Saturday, January 9, 2016


As I was driving home tonight from my shift, I realized it was shortly after midnight and it was officially my 14 year anniversary of starting my dispatch career. Where have those years gone? How quickly they came and went.

I realized during my very short drive, how much my life has changed in the last 14 years. Then when I got home and tried to go to bed, the thoughts kept running around in my head.There have been countless battles, countless victories, and many, many lessons learned.

When I began my career in 2002, the Olympics were just around the corner here in Salt Lake City. I had been married for six years to a police officer. I was naive and full of ideas of what it would be like to be a 911 dispatcher. I thought how cool it would be to dispatch my husband on calls and be a part of "that" world. It was a world I had always been interested in. I grew up with a step-father who was an officer. It was a world of mystery, lights and sirens, and of helping people. I have always wanted to help people. I have always been a caretaker. It is who I am and who I love to be.

As the years went by, my marriage fell apart and I was, for lack of a better term, lost. I was broken. I felt as though I was beyond repair. But something happened. I realized during those moments that I was surrounded. I was surrounded by a family that I never knew I had. They are my dispatch family. They are the individuals that let me cry, that let me laugh, that asked if they could throw a shoe. They made me realize that I was a member of a family that was far bigger than I could possibly realize. Following a very serious car accident in 2010, it was my dispatch family that checked up on me. There were visits, phone calls, papers faxed, and A LOT of mint chocolate chip shakes delivered to the rehab center I had the pleasure of calling home. Their support and encouragement meant the world to me.

I am no longer that naive rookie from 14 years ago. I know very well what this world is capable of. There are a lot of bad guys in this world, and there are days when I wonder if the bad guys outnumber the good. But then there is just one phone call, one dispatch that reminds me that humanity and all its wonderousness is so very alive. It is helping a young couple deliver a baby on the side of the road. It is the phone call of a young man desperately calling out for help. It is letting him know that there is someone in this world that cares about what happens to him and to give him just enough hope to throw away the gun and knife in his lap andwalk out to waiting officers. It is talking to an elderly spouse that just lost the love of their life of sixty years. It is love and it is kindness.

I have found and lost many friends during my years. There are some that I never met, but whose lives, deaths, and courageousness has touched me more than words can express. The solidarity among emergency services personnel is beyond comparison. When you hear someone say that they are members of the largest family in the world. They aren't joking. We rejoice in each others triumphs, and we weep with each others losses. I have made friendships that will stand the test of time.

My mother once asked me why I don't cry and how can I be so strong all the time. My answer? It's the job, Mom. The job has given me some pretty thick skin. It has taught me to stay calm and to not let the situation get out of control. But it doesn't mean that I don't feel it. I always feel it. Without fail, that commercial with the lost puppy will come on TV and I am a blubbering mess. A soldier surprising his children with his safe return? FORGET IT! There aren't enough tissues in 25 miles!

Fourteen years later and I am very happily married again to a man that isn't "on the job". A man that takes all of my crazy shifts, my blubberingness, and odd stories in stride. He has given me an instant family with three step-children that I love to the moon and back... even if they don't realize it quite yet.

I am stronger, wiser, more confident, and more stubborn than I was my first day. I am who I always wanted to be. Who knows what the next 14 years will bring, but I'm excited for the journey!

To those of you that are just starting out, hang in there. It is a crazy, emotional, up and down kind of ride. But oh... is it worth it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

In Loving Memory

This post has been 7 months in the making. It has taken me that long to find the words, to get through the emotions, and to get my thoughts together so that I can make a very special man proud. As I sit here typing, I can not help but to become emotional. I type and erase. It just doesn't seem exactly right. It is still unreal.

I am writing today about a co-worker, a friend, a son, a husband, a father, and an officer. I am writing about Sgt. Derek Ray Johnson.

I met Derek thirteen years ago when I began my dispatch career. He was already a dispatcher and I remember him being this funny, gangly, sweet, and very young kid!! I remember asking how this kid could be old enough to work at dispatch! He was just SO young! Derek was always smiling.. ALWAYS!! I figured out quickly that he had two different smiles though. He had the "I'm just a nice kid" smile and his "I'm thinking of doing/ or have done something mischievous" smile. I remember the PD Pit always laughing at something that Derek had done or had been a part of. Derek was the kid that opened the door for you when you were coming in to work. He was the one that said hi to the "newbies". He was an instant friend.

