, if your license is suspended, you don't have insurance, you have a warrant for a traffic ticket you didn't pay, and I pulled you over because you were doing 30 miles an hour over the speed limit, then you're going to jail, your car is getting towed and I'm giving you more tickets. You're irresponsible, and if I let you go with a warning and you end up Killing or injuring somebody with your reckless driving, they're gonna want to know why the hell Officer Throwbocop4412 let you drive off. There goes my job and a nice fat lawsuit for my agency.


Q:

Way beyond crazy. Way into genius territory 24/7

A:

Usually the only cute ones we get are toddlers going "goo goo gaa" into the phone that they mashed buttons on, then their mother/parent saying "Hey, don't call them!" and hanging up


Q:

Yes. Talk to your legislator. I don't write the laws, and I'm not paid by the people of the state to enforce my own particular opinion.

A:

Hey, Colin, thanks for doing another AMA! The last one was really interesting! My husband and I are both huge Star Wars fans, and we both have our different favorite ships (mine being the TIE Fighter). Do you have a favorite? Or is it impossible to choose because they're your creations?


Q:

How hard is it to understand people in a real state of panic? Do you have a standard procedure?

A:

Please refrain from answering questions on this AMA. I appreciate the help and I'm sure you're a cop, but I'm here on a mission. I was late to the party but Im here now.


Q:

Looking back on it, the ones that created the most important scenes won out. May both of you create favorites that light up your audiences.

A:

Great question!

So statistically, only a small percentage of callers are found to be "too distraught" for us to get any info, meaning we should almost never be unable to get anything unless someone just hangs up/loses connection.

With that said, sometimes it is really hard! With background noise and crappy cell reception it's hard enough.. but add in panic and we have to ask people to repeat things all the time, unfortunately. We do have a protocol we have to follow to maintain our certifications, and it always starts with us confirming the address, phone number, and name. That way, if nothing else we know where to send units and can get info while they're on the way to reduce response time


Q:

Why is there such a huge difference in the way US cops act compared to British policemen? I have lived in both countries and find the attitude of US cops to be, on average, much worse than the British

A:

Do you find it difficult to create artwork that looks unique for each different project you work on?

Also your "sign up here to enter" link doesnt work


Q:

Imagine triangulating a cellphone signal is not as easy and quick as I imagine it to be.

A:

Police culture. I do agree that American cops have to be tougher than most cops in other developed countries, but a lot of police officers have this macho man complex left over from the tough cops that patrolled the streets in the 70s through the 90s. Police officers in that era had to be tough because there was no other option. They were untrained, underequipped, and the crack epidemic tore apart inner cities. Nowadays, however, that "toughness" simply translates to arrogance and further divides us from the community. You'd be surprised how many cops view patience and compassion as weaknesses.


Q:

No, my mind is always ready to hunt for something new instead of repeating. We'll fix the link in a few minutes.. Thanks for the heads up

A:

We literally just have a button to "re-bid" the call, meaning try again to get a location, but beyond that there's nothing we can do from our chairs


Q:

Have y'all had to deal with drones much? And are you ready for the fresh influx of drones post-Christmas?

A:

Hi Colin! Thank you for doing this. Were you approached by Disney to work on the new films?


Q:

Does it fail that often?

A:

I was working an accident once and just happened to look up and see a drone recording me from about 50 ft up in the air. As soon as I looked at it, drone backed away and disappeared behind some trees. It's a whole new world.


Q:

Not by Disney

A:

No, maybe 1 in 50 calls, if that often


Q:

What laws do you not agree with?

A:

Hi! So, did the trench run finale actually come about because of your design?! Did you meet Carrie Fisher?


Q:

Is it difficult for you to detach emotionally once you know there's nothing more you personally (or anyone if that's the case) can do for the caller?

A:

A lot, but if I had to specify, the drug war should end. Legalize marijuana. Decriminalize the more serious drugs and provide rehabilitation for addicts.


Q:

I did not meet Carrie. The trench was my idea... thereby the action scenes

A:

It is easier for me then some of my peers for whatever reason. I just don't get very emotionally invested unless it's someone I know or care about. I know it sounds very heartless, but I'd argue it makes me better suited because even seasoned veterans in this job can get a horrible call and freeze up... and that's when things go really wrong


Q:

Do you guys have the new NARC cans? How are they? Edit: Have you run into any of those "Free Inhabitant" freaks? How did that go?

A:

What do you think about the large influx of CGI use in recent films? Do you think there's some level of authenticity that can't be achieved with digital renders as opposed to physical miniature props?


Q:

How many times would you get a call concerning someone you know or care about? I can't imagine that happens very regularly.

A:

Negative on the NARC cans, but I'm curious to see how they work. I've run into a couple of those idiots who were just starting their new Soverign Citizenship. There's no reasoning with someone who is invested in that bullshit!


Q:

CGI has come a long way. Hands on for me is my kind of fun. But I was a pioneer in CGI as well.

