Friday, November 28, 2008


I like to read my husband's police magazines at times. Between books when visiting the throne room. Usually that's all they're good for as they repeatedly ignore a very important component of officer safety, US - THE DISPATCHERS. Sorry. My personal feelings of resentment took over for a moment.

There is an interesting column written I found in the back of one of those magazines (that over look the importance of US - The Dispatchers)(whoa, guess I am not holding on as tight to my emotions as I thought) that gave me a little pause for contemplation.

It is an article of retrospect of how upon graduating from the academy he began preparing for his sergeant's exam at least three years away, keeping his eye on the next rank and moving forward. He would become a lieutenant before retirement. The crux of his article though was, in a nutshell, "some of the most important things I have done in life were not as a lieutenant, but as an officer, a father, a husband, or a friend."

That's all very nice for an officer to contemplate or live or work towards, but there isn't anything like that in Dispatch. The best we can hope for is to become, first, a trainer (a whole 5% pay raise for all the extra paper work and responsibility) and maybe, just maybe, become a supervisor (where another 15% pay raise helps offset the new headaches coming your way.) But these two steps still keep us in the same windowless padded walls basement overcrowded room.

Records Clerks on average make less money than Dispatch. But they can promote to Division Secretaries and Area Clerks, working among detectives and out of area/substation offices. Also, on average, there are more Records Supervisors than Dispatch Supervisors, so more opportunities to promote within Records themselves. With the new assignment comes a pay raise, but gives them the opportunity to meet and greet and tackle a new challenge and learn a new skill.

Yes, there are very few jobs that will give a person a more thrilling and scary ride or more unique problem solving opportunity than law enforcement and fire dispatching. The very job is wrought with challenges and a constantly moving topography of rules and laws and needs.

But I guess my point is, that's all we get. Year after year. Some departments do allow their dispatchers to take specialized training, like disaster management or hostage crisis or swat call out dispatching. But many times the dispatcher has to take the initiative and pay for it themselves, because they care about their jobs enough to go the extra mile. And still many times the department overlooks these new learned skills to write manuals on how they want things done, when training and experience from the point of a dispatcher is totally ignored. And the good dispatcher moves and flows with the demands asked of their superior officers and incorporates their knowledge within the perimeters set by the uneducated to the point the senior officer believes it was always written and understand to work that way.

It would be nice if police magazines at least carried a column written by a dispatcher over the concerns and jobs and abilities of a dispatcher. Maybe focus ever so often on a dispatcher that truly goes up and over and out of their way to make their job better and safer.

It would be nice and very smart for agencies to be as concerned for additional training for their dispatchers as they are for their officers. (Yes, I know, part of the reason agencies send officers to training is because they get reimbursed by POST or other such state governing agency.)

And it would be truly wise for dispatch supervisors and agencies to look for ways to keep their dispatchers in touch within their agency through occasional temporary postings or assignments that gives the dispatcher the opportunity to be a more recognized proactive member of the agency to keep their assigned populace safe and secure. And to help levitate a little of the constant barrage of negativity usually sent the direction of those hardworking diligent and dedicated communications center employees. US DISPATCHERS. (ahem)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is a Holiday, which means paid time off work, for most people. A time to overindulge with homemade goodies and enjoy the presence of family as they gather around the table to recite what they are thankful for.

But for those of us in the public safety family, well, there is no such thing as a holiday and time off. We are in the business of 24/7/365 response.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who overindulge with food and make themselves sick and needing an ambulance.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who overindulge with alcohol and try to drive or fight with their family members and need police presence to put things back in order.

We are on duty ready to answer the call for those who light their fireplaces and candles which end up burning their house down requiring fire department presence to try to rescue what and who they can.

Yes, we are on duty. Ready and able to be there to take care of the problem of the day. For some of the public we serve, they will not see us today. They will not be aware of our presence and preparedness. But, sadly, there will be a need for our skills as there will be that car accident or fire or fight or robbery or burglary or something that will require our ability to respond to disasters with speed and knowledge.

So world, be Thankful we are here. Be Thankful that we have the training to assist. Be Thankful we are here to help.

And especially be Thankful if you don't have to use our abilities today.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weighty Issues

Recently read an article written by an officer who complained about the weight of most Dispatchers. That their poor eating habits and lack of exercise makes them overweight. He finds it disgusting. After all, the officers exercise on their breaks.

Hmmm.... clearly this officer does not know the reality of an average and commonly found dispatch center. Let's see if I can explain it in simple enough terms even an officer can understand. Not that it is an excuse, but just trying to educate the insensitive-overabundance of free time available-badge carrying officer. (I originally typed in 'knuckle dragging' but thought it would be a little hardhearted, even if fairly accurate.)

Many agencies have a form of wellness program to encourage officers to keep healthy and trim with incentive programs like extra pay for weight loss and/or extra vacation time for attending seminars on health issues and/or easy and free access to gym equipment and the time to make use of the conditioning toys. Their mindset being that officers are what the general public see, thus they want a good image representing the agency and government that runs them.

Reality is, Dispatchers are locked in rooms (supposedly for their safety-another future blog moment) listening for hour on hour of peoples woes, typing reports, assisting officers (and listening to their moans of woes) where freedom of movement is usually greatly limited by umbilical cords known as headsets plugged into phone and radio stations and the size of the dispatch center. Many don't have work stations that are adjustable so they can stand at least part of their work day so they can get off their widening sitting ends from chairs not meant for 24/7 butts. The second agency I worked for had such a small dispatch room I could literally touch the dispatch board and the public access window but stretching out my arms.

