Telecommunicators: Voices that save lives
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The voice that saved a life, but was not recognized. The unseen hero who is the life line of all officers. Telecommunicators keep everyone safe by their quick thinking and communicating ability.
I never realized the complexity of the telecommunicator profession until recently. A large dispatch center can resemble NASA's mission control center. The dispatchers are the forgotten heroes who deal with life-and-death situations daily and succumb to the same physical and mental issues of a line officer, but they do not get the benefit of closure.
Yet they are chastised for voice inflections or typos, receiving the brunt of all complaints related to the calls that come in. I can assure each officer feels that dealing with an armed subject is much more desirable than dealing with the radio traffic and phone calls. Not only are telecommunicators dealing with the public — often in a frantic state — but they are also dealing with officers and feel responsible for the lives of each officer on their screen.
Yes, it is hard to believe the dispatcher has to interact with numerous officers at a time. Dispatchers are dealing with multiple officers' requests at once, while an officer's radio traffic has the perception of a one-on-one conversation.
If anyone has any doubt in my words, I challenge officers to at least visit their dispatch centers and see for themselves. Just like patrol, there are down times and stretches of boredom as well as the "Friday night, first of the month, blue moon" times surrounded by chaotic or dangerous calls received.
I would also challenge all FTO programs to implement as part of the officer's training to be assigned in dispatch. This will enhance the working relationship between divisions, allowing a better understanding of the role of the telecommunicator.
Numerous articles out there explain the history and results of the stresses in dispatch, like PTSD. I want to continue this awareness in an effort for officers to realize the importance of their counterparts on the radio. I have verbally explained this aspect, receiving the nod and "I know, I know" response, yet officer after officer belittles and denies the importance of the dispatcher's job.
Even our federal government has not stepped forward to recognize 911 dispatchers — they are classified nationally as "Office and Administrative Support Occupations," which is comparable to taxi dispatchers. There has been a recent push in Congress to have 911 dispatchers reclassified as "Protective Service Occupations," but this is still lacking a large support group from the federal government and law enforcement officers.
Everyone needs to step up and recognize the job that the true first responders do. They dictate how a call on the street goes by the initial contact and dispatch of the call. Not all officers are guilty of taking advantage of their comrades on the radio, but all officers should thank their dispatchers for keeping them safe on a day-to-day basis.
The following are the sentiments of a long-tenured communications supervisor:
The Dispatcher; Angels without Wings
As we gaze into our crystal ball
Expected to foresee all;
Headset, keyboard, caffeine in hand
Protecting our Officers and Public to the end
Split second decisions
Multi-tasking a must
When we become perturbed
Never expected to cuss…
9-1-1 calls from unknown voices
Looking for help in the distance
Patience and assuredness always perceived
Not seeing the tears that we may weep
Proud of our jobs
No glamour for us
Faceless voices at the other end of hope
For so many unable to cope
Our badge is our protective shield
Of strength and dedication
Not visible to the naked eye
For they are worn on the inside
Angels without Wings; possibly you see
Guardians of Law Enforcement; definitely
— Denise A. Jimenez (March 16, 2006)
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