A:

Thankfully not! It hasn't happened to me yet (fingers crossed) but I have gotten calls about people I am familiar with or acquaintances


Q:

Thanks for doing what you do! Do you feel that the authority granted to you by the state to do your job justifies public scrutiny for how you use that authority?

A:

I have seen pictures of the Y-Wing you made with a WWII fighter cockpit for a canopy, which was later changed to the squared styrene one that it has now, and which was painted by McQuarrie. Did you often meet with George Lucas while building the models, and how often were you asked to modify or change a build?


Q:

My brother is a dispatcher. They got the call when one of their coworkers committed suicide.

Edit: This answer was the only reason I'm confident you're not my brother (handwriting is really similar).

A:

Of course. Granted, the public will not always understand why I use my authority in certain situations the way that I do, but what I do can change a persons life for the better or for the worse. if I can't handle a little scrutiny then I shouldn't be in this profession.


Q:

I met with him to ask mostly about the role of the ship storywise. A lot to begin with and less frequently as time went on. He seldom made suggestions on design changes.

A:

Man, that is really rough, my condolences to him and his team. We are very close here, that would be devastating


Q:

Merry Christmas officer. My question is whether you think it will ever be possible for the public to trust police in general if there isn't public accountability for each instance of abuse anywhere else in the country. What I mean to say is that I believe that there is community accountability for police so if one person seems to get away with abuse then all police look guilty and the public outrage only grows greater. do you think that's true and whether it is or not what do you think is the best way of dealing with the problem

A:

Ooh, hello Sir, congratulations and thank you for your amazing work! I'd love to see you team up with Dr Michio Kaku - what a dream team that would be! Have you got a ticket for a commercial space flight? Who'd be your dream team to go to space with?


Q:

Is 911 the best number to call for non-emergency traffic situations?

For instance, after a windy night, when a tree branch is blocking a traffic intersection? I'm sure there is a city service for this, but if i notice while i'm driving i may not have those phone numbers handy.

A:

Merry Christmas to you as well. I think the biggest problem here is the word abuse. Agencies aren't willing to admit "brutality" when their officers are being heavy-handed, but at the same time the public needs to understand that not every act of physical aggression committed by police is simply abuse. I think it will be possible for the public to trust police again, but we both need to come to an agreement here.


Q:

i did significant flying while lying in bed with tuberculosis as a child. No ticket yet, but Stephen Hawiking would be a REAL TRIP.

A:

You can call State Highway Patrol or go ahead and call 911 and we can transfer you or advise them ourselves


Q:

Who makes the best donuts?

A:

Do you have an idea how the Core Fires series is going to pan out or are you just making it up as you go along? And how far have you got with the sequel?


Q:

Do you get annoyed at people calling about petty things? like dogs off the leash or personal disputes?

A:

Whoever' so giving em to me for free. 😂


Q:

CoreFires Two is complete and will be out before the end of 2017.

A:

Yuuuuuup.

We get a little annoyed, we joke about it, we make sarcastic comments after we hang up with the caller... but we still advise our units of every single one! We take your life and safety seriously, even if you're being a little silly or petty :)


Q:

What do you think about the movie Predator?

A:

Has anyone ever said you look like a white Snoop Dogg?


Q:

I called 911 once because there was a fuck-ton of smashed glass on the highway that everyone was going slowly around (I think it fell off a trailer or something). Was that something I should have done?

A:

It's been so long since I've seen it. I'll get back to after I have myself a little 80's/90's movie marathon.


Q:

Now, somone has.

A:

Sure! In my area, we would send the fire department to go clean it up so it doesn't cause an accident


Q:

How much oversight is there of the police board where you're from?

Admittedly I am from outside the United States but I have heard that the role of the police force can be "subcontracted" out to a sort of pseudo third-party police force. How involved is local and federal government in your operations? What is the hiring process like?

Thanks for doing the AMA

A:

Hello Colin, which current real life technology are you most excited about?


Q:

EMT here:

How do you know exactly when I am ready to dig into my meal or take off my boots? Are there cameras in our station so you know the worst possible moments to tone us out? Do my sacrifices to the dispatch gods get seen, or should I just stop doing them all together?

In all seriousness, we love our dispatchers (most of them anyway) and really appreciate hearing 'stay safe' from time to time.

EDIT: Huh, this blew up. Thank you for the gold and kind words below. From the EMS community to you, PLEASE STAY SAFE THIS NEW YEARS! If you think about it and have the ability to do so, send a thank-you note to your local EMS station during this busy time of year. It'll mean more than you probably ever know.

A:
  1. More than people think. Honestly not as simple as "policeman investigates himself and finds no wrongdoing". I won't lie, more civilian oversight is definitely needed but those civilians need to be well qualified to do so.

  2. Third party police force? That's probably referring to the various constable offices we have that fulfill contracts with communities to provide security for them.

