National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week April 8-14, 2012

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By Chief Thomas Wagoner
Loveland (Colo.) Police Department

Someone once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a profession. I said, “I thought it was a calling.”

And so is dispatching. I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety. They miss the excitement of riding in a speeding car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on its own, after it has been given CPR.

Dispatchers sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces they never see. It’s like reading a lot of books, but only half of each one.

Dispatchers connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants, suicidal citizens and grouchy officers. They are the calming influence of all of them-the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can’t remember where they live, what their name is, or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information to the officers, firefighters, or paramedics without error the first time and every time.

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A Tale of Two Leaders

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Last night I attended the annual Public Safety Communications Association Dispatcher Of The Year banquet in Fresno.  The yearly event recognizes dispatchers from area agencies, and highlights the often unsung heroes who toil behind the scenes to support deputy sheriffs, police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Last night’s event was started off by opening remarks from two of Fresno County’s top law enforcement officers.  Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims, and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer spoke to the assembled dispatchers, family, officers, deputies, paramedics, firefighters, friends and supporters.  This blog is about the difference between those two presentations.

Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff

Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Fresno PD

One speaker used the entire time at the podium to talk about dispatchers, the other started off talking about dispatchers, but veered off the night’s topic halfway through and instead turned to speaking about themselves and their religion. I’ve not seen the first speaker in person before, but I have had to sit through the “god talk” from the second at previous banquets. You can probably guess who’s talk I preferred.
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