For 4 months I was a dispatcher for law enforcement. After seeing what all the job entails, I commend anyone who makes it a career. Five things that stuck out to me during this time was the emotional draining, public entitlement, wondering, lack of resources, and ignorance.

Working as emergency personnel is emotionally draining. As an adult, I know that there are a lot of people in the world hurting. Taking emergency calls amplifies the exposure to it. The people who have to go to those calls feel it too. I remember one call where a driver was driving on the interstate and said a driver on the side of the road seemed like they needed assistance. I dispatched an officer to that location. As soon as he arrive, I ran the tag to make sure the vehicle wasn’t reported stolen or the tag wasn’t switched which is protocol. After the officer walked up to the car, he immediately called over the radio for an ambulance to be sent to that location because the driver was unresponsive. Now over the radio, his voice was calm and authoritative, but a few minutes later he called dispatch over the phone. He said that he had been trying to revive the driver for 5 minutes, but they wouldn’t wake up. I could tell in his voice that he was fighting tears. It was hard to hear that because dispatchers are told to keep emotions in check no matter what is going on. A part of me wanted to comfort him even though he was miles away. All I could do was let him know that an ambulance was on the way. I don’t know what he saw that day, but it got to him. I say incidents like this is emotionally draining because while this may be going on, dispatchers are receiving calls about a family member who should have been home 3 hours ago and the news just reported an accident on their route involving a similar vehicle. So you have officers on the side of the road with unresponsive drivers while family members are on the phone crying not knowing that in 5 minutes a call will come in about a car that just overturned with a child who has been ejected and is laying in the middle of the street dead. So after sending the ambulance to the unresponsive driver and scanning numerous records to see if that person was in an accident, you have the news calling because they heard about the accident before you did, and they are on the way to the scene. Then an officer, his supervisor, and a public information officer gets dispatched to the scene. The latter two are there because the news decided they want all of the footage. I can go on and on about emotions involved in that position, but that’d take a long time.

The public think they are entitled to certain perks and services not available through law enforcement just because they “pay taxes”. Nevermind the fact that dispatchers also pay taxes. In fact government employees are taxed twice. They pay the usual federal withholding tax, medicare tax, etc., but many municipalities require as a condition of employment to contribute to a retirement system for the state or local government which in my case was 6% before taxes. Then if a person leaves that job and requests a refund per the IRS, 20% of that refund is taxed. So yes, the public does contribute to the salary of dispatchers, but dispatchers contribute to their own salaries as well. One situation in particular that I’m reminded of is when a male in his early 20s called because he had a flat tire but not a spare tire. The first question he asked was, “Don’t you all give out spare tires?” Of course the answer was no. About 10-15 minutes away was the officer who would respond to this call if he wanted a ride to the nearest exit. The man did not want a tow truck because he had no money. Because of the construction in the area as well as car accidents, it would take an officer 30 minutes to get to him. Of course he goes on a rant about paying taxes so he should get a tire for free for the BMW he was driving even though he had no money for a tow truck.

The wondering what happened after a call takes a toll on dispatchers. During the summer, there are a lot of calls about teenagers taking their parents’ cars without permission and getting into accidents. I remember one day, 4 kids did this. It was 3 teenagers who brought their younger sibling with them. Somehow the teenagers overturned the vehicle while driving causing all 4 kids to have to go to the hospital. Two of the 4 were hospitalized with serious injuries while the other 2 were released. I never heard about what happened to those kids after that, but I wonder how their parents dealt with the situation. I wonder if the other two are o.k. I wonder if the parents were able to get another vehicle. I also wonder what happens to those who drive their car 50 feet off the interstate, but escape the crash with only minor injuries. I wonder how the family is doing whose loved ones were burned in their car after an accident or the woman who had a standoff with police while threatening suicide. It seems like dispatchers get a lot of unfinished stories that there is not way to follow up on.

Law enforcement do not receive a lot of necessary resources. Someone who works 10 hour days with 6-8 hours of overtime should not have to beg for new uniforms or an air conditioner that works in 100 degree F weather. There is no reason that their vehicles should not be maintained better as well as the equipment inside. The technology in their cars are not always what it should be so officers may have to drive miles to get a signal to upload reports or use a cell phone to call dispatch to get a tow truck. I know that it is not a job of luxury. I know that they are out there to save lives, but those who make the budgets got to take care of officers better. Everyone in legislation who has not been in law enforcement need to do a ride along to see what’s going on. When cops don’t have the resources needed, the public also suffers.

Lastly, ignorance is bliss. Before I dispatched, I could get on the interstate or highways and drive without feeling uncomfortable. Now after hearing the 50 ways that people manage to get into car accidents, i am not so comfortable anymore. The speed limit on the interstate is 70mph. How fast are you going that you rear end 18 wheelers? Why are you driving that close to one in the first place? How distracted are you that you fly into a tree? I’m not talking about going heard first into the trunk of a tree. I’m talking about the vehicle going airborne and landing in the branches like a nest. Thankfully these scenarios are not usually fatal, but it’d make me very nervous to see a car fly off the interstate. I really did not want to know some of the things that go on.

In conclusion, these are some things I felt, observed, and questioned. So much more could be written, but it would take forever. Dispatchers are truly unsung heroes, and I appreciate all that they do.

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