  3. Local/Federal? It really depends on what we're doing.

  4. The hiring process is pretty intensive. They do an extensive background check, double check the claims you made on your application, they'll even check your application against other applications you've submitted to other police agencies to see if there were any inconsistencies.


Q:

Biologic co-evolution and advancing intelligence.

A:

We usually try to hold all pages until lunch time, dinner time, and the middle of the night, so it's good to hear we're being effective :)

Thank you, truthfully, for what you do :) The gods are pleased


Q:

do you see yourself as protector of the people or protector of the state?

A:

Hi, impressive resume! What were your inspirations behind the various Star Wars designs? Did Lucas already have an idea in mind for each, did he just say something like "Go talk to McQuarrie and ask to see his paintings", or did he let you come up with whatever you wanted to come up with?


Q:

How do you decide when you should stay on the call instead of just take the call and dispatch and then disconnect?

A:

Always the people.


Q:

Some had individual inspirations, too long to go into detail for all of them. All were from my mind.

A:

It's kind of a hard thing to put into words, sometimes you just get a feeling like "hey, those background noises are weird" or " this caller's voice sounds scared even though she says she's fine".

Other times, the caller themselves asks you to stay on, especially with some bad medical calls


Q:

When you see a random person in every day situation, do you call him "suspect" in your head?

A:

Why are the TIE Fighters so different from the various rebel craft?


Q:

Every time I've called 911, the operator stayed on the phone until the police arrived

A:

Haha no. If he's acting funny I might try to figure out what his deal is, but no name-calling in my head.


Q:

I wanted them each to be evil and "instantly" identified on the screen.

A:

It may be their policy to do so, it may be that they were slow enough, it may just be that they felt it was necessary


Q:

How do you think guns affect American policing vs foreign countries where guns are not publicly legal?

A:

What was your favorite part about working on Star Wars?


Q:

When there's a fire/accident/crime on/near a major road do you receive several dozen calls for it? How do you handle that, as in do you tell them that there are units responding and try to free up the line as quickly as possible or do you continue to ask them for information?

A:

Knowing someone could have a gun puts American police more on edge than in places where guns are not publicly legal. It also brings a lot of the wrong type of people to this job who simply want to walk around with a gun strapped to their hip.


Q:

The creativity of working with Lucas

A:

Oh yes. Ohhhhh yes.

And yep, we tell them "we have received reports, units are enroute" and document the call. Unless the original caller gave very little info and the new caller says they are on scene at the accident or were involved or something and we can get more info from them


Q:

How long does it take to make detective if one was so inclined? Is there a route to homicide detective that doesn't require years of being an officer?

A:

Hi Colin, hope you get to this. If you've seen Rouge one the Death Star is a big part again. Do you think the team did a good job at portraying the intensity of what you were going for with your initial creation of it? Also, was it originally designed to run off Kyber crystal?


Q:

I called 911 when I spotted a butt naked man walking down the street at midnight. It was hard for me to not laugh as I called 911. The poor dispatcher seemed confused, asked me to repeat myself several times then, I swear I heard, a little chuckle. What is the funniest call you have received? (The situation ended up being pretty serious. The guy had some sort of nervous breakdown and was convinced God had told him to commit suicide by walking himself to death. He was also my neighbor who lived across the street but I didn't know it at the time.)

A:

Depends, but I doubt there is a route to homicide that doesn't require years of being an officer. If there is one, I wouldn't take it. I wouldn't take any shortcut to any position in law enforcement where the prerequisite is patrol experience. Regardless of your background, the knowledge and experience you gain as a patrol officer is an invaluable asset for whatever you choose to do later.


Q:

I think they did a good job with the Death Star. The plans were secret.

A:

Oh geez, yeah that's not funny at all in the end!

I mentioned in another comment that a caller called 911 to say two "crackwhores" had stolen his wallet and not had sex with him after he solicited them, so he got ripped off and robbed.

We asked their names. His answer?

Crackwhore 1 and Crackwhore 2.

Brilliant


Q:

Thanks for answering!

A:

Hi Colin,

I currently work for NASA and I was wondering, with Mars on the horizon do you think that traveling to Mars will be covered in the news outlets as much as the Moon landings?

If you had the chance, would you like to cover the Mars landing?


Q:

Two questions:
- What is the weirdest non-emergency you ever answered to?
- Ever happened that someone asked for food or groceries because they were literally starving? I once read this article and wondered how frequently something like this happens

A:

ThrowawayforLEOstuff is not me. Not affiliated with me at all.


Q:

Hopefully it would be more accurate than the cover image of National Geographic which swapped the lowest terrains with the highest. Yes I would like to cover the Mars landing.

A:

Weirdest thing: one lady said she saw a puma with a bald head cross the road... Surprisingly, responders could not locate it.

I've never had someone actually say they were starving, but we do have social services resources for both adults and children if something like that were reported to us


Q:

Will strict gun laws make your job easier?

