Archive for the ‘Dispatcher’ Category

Casino logo

Casino logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the last three days, I’ve been at the Public Safety Writers Association Conference in Las Vegas at The Orleans Hotel and Casino. I delivered a presentation on including the FBI in your novel, and also served on a panel about writing short stories. One of the contributors to our Women Warriors book, Michelle Perin, submitted her story in the writing competition and won! Kudos to Michelle. Her story describing the time when she was a police dispatcher while her police officer husband was involved in a shooting, was both compelling and touching.

Also, another contributor with two stories in the book, Amy MIchalik, won an award for a screenplay she wrote about Mexican drug cartels. She created a documentary that now looks like will possibly be picked up for a movie. Well done Warriors.

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What is your name and department/agency?

My name is Michelle Perin, and during my time as a police telecommunications operator I worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department.

Please give us a little background about yourself, i.e., family, education, hobbies, etc.

I am the mother of two adolescent boys and spend most of my time trying not to let them drive me crazy. When I’m not doing that, I ride my Triumph America, run, write and am a volunteer firefighter with South Lane County, Oregon Fire & Rescue. I also help with fundraising for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue and foster three older ferrets. I like to call my house Perin’s Foster Home for Geriatric Ferrets. In addition, I am the board member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Education wise, I have a Master’s in Criminology from Indiana State University.

When and why did you decide to become involved in law enforcement?

After a year or so of marriage, my husband told me when he discharged from the Navy he was applying for the police department. He did. A year later, when I discharged, I followed him to Phoenix and applied myself. It wasn’t something I had thought about doing prior. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who says,” When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher.” Once I was with the police department, I started doing law enforcement writing. It was a way to merge what I was doing on a day-to-day basis and my love of the written word.

What is your present assignment?

I left dispatching in 2005, just shy of eight years, to pursue my writing full-time. I’m not a solo creature, so I got another “real” job in 2009. Currently, I work with traumatized children at a psychiatric residential treatment facility outside Eugene, OR. I still write copiously in the law enforcement market.

What do you like most about your job?

As a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher, I loved the excitement of helping people. Like many cross-trained operators, I enjoyed being on the radio much more than the phone. The best times I had were being on our Westside frequency on second shift during the summer. Often I would have 150 officers on my channel and it was hopping, to say the least. I liked being a lifeline to my officers. I prided myself on being that dispatcher who never had to ask you to repeat yourself and always had your back.

What do you like least about your job?

Being under-appreciated. 9-1-1 operator/dispatchers are truly the first responder. We deal with much of the same psychological stress that all first responders do, although with some added caveats. We can’t “do” anything to make a situation better. An officer can respond to the scene and start handling the chaos. All we have is our voices. This can feel very frustrating and helpless sometimes, especially when an officer needs help. We also have to deal with shift work, bureaucracy, mandatory staffing and abuse from the public. We are often the easiest to blame when something goes wrong. Praise can be far and few between. We have to shore each other up and know we are in an honorable, necessary and important position.

How does your family feel about you being in law enforcement?

They are proud of me. They recognize it takes a special type of person to be a 9-1-1 operation/dispatcher.

Do you think the consensus is that law enforcement is a man’s job? If so, have you had difficulty being accepted as an equal?

I do believe this. There are more men than women by far, but women are proving they can do this job and do it well. Public safety is evolving and every person has specific skills to add to the job. If every officer was the typical manly-man Robo-Cop prototype, departments would be weak. We need to have those with a variety of skills and personalities. In telecommunications, we were predominately female and it was opposite of the street expectations. I think our officers had a hard time if the dispatcher was male. They wanted that matronly voice I suppose.

What would you like the public to know about your job?

