Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I've got your back!

There is nothing quite like the relationship between an officer and his/her dispatcher. We have all heard the stigmas about dispatchers. I assure you that it is an exception and not the rule. We are NOT all badge bunnies!

An officer depends on his/her dispatcher to have their back at all times. There are times when the dispatcher is all the backup an officer has.  The dispatcher is responsible for gathering details and relaying it to their units. However, that is not all they do.

Let's walk through a typical traffic stop. The officer calls out his location and the license plate. The dispatcher enters that information in to the system, runs the plate, and monitors the officer's time out by checking on him every now and then. All of this is done while other officers are doing the same. The dispatcher simultaneously is keeping track of all of this while dispatching calls for service. You get to a point where you have a "running tally" in your head. So and so is here, this needs to be dispatched, that kid needs to be entered into NCIC.. again. I'm not trying to hoot our horns, just saying how it is.

As a dispatcher, you learn your officer's voices. You can hear that different tone when something just isn't right. You can hear what they are saying when they are chasing after a suspect on foot... well, most of the time! You learn to anticipate what an officer may want before they ask for it. You become part of a well oiled machine. There is a definite sense of satisfaction when everything comes together. The bad guy is caught, citizens are safe, and your officers are going home to their families.

As wonderful a feeling as that is, there are more severe feelings when it doesn't go as well. As a dispatcher, I feel solely responsible for every officer on my air. They are MY guys. They are MY kids. I am supposed to make sure they are okay and that they are safe. There are no words more terrifying to a dispatcher than an officer yelling for help, that they are injured, or they have had shots fired. I've had two of these incidents come over the phone, and I have had one on the air. Eleven years as a dispatcher and only three incidents. Far too many, but I thank God there have only been three. During all three incidents, I did what needed to be done. I know I did everything I should have done, but it didn't stop me from going over it and over it in my head. Is there anything I could have done better? Is there anything I should have done differently? All three of these incidents had a profound effect on me, two of them far more than the third. They are incidents I will never forget.

So, who is the backup for the dispatcher? Why, other dispatchers of course!  I thank my lucky stars that I work with some of the most incredible people in the industry. They always have my back. They make notifications so I don't have to. They pull up radios and listen in, just in case there is something they can help with so I never have to take my attention away from the ones I am backup for. They are simply amazing!

It all comes down to a few basic thoughts. I LOVE what I do. I feel honored to work along side the men and women that wear the shield and to be their backup. I am even more honored to work with the men and women that I do. They are the first-first responders. They are heroes.

Have you said Thank You to your dispatcher today? (Doughnuts and a hot cup of coffee work well!) :)