By Trey Rusk
Running Code 3
I began my criminal justice career as a police and fire dispatcher. It was the toughest job I ever had.
The pay was dismal compared to the police officers and the work environment was next to impossible because of distractions. Evenings and graveyards also had to monitor the jail.
If anything went wrong the dispatcher was usually blamed. If anyone was congratulated for doing a good job, it was the police officer. People seldom gave kudos to the dispatcher even though without the information provided by them the case/arrest probably wouldn't have been made.
Back in the day, my duties consisted of manning the telephones, dispatching police, fire and animal control. Running criminal histories, drivers license histories and registrations in a timely manner. Timely manner usually meant immediately. This was before modern computers and I had to rely on a teletype that operated like an old ticker tape stock machine. Clean up the dispatch and booking area. Issue case numbers from a hard bound ledger and communicate with area law enforcement on a separate channel called inter city radio. There was no licensing for dispatchers but to run the teletype you had to attend a state school.
This was how a typical Saturday night would operate. An officer would bring a prisoner to the booking desk approximately 10 feet from the dispatch station. While booking the loud prisoner and tempers flared, a major wreck would be called in. There was no caller I.D. or 911 for that matter. The dispatcher only had one chance to get the details like location and the caller. Record the date and time and inquire about injuries. There was no backup for the dispatcher. It was a one person console. Then fire and ambulance had to be dispatched. As soon as this was done the phone would ring with citizens calling to see what was going on. All of this was happening as an officer was giving an attitude adjustment to a drunk and disorderly prisoner. Once officers made the scene registrations and drivers license information had to be run. Wreckers were called for and deaths were recorded. A case number was issued. There were no cell phones. When a death was called in the citizens would tie up the phones again trying to find out who died.
There were no take backs because you couldn't rely on recordings, cameras or GPS to assist in getting the above required duties accomplished.
Today most dispatchers have locations, and complainants recorded by voice and GPS. Most cities of any size require two dispatchers per shift. Dispatchers are still some of the hardest workers of any agency and they're contributions are often overlooked. You would think that for the responsibilities that are thrust upon them that they would have pay comparable to the street officers.
If the job wasn't hard enough plenty of female dispatchers must also put up with patrol officers hitting on them as they do their job.
Shots fired! Officer down! I need backup now! Help me!
Remember, they are the street officer's life line in an increasingly difficult job.
I salute all hard working dispatchers for their dedication to duty. God Bless each of you.