A:

Mr. Cantwell, I've never heard about Kubrick wanting a conference table discussion scene for the opening of 2001. Could you talk a little bit about why he wanted it and how and why you persuaded him to go in a different direction? Thanks for doing this AMA.


Q:

What's the craziest call you've ever gotten? What's the dumbest call you've ever gotten?

A:

Nope. Ending the drug war would.


Q:

The conference room scene he proposed while the audience was being seated was a real drag. To me, far more important to begin and then at the end, to feel the majesty of the story.

A:

"Her vagina done fell out" ranks as one of the strangest complaints we've gotten....

I had a call a few months back from a woman saying her neighbor's house was in flames. Turns out it was the sunset reflecting off the windows. (PSA please always call if you think there's a fire, we just might laugh a bit later if it's something like this)


Q:

Do you ever foreplay with your wife while wearing your uniform and kicking it off from there?

A:

Was there ever any discussion about the death star's propulsion? Watching the old and most recent film, I thought it might be the most cavalier thing of all to not acknowledge what it would take to move an object of that size and shape through space. So was that ever discussed in relation to it's appearance?


Q:

Can you give us more on the vagina falling out?

A:

Oh hell yes. We are one step closer to buying a retired cop car so we can start the fantasy on a "traffic stop"... 😏


Q:

Not by me. I thought it more mysterious without detailed explaination.

A:

My understanding is it ended up being some kind of prolapse situation with a middle aged woman. I have no idea what caused it, but both the caller and we in the center were very confused by it.

"...it fell out? "

" It done fell out."


Q:

First, sorry, because I see a lot of posts suggesting racial bias among Police. I'm of the mind that most aren't. Have you ever come across a colleague who was an overt racist? If so, are there any avenues you have for dealing with the issue that doesn't endanger your job and/or reputation.

A:

Thanks for the AMA! Huge fan. How do you feel the modern Star Wars movies i.e. The force awakens and Rogue 1 compare with the original trilogy? Thanks!


Q:

Have you ever had anyone call you up to admit to a crime and summon the police?

A:

Overt racists are few and far between. The couple of times I've come across overt racists, I didn't have to do anything. They got themselves fired through the sheer stupidity of their actions. COVERT racism however, is a huge problem.


Q:

I really enjoyed seeing the new story tellng in both.

A:

We do get people wanting to turn themselves in for outstanding warrants. I did have a guy report that two "crackwhores" had stolen his wallet after he solicited them... genius


Q:

Are there any avenues you have to that don't endanger your job or reputation?

A:

What are your thoughts on Elon Musk?


Q:

Interesting. Are you able to share what those people turned themselves in for and why? Or is it confidential?

And another question: Let's say I broke into a building and its alarm system goes off. Does it call a security company that then call you?

A:

Absolutely. If I want to out an overt racist, I'll make sure to "back him up" on every call, so my shits recording him in case he's not. Encourage people he's discriminated against to pursue cases against him. Anonymously tip off IA to look into him. Etc


Q:

He's an amazing visionary

A:

It varies, I think the last one was for receiving stolen goods if I remember.

Yep! It triggers the alarm company who then call us and then we dispatch


Q:

I appreciate the response.

Personally, I'm not sure having one of these helps in any real way. I mean, I'm not asking to get out of a murder or anything, but perhaps if I'm speeding a bit then maybe it's a warning rather than a ticket.

But, in the end, regardless of the results, I do appreciate the gesture from a guy who is a good friend of mine.

A:

So having worked with NASA during the broadcast of the first moon landing; what exactly were you doing during that time, and what are your feelings about those people among us who say it was a staged event? (I for one know we landed on the moon, but I have met others who swear we didn't)


Q:

In the day and age of cell phones I imagine many people do not know the address of where they currently are located. With a landline it could be easily traced to an address. How do you track a cell phone to a specific address?

A:

Doesn't mean anything to me. I'm not very lenient with friends or family of law enforcement(unless the cop is in the car with them), I tell my friends and family not to expect special treatment either.


Q:

I was sitting behind Walter Cronkite and known as the "Hal 9000 Computer". During his broadcast I was listening to NASA and feeding Walter the information he was broadcasting on live TV.
As far as skeptics, give me their names and I'll sell them the London Bridge.

A:

It shows up as a little dot on our map and we look at the closest valid address and hope for the best


Q:

What inspired your design for the Death Star?

A:

I'm required by my employer to periodically test that 911 works and that 911 can properly identify the address I'm calling from. I feel like I'm wasting your time when you could be handling a real emergency. How do you feel about test calls?


Q:

The Death Star was a sphere because objects needed to be able to fly around it and attack it from all sides. When the two plastic hemispheres arrived, I had to invent a way to use them without revealing their equitorial flaws.. Hence the trench.

A:

Please call if you need to test the system! For landlines, we are supposed to get an accurate, automatic location, but it's technology and things do go wrong


Q:

Thanks for all your great work.