Some law enforcement agencies do not make the department gym available to their non-sworn personnel. Dispatchers in some agencies have to eat their meal breaks at their stations due to lack of relief (which means an officer willing to raise himself up to the task of helping) available. Which usually means a microwave may not be handy to warm up healthy leftovers or frozen meal. So it is easier to order in food, usually not the most healthiest. And why do you think couch potatoes have such full figures? Because it is something innate in the human biology that we snack when sitting on our cabooses for any length of time, Dispatchers listen to their inner voice (separate from the voices they hear in their heads) saying "eat - snack" when sitting for eight to sixteen hours at a time.

To the officer who wrote the slamming-uneducated-ignorant showing article about Dispatch and their weighty girths, try to spend a little time in learning the realities of a job before speaking with so many words of so little you know so as not to show the world your lack of knowledge and empathy. And hope one of your Dispatchers don't read your tired words and take offense and prove to you that the power is in the mind and the Dispatch Center by making you actually work and respond to paper call to paper call without being able to take a thirty minute meal break and the workout time you get on your work day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Racial Profiling

Wikipedia Encyclopedia says racial profiling is the inclusion of racial or ethnic characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime or an illegal act. Civil rights advocates are against the use of racial profiling tactics by the police.

Conversely, it is argued that including race as one of the several factors in suspect profiling is generally supported by the law enforcement community. It is claimed that profiling based on any characteristic is a time-tested and universal police tool, and that excluding race as a factor is insensible.

Okay. Sooo... let's see if I get this right. Racial profiling done by police as a tool to assist with preventing and solving crimes, preventing damage done to property and people is not permitted. A big no-no.

But..... Yet..... a private citizen can call in the appearance of a person of a different race (the first words out of their mouth) in their neighborhood that does not have a person of that race, requesting immediate police presence to find out what trouble they are preparing to make, a crime they are clearly getting ready to commit, based solely on their appearance, not by their current actions.

Or how about that caller that likes to describe the guy in the robes with a beard that is hanging around a certain location that shouldn't have someone like that near.

Or about the older caller describing the kid who is clearly a gangbanger (and when did that term stop being a sexual assault term and become a description of a wannabe laughable gangsta) cause of his attire and self mutilation (expanding earrings/lobes and multiple piercings) and probably ready to hurt someone.

Apparently the term "racial profiling" is ONLY applied to its use by law enforcement. It is NOT applied to the use by private citizens.


Oh yeah. We wear the color of the badge. We're not able to or suppose to use the same descriptors utilized by the citizens we serve and protect. We're accountable to a different standard. A higher standard. A color/ethnic/descriptor/sex/religion blindness standard.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Padded Walls

As earlier promised, a discussion of the padded walls in our dispatch center.

We work in a windowless basement room. Correction, not totally windowless. What windows we have lead into the mainframe room or the supervisors office. A couple years ago we got a remodeling. Basically, the construction entailed of taking down the old padded walls (that was suspected by we dispatchers to have mold but was never confirmed by the city) and hanging up new padded walls. And adding more complaint taking and radio dispatching equipment to our already full room.

But they are not called padded walls. They are called noise absorbent paneling. In a pretty grey and white concrete pattern so we dispatchers don't start thinking of the padded walls as a viable source to pound our heads against.

Noise absorbent paneling or padded walls. The affect is the same. We spend 10-15 hours a day in a room that is just short of being sterile by the addition of framed color photographs of beautiful landscapes. So not all color is letched from our lives.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back from Vacation

Yes, I really took some time off. Well, did so because I had been organizing a two day meeting and wanted the days leading up to it free so I could handle last minute requests. And ended up sick the whole time! Talk about unfair. What is this world coming to? How dare I get sick and then go on vacation? Clearly working in a windowless basement room with up to twenty other people can't be a cause for this medical problem. Clearly I was infected by the occasional exposure to the general public when making a grocery stop or shopping errand.

But I did get to look out a window and see the rain fall and the wind blow as leaves piled up into the pool. Thank goodness the pool upkeep is my husband's responsibility. It was nice to see the reminder of the visual bright and colorful world versus the not so bright intellectual and colorful languaged folks we deal with daily in our jobs.

Back to the grey padded walls (yes, they really do have a small padding on them, supposedly for noise containment - but that's a whole nother posting) with several framed color landscape photographs to remind us dispatchers that there is a world outside.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Say What?

I know I have said it before, in law enforcement there is a completely different vocabulary and verbiage. But a caller I had earlier clearly has not learned even basic vocabulary.

"I want to double check what a dispatcher told me earlier. She says I need to hire a lawyer and an attorney for my problem?"

Excuse me?

Are there not exit exams in high school that would catch such a lack of basic knowledge? Even if he quit school, does he not watch too much television like lots of people?

One doesn't have to be a student of etymology to know lawyer and attorney are the same thing.

A lack of vocabulary, even basic vocabulary, of more than 3 syllables, seems to be lost of many people today. My grandfather, who never finished school, was one of the most intelligent and articulate men I knew. He always commented that those people who used four-letter words to express themselves were just showing their lack of education and intelligence.

I am not asking that all and sundry be eloquent ad nauseam. But please people, be able to speak and understand basic vocabulary and their definitions beyond 2 or 3 syllable words of four to six letters.