A difficult, and meaningful, job

Captain’s Blog, 1-12-17:

Hello everyone,

I hope your 2017 is off to a good start and that you all enjoyed a happy holiday season.  Tonight I saw that a friend had shared a short film on her Facebook timeline. The film is a well-done glimpse at the job of an emergency dispatcher, and it reminded me of what a meaningful, rewarding, and often traumatic job our dispatchers do every day and night.

As police officers, there are certainly times when work gets stressful, and some times when it is dangerous. There are many times when it can be boring or tedious, but also times when it is a lot of fun.  Ultimately, it is rewarding.  Police officers and our uniformed civilian employees are the visible presence of law enforcement in our city, and we feel very supported by our community. As trying and horrible as some calls for service can be, one thing officers can be thankful for at the end of most incidents is something our dispatchers don’t get as frequently:  closure.

Our dispatchers have a job that can be equally, or even more, stressful than our own.   They are the lifelines on the end of the phone for hundreds of thousands of callers each year. They listen to others in crisis and offer help. They keep our community safe, and go to great lengths to ensure the safety of our police officers, Field & Evidence Technicians, Community Services Officers, and Volunteers working in the field. Frequently, they do all this without getting the story of how the calls they handle are resolved in the field.

One of the events in my career that had an impact on me was a call of a young man who threatened to kill himself with a handgun. He also threatened his girlfriend and then drove away from her house, still in possession of his gun. We protected the young woman and her baby, and worked desperately with our dispatchers to find the young man before he could hurt himself or anyone else. We were unsuccessful, and another officer and I had to listen to the phone message he left for his girlfriend as he shot himself. Listening to that young man’s anguish over the phone was just as awful as it has been to  witness similar incidents in the field. When I remember that call, I think about the work our dispatchers do to help people in crisis every day of the year. They hear the trauma the callers are going through, but have to go right to the next call without ever getting the closure of being on scene to arrest a suspect or see how they have helped someone in crisis.

I am thankful every day for the tremendous job our dispatchers do to keep us all safe. It takes a special kind of person to do their job well. Take a few minutes to watch the film and see what you think. Could you do it? I’m not sure I could.  If you know a dispatcher and appreciate what they do for us, take a minute and let them know.

– Captain Craig Schwartz

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