What specific shots did you work on in 2001? (A description in words or DVD or Blu-ray timings are fine.)

How much guidance did Kubrick give you, how much did he explain or describe what he wanted? Did he give you general or specific instructions? Did he look at your work in progress and say "No, try again--experiment, surprise me" or "No, I will tell you exactly what I want it to look like ..."?

A:

I saw on a tv show this guy was getting home invaded, and he called 911 and tapped SOS in morse code into the phone to avoid making any sound

Does this happen? And if it were to happen would you be able to follow thru?


Q:

I designed the opening one minute and many of the space scenes. I worked very closely with Stanley. We met nightly to discuss different scenes and the special effects. He would give me guidance during space dailies.

and the rest of the music except the "Blue Danube"

A:

If we get a call and nobody says anything, we are going to send law enforcement regardless of anything else. It may just be a hang up, it may not.

I personally would probably recognize the S-O-S pattern, but we aren't trained in Morse code or anything, it would just be from seeing it in movies


Q:

Hi Colin, I understand the millennium falcon design was a collaborative effort- what parts of the ship we're your concepts? I've always thought the dish was your idea but was interested if any thing else was.

A:

Is there something someone could do to very quietly notify you they're in trouble other than just a hang up?


Q:

The turret survived the re-invention of the millennium falcon from my original lizzard design.

A:

It would be hard to recommend something that would be reliably effective. We've had people pull the ol' "ordering a pizza" thing to disguise they were really calling 911. I once had a guy just groan into the phone who was having a stroke.

If you call, we will do our best to get help to you even if we have no information except a cell phone GPS plot


Q:

Hello Colin! Did you have any involvement with Rouge One? If not, have you seen it, and what did you think about the new starships designed for the movie?

A:

If you have to do the pizza order thing, how can you discreetly inform the dispatcher it's not actually a mis-dialed pizza order?


Q:

No I was not involved, but enjoyed the ships a lot.

A:

Haha, I imagine it may be difficult, and I can't guarantee the pizza thing will always work. Someone might just say "Sorry, this is 911 not Domino's" and hang up, but if that's all you can do, it is worth a try to save yourself


Q:

How did you land these awesome jobs? Talk about a dream come true.

A:

Don't they talk about that in training at all? I feel like that is a pretty well known ruse that you would at least be told to ask if they are aware they are calling 911 before hanging up.


Q:

Based on the work I had previously done, many of these jobs were referred to me by others.

A:

They talked about it a little, as far as "this might happen, don't just hang up immediately" but there's no real way to write a protocol for handling calls like that unfortunately. Like we can't have "pepperoni pizza" mean "guy with a gun", you know?


Q:

One thing that really disappointed me about the newest Star Wars movie is that the Star Destroyers were simply too clean. They looked like plastic models instead of battleships that had been in use.

After you came up with your designs, were you in charge of painting them or did others do the finishing detail work?

Thanks for making my childhood a much richer experience!

A:

Seems to me like a few simple yes-no questions can put it to bed.

  • Caller: Hi, I'd like an extra-large pepperoni!
  • Dispatch: This is 911, is that who you intended to call?
  • Caller: Yes
  • Dispatch: Do you need an officer?
  • Caller: Yes
  • Dispatch: What's your address?

From the callers side, that's a perfectly normal pizza call, and the cashier asked him if he wanted napkins and parmesan, and then the delivery address, but you've collected all of the information you needed.


Q:

I painted the original ship, then others took over for the final model

A:

It seems straightforward, but add a man in the room with a gun to the caller's head and things get complicated, stressful, and panicked. You just can't standardize the "pizza place" approach enough for it to be trained out to everyone


Q:

What's your favorite small scale project? Any smaller movie collaborations your particularly proud of?

A:

First: I called 9-1-1 when I was a kid, I can't remember why. It was me being dumb and wanted to see if I could hang up right after dialing and not get caught. I got caught (obviously). I've always felt guilty about that.

Second: I called 9-1-1 only 1 other time and that was because I suspected (correctly) my mother was being physically abused by her boyfriend. This was 7 years ago. I was spurred into action when I heard her in the other room say "Stop it, you're hurting me! Let me GO!" I straight up bolted out of the house and called on the land line. To me it sounded like the dispatcher was trying to not send a unit out and asked multiple times "did you only hear it, or actually see the abuse?" Is there some kind of rule regarding suspicion of domestic abuse? Also, the next thing that happened was she said that she would forward our report to the sheriffs office, then she hung up. about 10 minutes later I got a call from the sheriff and he showed up. Was it incorrect for her to get off the line in a situation like that? Thanks for all your hard work!


Q:

My last architectural design submitted to Frank Lloyd Wright before he died. Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A:

First, I'm sorry that happened and I hope she is in a better situation

Second, it sounds like that dispatcher was not doing their job correctly. Could have been a lack of training, or they were just disgruntled, etc. Either way, no, we are trained to take every call seriously and at face value. You say you're being attacked, we tell the police you're being attacked, it isn't our call to decide differently.