9-1-1 operators/dispatchers truly do care. They may seem cold and detached on the phone, but that is part of the training. We have to ask certain questions to get people the help they need. They care about their citizens and they care about their officers. Many dispatchers have gotten off shift and finally allowed themselves to feel. We’ve wrapped our arms around each other and cried and cried. Those of us who are married to someone in the field also feel the stress of having to handle emergency calls with our loved one out there with the bad guys. The feelings of not being able to do anything can be worse in these situations. Dispatchers have worked calls where they’ve lost their husband in the line of duty. This was always my worst fear, but I reminded myself that if anyone could handle his emergency traffic it would be me. I also wanted to be the one who heard his voice for the last time.

If you had to do it over again, would you choose law enforcement as a career?

I would. I enjoyed my job and helping people. I have had numerous incarnations of my career and am very glad I worked as a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher when and for the amount of time I did.

 

911 Emergency dispatch centers (Police)

911 Emergency dispatch centers (Police) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note: This Contributor wished to remain anonymous, but felt strongly that she wanted to tell her story.

What is your name and department/agency?

Tired Dispatcher at your agency, USA

Please give us a little background about yourself, i.e., family, education, hobbies, etc.

To find balance with the job (the uglies) I am active with community service (the pretties).

I truly believe if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

When and why did you decide to become involved in law enforcement?

I got involved by accident and discovered I had a knack for keeping track of multiple actions/

activities, keeping my voice calm in times of crisis, and I enjoyed the challenge of the fluctuating

needs and demands of my agency.

What is your present assignment?

Emergency Services Dispatcher, but I help with other public relation activities for the agency.

What do you like most about your job?

It’s not the same job every day. There is some routine, yes, but every phone call demands a

different part of my talents and intelligence. Sometimes the caller needs an ear, sometimes

help and sometimes a kick in the hiney. But you never know what is coming on the phone, or

what the officer is going to demand and need from you when he keys up his radio.

What do you like least about your job?

Sadly, and honestly, usually some of my co-workers. Many forget why we’re there and seem

to get an itch scratched by being rude and creating drama within the dispatching unit, instead

of working with and assisting their co-workers. I believe most of the stress of my job is from

those I work with more than those I serve while working.

How does your family feel about you being in law enforcement?

I come from a law enforcement family who hoped I wouldn’t follow in their foot steps, but supported my decision to do so.

Do you think the consensus is that law enforcement is a man’s job? If so, have you had difficulty being accepted as an equal?

In communications (dispatch) it is a big of a role reversal. It is usually “manned” by women.

An accepted manner and role. But I have worked with men in dispatch, men who have many,

many years in communications/dispatch and they get lots of questions about why they aren’t

an officer. But never do I hear a female dispatcher being a recipient of that question ad

nauseam.

What would you like the public to know about your job?

The person taking your phone call is a human, with feelings and personalities just like you. As

a call taker I try hard to listen and help you. If you don’t like the answer, please don’t yell and

cuss at me. Please be patient while I ask you many questions. It is information I need to help

you and keep my officer safe. Please know I am sending help, either directly or through a coworker, while I continue to talk to you. And remember four important things to know when

you call 9-1-1:

  1. In ten words or less, tell me what the  emergency is.
  2. Know where you are, location – location – location.
  3. Stop Talking. The call taker needs specific information from you.
  4. Don’t forget to keep breathing. Put actual thought into taking a deep breath.

If you had to do it over again, would you choose law enforcement as a career?

This is a tough question to answer. Knee jerk response—hell yes, I’m good at it. But after

careful thought, I really don’t know. I can’t offer a definitive answer.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

This is not a job for the faint of heart or for most people. I have seen people with smarts and a

true book education, who couldn’t handle the constant change and stay flexible enough for

the demands of the job. Those officers who respect dispatchers, have been saved by their good

work. Officer that have spent a good amount of time with us, have seen firsthand, the hours of

trauma and drama we deal with and handle in a professional manner.

Dispatchers are the forgotten and overlooked heroes of a law enforcement team and agency.

They are the first of the first responders who carry the heavy burden of helping and serving

the community and their agency for little, if any, positive recognition. And yet, we strong and

service driven people continue to return to work behind the radio mike or answer the phone

every day, at all hours of the day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, because we know we

are needed.