Derek always wanted to be a cop. He wanted it bad! He was an explorer for the Sandy City Police Department and made some life long friends. He earned their respect through his hard work and commitment. Shortly after Derek graduated from high school, he did two things. He married his sweetheart since middle school and entered the academy. Derek was hired by the Draper Police Department as a reserve officer and then became a full time sworn officer 8 months later.  I remember the first time working the Draper channel and seeing Derek's name. I had to make sure it was really him! I was so excited for him and us.. we had "one of us" on the other side of the radio. It was so cool!!

Derek was born to be a cop. He had incredible instincts and a way with the public. He quickly gained the respect of the citizens of Draper. He was tough but fair and always there for the people he served. He worked hard and quickly rose to Sergeant. I knew, as his dispatcher, that I could always count on him to answer a question, take control of a situation that was far from in control. Derek made dispatching easy. He made it a joy. I loved seeing him on my roster when I would come in to work.

On September 1, 2013, Derek was doing his thing. He came across a vehicle parked in an odd place and like the great officer he was, he stopped and was going to check it out. Before Derek had a chance, a suspect ambushed Derek and shot him. Derek attempted to radio for help, but was unable to. With unimaginable strength, Derek was able to drive a little ways from the attack before he crashed his vehicle. Calls started coming in to Dispatch of shots fired. Draper officers responded and found Derek. They heroically attempted to save him, but his wounds were too severe.

The loss of an officer is always devastating, but the loss of one of our own.. of Derek, was and is, something that we will never understand. However, we must go on serving the citizens of Draper and the State of Utah as Derek would have wanted. He is still with us each and every day. He is watching our backs. When Derek was with us, he was our hero in this world. Now he is our hero in our hearts and in Heaven. Derek is always with his brothers and sisters in blue. He is there giving a pat on the back for a job well done. He was the type of man and officer that I hope that future officers will strive to be.

RIP Derek. You will always be loved and missed. Until we meet again, my friend.

Sgt. Derek Johnson's Last Call

Sgt. Derek Ray Johnson
EOW 9/1/2013

Monday, April 14, 2014

It is Telecommunicators Week!

I know. I know! You are shocked! I've been horrible about writing lately! So here y'all go, a new post!

Today marks the beginning of National Telecommunicators Week. Or in simple words, Dispatch Week. It is a week where those incredible individuals that answer the phone in a time of crisis are put center stage and are shown the gratitude felt by the agencies and citizens they serve.

I may be one of those individuals that answer the phone or key up on the radio, but it does not diminish the gratitude I have for my coworkers, whether in my own agency or any agency across our great country. When we began our careers, there was something within us that called us forward and asked us to serve. We had the courage to answer that call and we continue to have the courage to answer that call each and every day.

For most, when they come through the door and fill out an application it is "just a job". They quickly learn that being a dispatcher is so much more than "just a job". It is a way of life. It changes you. You become a different person. I have watched housewives that are coming back into the workplace after years grow right before my eyes. I've watched the young kid fresh out of high school mature into an incredible young man. They are no longer this naive young person that isn't aware of what goes on in the real world. It becomes a wake up call. I've seen them grow and be so proud of what they are becoming.

I've seen it in myself. I've seen the growth within me. It hasn't always been easy. There are times that it has been helluva hard! There have been times when I didn't know if I could continue walking through that door and get through another day. But I have and I will. What gets me through each and every day are the people I work with. They are what makes the bad times bearable.

Thank you, my friends! My strength when you need it, gratitude, and love will always be with you!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Give them a break!!

Hey folks,

It has, yet again, been a while. I apologize. Life has been pretty hectic between moving, treatments for my autoimmune disease, work, and day to day life. So hang on, this one will probably ruffle a few feathers!

A post was recently circling around on social media and the local news about a police department getting "rewards" for writing citations, arresting someone on a DUI, or impounding a vehicle for no insurance. There were a lot of comments about how it was wrong and proof that there was corruption in this police department.. of how obviously they have quotas, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. It thoroughly pissed me off. The reporter in the news story has been on a witch hunting mission for years against any agency other than the one her husband works for, especially against those agencies that have broken from her husbands department and went their own way. Her reporting is frequently biased, one sided, and lacking serious facts.