Q:

What was the most used model kit while kitbashing the ships together?

A:

What happens if the caller doesn't speak English? How many languages are supported by the 911 dispatchers?


Q:

I had 200 drawers of kit parts, and most of my decisions were spur of the moment.

A:

We use a translator service, like as a 3-way call, to speak with non-English speaking callers

Some dispatch centers will let you speak another language with callers, some won't, it's an issue of liability. If you "know" Spanish and mess something up, it's on you. If you use the translator service, it isn't your fault if there's a mistranslation


Q:

Do you still have those two large wonderful models that Jason Debord showed in his interviews with you? It was fascinating to see them, as they seem to be spiritual cousins to the Star Wars models you designed. We see many of the same parts used (the large howitzer used on your Sandcrawler for example). Do you also have any "raw parts" left or did those all sell at auction?

And did you take any reference photos of the models that have not come to light yet? There are many parts that have been knocked off over the past 40 years (like the "skis" and "pitot tubes" on the Skyhopper) and it is always thrilling to see what is missing.

A:

Cool. Have you personally had non-english callers?


Q:

Sorry, everything was sold at auction. I don't have any photos of any of my models, but lots of memories.

A:

It happens a few times a month at least. I had 10 years of Spanish growing up and speak decently, but I still get the interpreter on the line


Q:

Incredible, thank you for all you've done Mr. Cantwell. It must be so great seeing your creations still used in movies and marketed everywhere.

Questions:

What is your take on the direction NASA is going with mars? What was the general feeling around the country after the reporting of the moon landing? That would've been amazing to experience.

A:

What is the worst call that you have ever faced?


Q:

I await more and more progress by NASA relevant to human co-evolution.
I was smack dab in the middle but still on earth. Everyone was pretty excited.

A:

Last winter, I took a call from a guy who says he was going to shoot himself, and then he did it while I listened. The silence after that gun shot was... heavy


Q:

Was the design of the Imperial Star Destroyer (triangle) directly affected by the need to provide an impact in the opening scene? Thank you!

Edit: Imperial Star Destroyer since I am a dummy.

A:

i am sorry for having to listen to that! did they take you off work and give you counseling for it?


Q:

Very strongly. That opening series of scenes had to work for the film to succeed.

A:

They always offer counseling after major incidents, and it's an available resource any time we want it. I didn't take it after that call


Q:

Hello Mr. Cantwell! You designed so many of the iconic images of our time. But have you ever looked back at something you designed and wished, despite its popularity, that you had done it differently?

A:

Last time I called 911 was two years ago when I found that my roommate had hanged himself. Police were at my door in under 2 minutes.

What is the step by step process that goes into a call like that? All I remember is they asked me, "Can you confirm he's dead?" At which point I started screaming and crying. Then someone was at my door.


Q:

Well ... hardly ever

A:

We will send EMS and Law Enforcement and probably first responders no matter what you say in that situation, and they will come as fast as possible unless you tell us certain things (like his head is off, he is already decomposing, etc) that we call "unequivocal death" meaning there is no doubt he is deceased.


Q:

Hey! We are friends on Facebook and I saw that you would be doing an AMA. My question is this: how many revisions did the original ships go through before they came up with the end product that we all saw in the movies?

A:

My sister was being attacked by her boyfriend and called 911 and he hung up the cell phone. The dispatcher called back and spoke with the boyfriend and told her it was fine, she believed him because he said he was a paramedic and hung up and no help was sent. Is that normal to take ones word for it when there is a person yelling for help in the background or did the dispatcher drop the ball? How much of your job is based on judgement vs. protocol?


Q:

One in most cases for the original movie.

A:

No no no no! Bad dispatcher!

If someone says they're being attacked, the proper response is to send law enforcement and EMS and let them sort it out. We as dispatchers should never, ever make decisions like that.

The only time we don't send EMS is if the victim declines it. If someone says they were being attacked, there's no way in hell we would cancel law enforcement. Even if the victim is just making it up to get someone in trouble, that's not our judgement call to make, that's for the officer/deputy who responds.

I'm genuinely, earnestly sorry that was handled so poorly, and I really hope your sister is okay and in a better situation.


Q:

Hello, Mr. Cantwell! Thank you so much for doing this AMA. I'm here with a friend of mine, and we're both huge Star Wars fans. I have a question for you, if you have the time!

I've heard that there was some footage found of the original movies that was then used in Rogue One. Was any of your work used in that footage, or in any other form in Rogue One?

It's super neat to see you here: I'm someone who has amateur interest in prop making and set design, and I'm enjoying getting to know your influence in the Star Wars we all know!

A:

Do you usually trace the callers location without explicit permission? I imagine it could save lives in case of kidnapping/hostage situations


Q:

There may have been footage, but I was not aware of it.

