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Duty officer at Emergency response centre behaved inappropriately during an emergency call

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja issues reprimand

17.5.2010

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has issued a reprimand to a duty officer at an emergency response centre for having behaved inappropriately during an emergency call. Expressions used by the duty officer were, in the Deputy-Ombudsman's assessment, entirely impertinent and inappropriate in their contents and tone. They can be regarded as disparaging, belittling and violating the human dignity of the person who called the emergency response centre.

A father had had to leave with his children and go to a refuge house because of his spouse's violent behaviour and aggressiveness. When he went back to his home the next day to get more clothes for his children and himself, he had to call the emergency response centre several times and request help, because his spouse repeatedly gesticulated with her fists, rushed at him and threatened him.

The duty officers who answered the first two calls had, in the Deputy-Ombudsman's assessment, acted in accordance with the law and within the parameters of the discretionary power that goes with their duties. It had been agreed with the caller in the course of the telephone conversations that no help was needed to calm the situation at just that time. The man was advised to call back if necessary. Nor, in the view of the Deputy-Ombudsman, was there any reason to find fault with the fourth and last call. The police were alerted to the scene on the basis of that call.

By contrast, the behaviour of the duty officer who answered the third call merited a reprimand. The duty officer had during the call asked the man, among other things: "Are you getting it in the gob from the woman?" He also asked what weight the man and his spouse were.

The duty officer reported that he had wanted to find out whether there was a disproportion involved in that the woman weighed clearly more than the man. In such a case, he claimed, it could have been thought that the woman might really cause the man physical harm. As the duty officer explained it, he did not understand why a man would call and ask for help if the woman was not heavier than him. Having been told that the two were the same weight, the duty officer had told the caller: "Well, then it's a draw."

The Deputy-Ombudsman points out that the task of a duty officer at an emergency response centre presupposes accentuatedly appropriate behaviour. The demand is especially weighty in view of the fact that whether the person making an emergency call receives help depends on how the duty officer assesses the situation. Therefore, the caller's situation should not be made light of when appraising its urgency, even if the duty officer does assess the situation as one that does not call for immediate action.

The Deputy-Ombudsman took the view that the duty officer's comments expressed a disparaging attitude to the woman's violence towards the man. In addition, they can be seen to reflect an attitude contrary to the prohibition on discrimination and putting someone in a different position based on gender insofar as the duty officer did not, as he explained it, understand why the man was calling and asking for help if the woman was not heavier than him.

Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Mikko Eteläpää,
tel. + 358 (0)9 4321.