This post is to allow me to vent, (obviously), and to shed a little light on the truth. I have been a police dispatcher for a little over ten years now. I have created some lasting bonds with many of the officers I work with. I know the types of calls they go on, because I send them there. I was the wife of an officer for thirteen years. I saw the toll it took on him.. how it changed him. How the job changed our lives, our marriage, and honestly, how it changed me. Not all for the better.

I have heard more times than I can count, they chose this job. They knew what they were getting in to. That comment irks me just as much as when people have told me God has a plan. I call bullshit on it.  These men and women enter the police academy with grand ideas of what their career will be like. They see themselves putting on the badge, driving cool cars, and putting the bad guys in jail.

However, the truth is much more sinister.

Yes, they put on the badge. It is a piece of metal that puts a huge target on his/her back. This target has many different hunters. There is the hunter who's only desire is to kill. They don't care how, they just want it. They will do anything and everything they can to end an officer's life. There is the hunter that hunts for the officer's job because they are not happy with the officer telling them there is no legal standing to make his neighbor do A or B. And of all of the hunters, the most devious is the one that is hunting the officers compassion, his love for helping people, his belief that society, in general, is good and kind.

 Yes, they get to drive cool cars with lights and sirens. But most of the time, it comes with a level of stress and responsibility they weren't expecting. They have to be constantly aware of going through an intersection with sirens blaring searching for that one driver that is not going to yield. Unfortunately it happens too often that they don't. With the car, comes the emotions and adrenalin most humans are not able to cope with. The average human being has the occasional rush with an exciting ride at Disneyland. These officers bodies deal with it day in and day out, several times over. Is it any wonder they go through burnout sooner and have shorter life spans?

Yes, they do, get to put away the bad guys... sometimes. A lot of the time, the bad guy gets away. An officer sees every type of scum out there. And many times, the bad guy gets out before they can even finish their paperwork. The bad guy gets a reduced sentence because the prison or jail is over crowded.

These officers have seen the druggie in the motel room so hopped up on meth or heroin that he cannot even remember his name. They have seen the young teenager who has taken her life because she was bullied in school. They have seen the domestic victim who refuses to file charges. They have responded on the wreck where a young kid had too much to drink and crashed his car. They have responded to these calls with dignity, compassion, and determination all the while putting their fears, emotions, and their lives on the line.

Yes, officers chose their profession, but it is no different than someone choosing a career in marketing, as an attorney, as a physician, or in a restaurant. These men and women have chosen this profession because they have answered a higher calling that many of us could never do. So before you say how dare they get a free car wash, movie tickets, or a gift certificate, stop and think that maybe it could just be a simple way of our community saying thank you to these heroes. Thank you for doing a job that very few are capable/willing to do. Thank you for handling these events in our lives so we don't have to. Thank you for making our lives safer. Thank you for being there.

Thank you for being MY real life heroes!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

There is nothing like team work!

The majority of my career as a dispatcher has been spent in what we lovingly refer to as, "The Police Pit". It is where I feel most at home. It is exciting and fast paced and typically always busy. Almost a year ago, I made the move to "The Fire Pit". This was one of the hardest moves of my career. It pulled me completely out of my element! There was so much to learn, so much to remember, and totally different from police!

As a Police Dispatcher, you pretty much work independently. If you get busy and need something, have a major incident involving multiple agencies, or need something from a neighboring agency, your other dispatchers are there to help. Otherwise, you are on your own. Working as a Fire dispatcher is completely different .. at least in our dispatch center. There are three or four of us at any one time. We work as a team. If one is working something, we all are. One of the hardest things for me to learn was all of the command names the different fire agencies use. There are just so many!

Working as a fire dispatcher comes with a lot more down time, but when it gets busy, it gets busy! Last week, I had a house fire that quickly turned into a 2 alarm. As we were dispatching out the second full assignment, we received another house fire on the opposite of the valley. It took every one of us, our supervisor, and our fire manager to manage the influx of units going out at once. It created holes in area coverage that we had to fill with other agencies in case of other emergencies. We worked as a team, and we kicked those fires butts! I was never more proud of my coworkers. Before I could tell them I had a working fire, they were making notifications, if I needed something, they were on it. All I had to do was listen and respond to my units. They were incredible! Though both houses sustained considerable damage, there was no loss of life, and was contained to the homes where the fires started.