A:

We can have a cell traced but there is a process and it has to be done at the request of law enforcement under very specific circumstances


Q:

As a manufacturing/design engineer myself, how do I get into the movie/tv industry? What job positions should I look for?

A:

How much do you want to punch your coworker when they suggest it might be a quiet shift?


Q:

I did it by focusing on special effects.

A:

Don't you jinx me, you bastard!


Q:

Hi Mr. Cantwell, thank you for providing our childhoods with amazing space ships and dreams of space travel! I was wondering, what was your reaction was to the Spacex landing of the Model 9 booster rocket and what do you think is our next step is in taking the first person to Mars?

A:

What happened to that whole being charged for calling 911 thing?


Q:

I was pleased to learn of the landing and I'll leave the next Mars steps to the experts

A:

People still get charged, it just requires a pattern of behavior and calling for no reason at all/ every little thing.


Q:

There is a design you created that has the pill bottles as engines in a large "X" configuration in the rear, and two long threaded rods that terminate in a tank chassis that serves as the "head" of the ship. Is this the original prototype for the "Princesses Ship" and NOT a second "Pirate Ship" model? (The Pirate Ship has two large model kit motors at the rear for engines, and the plastic cup for a cockpit. )

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roboterkampf/3733665618/in/photolist-6FRWTk-6FRWui-6FRX16-6FRWLP-6FW2FG-6FRWnF-6FW2dw-6FRWEK-6FRWAv-6FW2Y9-6FRVy2-6FRX6Z-6FRVWK-6FVZx5-6FW1H9-6FVYLm-6FW1nS-6FW1xA-6FVYpA-6FRRr2/

A:

How stressful is your job?


Q:

I'm not exactly sure to which ship you are referring. Where did you see this?

A:

It can be pretty stressful sometimes, but where I work that tends to come in spurts. There will be periods where it's slow and we get a few calls in ten minutes maybe... then the next moment we have thirty units headed out on six calls all at once and things are just crazy.

The hardest part sometimes it's just having the 12 hour shifts and just being seated and indoors for that long, but people do burn out and get secondary PTSD from what we have to deal with :/


Q:

As a young adult trying to make it in the film industry in LA, where should I start and what should I avoid? Thank you!

A:

12 hour shifts? Do you do that regularly or just sometimes?


Q:

Sorry. I started in architecture and NASA projects. I really don't know what it would take to get into the film industry today.

A:

It's a rotating schedule, so like two days I work, then I'm off two, but always 12 hour shifts (mine is 6am to 6pm)


Q:

In light of Carrie Fishers passing, do you have a personal memory oft her?

A:

When were you the most panicked on job and why?


Q:

She was an important part of the film, but I never had the opportunity to meet her. Very sad that she is gone.

A:

The last time I felt panicked, I was listening to a woman scream "god please let him start breathing"

If she had instead came back to the phone I could've talked her through CPR and maybe saved that guy


Q:

Something I've always wondered: can you get an address/gps location without having to speak to the caller? For example, say I call 911 on my cell phone and just put it in my pocket without saying a word; can you find me?

A:

If it comes from a landline, we get a location that is reliable in most cases

If it comes from a cellphone though, we might get a location within 30 yards...or we might never get an automatic GPS location (called a "phase 2" plot) which means we have no idea where to send them


Q:

How do I report a dispatcher? There was an Uber driver outside my house that wouldn'y leave after I accidentally mentioned I would be home alone for a few days. He was banging on the windows and trying to find a way in. When I called the dispatcher it was this very unpleasant and unprofessional woman who kept asking if I had ordered the Uber driver. Ultimately I ended up flashing my airsoft gun in the dark with my hand over the orange tip, so it looked like a real MP5k to scare him away. When I told the dispatcher he left she threatened to have me fined and charged for prank calling 911.

A:

Call back and ask for their shift supervisor to file a report. If that doesn't work, speak with the county manager!


Q:

I can't believe I haven't seen anyone ask this but what is the pay like?

A:

MOst areas you probably start around $30k-$35k, but for big metro areas, I'd be surprised if it wasn't closer to $40k starting out


Q:

When calling 911 as an adult, what are the most important pieces of information that you, as the dispatcher, need and what is the preferred order? Does any of that change for teaching children? For example, if I was talking to a child about calling 911, what should points should I stress?

A:

Location, first and foremost.

Then your phone # in case we get disconnected.

Then what is going on/what's the emergency

I know it seems like we should ask the emergency first, but if we get "he's on fire" and no location, then we can't send help, but if we get a location and nothing else, we can still send responders.


Q:

What types of situations should we not call 911 for? Do you get annoyed when me call in with non emergencies? How do you handle those calls?

A:

If you are in a situation that you need help and don't know who to call, feel free to call!

We'd rather you call and bother us than have it end badly because you did not call


Q:

I'm curious to get your opinion about a 911 call I made for something that I felt was an emergency: I was driving about 25 MPH towards a bridge that led to the freeway. As I merged into the left hand lane a bee flew into my truck and I swerved, almost hitting the car next to me and then came close to rear-ending the car in front of me.

