When should I call 9-1-1?

Call 9-1-1 if it is a life-threatening situation or something is occurring at the time of the call, such as an assault, fight, traffic crash, fire or any situation that could result in loss of life or major property loss.

Why do 9-1-1 operators ask so many questions?
The 9-1-1 operators are trained to send the appropriate agency or agencies within seconds of answering the caller. A sophisticated computer system relays critical information concerning the location and type of call to a dispatch station in a rapid manner. The communications officer who initially answered the caller remains on the line with the caller to ask for additional information while the appropriate units are already en route to the specified location. These additional questions can be critical to the individual's survival.

Are 9-1-1 calls made public?
Florida State Statute 365.171, Section 15 protects certain information contained within a 9-1-1 call, including the name, address, telephone number and any personal information that may identify the person requesting emergency services. Although this information may be disclosed to another public safety agency, anyone else making such a request must first present a court order signed by a judge before the exempt information will be released.

Can I call 9-1-1 if it is not a real emergency?
It is important to realize that if you need a response by a public safety agency (police, ambulance, fire) you call 9-1-1. If in doubt, then you should call 9-1-1.

Can I call the Sheriff's Office to report a problem and still remain anonymous?
Yes you can. There is no requirement to give your name and address when making a call to the Sheriff's Office. However, it is extremely helpful if the responding deputy has someone to contact either in person or by phone to get more specific information to effectively address the problem.

Many times deputies respond to an anonymous call about an incident and either cannot find the origin of the problem with the information given or the situation changes prior to the their arrival but they have no way of knowing it. This can result in frustrated deputies and the citizen feeling that the Sheriff's Office didn't do anything about their call. We realize that in some circumstances, a person may not want neighbors to know they have called the police and they don't want an officer to come to their door. However, something as simple as a phone number by which to reach the complainant can make a significant difference in whether or not a situation is corrected or goes undiscovered or unidentified. You merely inform the call taker that you do not wish to be contacted in person but that the officer may call you if they need more information.

Is there a waiting period before I can report someone missing?
This is a common misperception. The answer is no. The moment you are concerned about a person's whereabouts is the time to call. You can make a missing person report any time you realize someone is missing.

I have received various phone calls from people representing themselves as police officers and asking for donations. Are they really police officers?
Police officers and deputies in Manatee County do not solicit funds over the telephone nor does the Sheriff's Office receive any funds at all from any other organization that conducts phone solicitations. If you are not familiar with an organization calling you and asking for a donation, you may wish to ask the caller to send you information on the charity and how they disburse their funds. And NEVER give your credit card number to anyone that calls you over the phone

Can a Sheriffs Office Deputy open my car if I have locked my keys inside?
Because of the potential for damage to vehicles, the Sheriff's Office will not open a locked vehicle. A locksmith is your best alternative. Should a child be locked inside the vehicle, the Sheriff's Office or the Fire Department will respond to remove the child, possibly by breaking a window.

What should I do if a deputy is trying to pull me over at night in an unmarked car and I am frightened?
It is important that you acknowledge to the deputy that you see him/her by waving your hands or turning on your emergency 4-way flashers and reducing the speed of your vehicle. Begin looking for a safe (and at night a well-lighted) area to stop. The best place, if possible, is a location with other people around such as a shopping center or convenience store. Once you have stopped, keep your doors locked and roll your window down just enough to converse with the deputy until the situation is comfortable. In most cases, deputies in unmarked cars will contact a uniformed officer for assistance with a traffic stop. If one is not available, deputies should understand your concern for safety. Ask to see a badge and department photo identification.