My fellow dispatchers were key in making all of this happen smoothly and efficiently.

Thank you team, I couldn't have done it without you!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A sad goodbye

It has been awhile since I have posted anything, however today, my heart is heavy with saddness for the loss of one of our own.

Though I did not know Officer Valdes personally, I have several close friends that have mentioned how wonderful a person he was. He always had a warm smile, caring heart, and kind words. To put it in simple words, he was loved and admired by many.

The law enforcement family is a close knit group of people. This goes from the top of the chain of command to those of us working the channel. We grieve together. We help each other through. We share memories, shoulders for tears, and many, many hugs.

I ask you to please pray for Officer Valdes' family, his friends, and his brothers and sisters in blue. My thoughts are with you. My heart is with you. My prayers are with you all.

"The Final Inspection"
The policeman stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.

He hoped his shoes were shining.
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, policeman.
How shall I deal with you?                                                 

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My church have you been true?"

The policeman squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't,

Because those of us who carry badges
can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
and at times my talk was rough,

and sometimes I've been violent,
Because the streets are awfully tough.

But I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep....

Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.

And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here.

They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fear.

If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't.....I'll understand.

PhotoThere was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod.                             

As the policeman waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, policeman,
You've borne your burdens well.

Come walk a beat on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in hell."

Author Unknown

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A bit of the lighter side!

Once a week, I spend ten .. uhm, glorious **cough, cough** hours on call taking. Tonight was that,oh so wonderful, night.

The night started out pretty average. I had the various assaults, domestics, vehicle thefts, and barking dogs that are typical to our agencies. I was about six to seven hours in when the first call of mention came in.

My caller was Elmer Fudd. Yep, I said Elmer Fudd! He sounded just like him! He didn't want anything big, just a follow up on a case. I wonder if he was getting an update on his missing friend the Wasskully Wabbit?!

My second call took the call taker trophy for the evening. It was .... AWESOMELY HORRIBLE! A call came in on a 911 line. My caller, of course, immediately said, "this really isn't an emergency, buuut". I knew right then it was going to go down hill. She wanted to report a harassment. I asked her who she was being harassed by. She then asked me if I knew what Beiberhood was. WHAAAT? Beiberhood? Sorry chick, haven't heard that one before! She proceeded to explain that Bieberhood is a chat room for 18 and under fans of Justin Beiber. She was upset because there is a female on the chat that was 21 and had admitted to having three children. This particular situation was gross and she wanted the police to shut the 21 year olds part of the site down. I asked her how that was harassment. She said it was just wrong and even though she was 23 and routinely got on the site, she didn't like that this 21 year old was on there too.  My caller was concerned about the fans. The 21 year old "suspect" wasn't doing anything wrong except that she was 21 and my caller didn't like it. I tried to explain to her that the police cannot do that and she needs to contact the site administrator. She just was not getting it. Several frustrating minutes went by while I continued to figure out where the harassment came in. I found out that she lived in an area dispatched by another agency. I transferred her and continued to listen to the call as she spoke with a dispatcher from that agency. The dispatcher politely listened to the caller. He told her to just shut off her computer. Believe it or not... she went to try and turn off her computer because that was going to stop the person from posting on the site. The dispatcher then asked a very poignant question. "You dialed 911 for this?" The caller admitted she had and the dispatcher then asked her if she knew what 911 was for. My caller said, "well, I know I'm not the Internet police and I didn't have the website for Internet security". The dispatcher again said, "do you know what 911 is for?" She said she did and that it was for emergencies. The dispatcher then told her that yes, and this is not an emergency and I will be happy to send the police to your home to explain what exactly is an emergency. The young lady said no, everyone was asleep. They don't need to come over. The dispatcher told her, "No, I have your address and an officer will be coming over to talk to you about how and when to use 911". I have not laughed that hard in a looong time!

My final fantastic call of the evening was short and sweet. "911, what is the address of your emergency?" "I smell and I need help" Click ... Let's just say that one got a visit too.

Answering calls from citizens are usually pretty routine. Sometimes they are heart wrenching and they set your blood pressure to all new highs. But sometimes... sometimes, you get those calls that just make you laugh your ass off!