After I stopped and rolled up my window I noticed a sign next to me on the median that was covered with a huge swarm of bees. There were hundreds of bees in the air and it was the kind of day where a lot of people had their car windows open. I felt it was a dangerous situation that was sure to cause an accident or worse, that the bees might sting someone who's allergic.

So I called 911 to report this road hazard and I was curtly told that 911 was for emergencies only and then they hung up on me. I was stunned because those bees needed to be removed ASAP. So who should I have called if not 911?

A:

I would have called 911 in that situation too! I think if I got that call, I'd end up having to send Wildlife Enforcement because Animal Control really only does domestic animals like dogs and cats and farm animals. Yeah, that could cause wrecks though!


Q:

Is it ever OK to call 911 from your cell phone to make sure you are routed to the proper call center? I remember people being concerned about this early on but I don't know if it is still a problem.

A:

Absolutely! Just please stay on the line and tell us why you called. Not every call center does this, but we send law enforcement to every 911 hang up, and your call comes through immediately after you hit send, so don't hang up, it wastes time :)


Q:

When I accidentally hung up on 911 they just called me back and had me report the accident I just saw all over again. You'd think the CAD would be able to say "this person just called and spent so long on the line with this dispatcher" but I guess it just sticks everyone in a queue and has someone call them back.

Not that I mind the diligence, it's good to know their standard procedure is actually to verify that the call I said happened did happen.

A:

We will tell the responding officer "Joe Smith just called back and said it was a misdial/pocket dial" and it's then the officer's discretion to continue responding or not


Q:

Ive always wondered if it is okay to call 911 to confirm an unmarked car pulling you over as an actual police person on duty. Is this allowed? I see so many unmarkes cars now that it could really be anybody posing as a police official.

A:

Absolutely!

As I told another caller, all our law enforcement units tell us as soon as they stop a car, and give a location, for everyone's safety. So if it's a legit car, we know about it and will confirm with you


Q:

I think it's funny how you refered to a redditer as "another caller" instead of another "commenter" 😂

A:

Ha! Good catch! Dispatcher brain...


Q:

First off, good job for doing what you do and secondly I'm Dutch and not American so things most likely will be a bit different here. Do dispatchers ever try to keep you occupied if you call? Two years ago our chicken barn was on fire and I called the Dutch version of 911. I got the feeling they tried to keep me on the line just to prevent me from doing (possibly stupid or dangerous) anything.

Is that a thing that gets done or is there a big chance I imagined that?

A:

If the dispatcher thinks the caller is in danger by staying on the line, they should tell them to put the phone down and leave the area if possible and get to a safe place.

If there is more information to be gained, or you might hurt yourself/commit suicide, we will try to keep you on as long as possible to help you until responders can find you


Q:

What's your favorite call you've had? Weird, I know, but something you know had a good resolution that you helped achieve, I suppose, might be the best way to interpret that.

A:

I gave CPR instructions for a 3 month old girl who made it to the hospital because of it, that felt really good


Q:

Have you ever had to call 911 yourself? Do you have specific numbers that you'd prefer to call under the circumstances?

A:

I'll always dial 911 in the US. The way the service is set up now, it's national and available everywhere. 10 years ago, that wasn't the case, but it is leaps and bounds better now and always improving


Q:

How long have you dispatched? How often do people call by accident? What call turned out to be the most rewarding?

A:

I've been with this agency for a few years now, almost five in total in the job.

Accidental hang up calls are and will always be our most common call, haha

Any time we guide someone through giving CPR and the patient survives is extremely intense and extremely rewarding because we literally just saved a life


Q:

So sometimes kids call 911 for funny reasons simply because they don't know any better or they perceive something to be more of a problem than it actually is (for example, "I need help finishing homework." Have you ever had calls like this and if so how frequently?

A:

Haha, sometimes we get kids who "prank call" and call us names or swear at us (I had a kid say "crap you, you bastard" then hang up)

We send law enforcement :)


Q:

Are you certified with anything medically? I would assume something like CPR right?

A:

I'm CPR certified but that's it. Some people end up in dispatch after being an EMT/Firefighter/Officer, but none of that certification is required


Q:

If I call in and once you answer I blurt out something like, "A minivan just ran off highway, rolled down hill, Highway X, mile marker Y, send help!" and immediately hung up or stuffed my phone in my pocket so that I could run and help, would that have been helpful or useless? Would I be better off standing there talking to you? Do you have everything I said on recording to go back and re-listen if I blurted too fast? Do you often replay recordings as part of a dispatch effort?

A:

With the highway and mile marker we would send fire and ems immediately, and hopefully they would find the accident!

We can go back and re-listen, and we hope you are correct when you give us that info! Sometimes people say one location and really they are a few miles past it, it's just the last thing they saw