Monday, June 20, 2011

I Use To Be Happy - Then I Became A Dispatcher

Was talking to a friend VS, another fellow dispatcher. We were talking about our altered mental states, a prerequisite for our jobs, when she mentioned she use to be a happy person. Then she became a dispatcher.

Oh boy girl, did you hit a hot topic for me.

Seriously, think back on how you viewed the world, how you acted, what you believed in, before your dispatching work. Even if you grew up in a violent home, or a law enforcement family home, or Ozzie and Harriet-style home, your views and attitudes change the longer you sit behind the mic and phone.

Have heard many times from wives and girlfriends on how their husbands/boyfriends changed while going through the police academies. And how after a few years of service they come to realize they are now in a relationship with a different person. When many marriages dissolve and relationships fail.

But little is ever written or recognized or discussed that it is the same for dispatchers. Not all states require dispatchers to go through academies, most dispatcher training is done on the job. The first year is spent learning so much, gaining new skills, that the changes become very subtle, but they are there. Have trained a few in my career and seen many more go through training (not all making it) and speak from experience.

But the longer we do this job the more our minds, opinions, prejudices, trust issues, etc change. And not for the better.

VS mentioned that she doesn't trust anymore. Before her dispatching career she trusted everyone. But being exposed to a part of the community and their actions has changed that. Drives her kids crazy too.

Yeah, VS, that is how this job changes you. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home and thought I trusted few and little. But looking back, after many many many many years dispatching, I realize I was a very trusting soul. But dispatching has totally destroyed that part of me.

How else has dispatching changed you? Are you now unsympathetic to a certain group of people? I had little patience for women who stayed in abusive relationships before my career, and now have almost (well, really) none.

How about your political views? How have they changed? Did you change political parties?

And what about relationships???? One of the hardest things about our job. Getting and maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner while doing this job. In the outside world the stats are something like 50/50 for marriage success. In law enforcement, more like 80/20 for failure. Not just officers but dispatchers too.

And having and raising kids? With our hours? And exposure to really bad kids? Did you have kids before you started the job? How have your parenting skills changed? How many rules of behavior and expectations have changed and become more strict?

This job changes you on so many levels. And VS and I have barely scratched the surface.

Have always said this blog is for me. I post what I want to say and really don't care if you reply or comment (though I love it when you do). But today, for this entry, I would love to hear from other dispatchers and get their viewpoints on this topic.


911 and the Randomness.. said...

Oh yeah, I know just what ya'll mean. I was 19 when I started this job. Part of my personality wasn't even formed yet. Now, 7 years later, I'm half happy go lucky child like person and half cynical nosey untrusting paranoid and bitter.

It's a very very rough mix. Good in some ways and very not good in others. As I wonder about kids and try to keep my marriage together it's hard. I'm very quiet at home. My emotions are walled off becuase I can't break down on a call so my husband sometimes feels left out. Children are almost out of the question due to the hours and I find myself wondering if I could really love them and give them a good childhood with my personality. I may just piggy back on your post if you don't mind.

tired.dispatcher said...

911 - Feel free to explore the question yourself on your blog. I asked VS before I did, since it was her words that triggered the exploration. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly.

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

Absolutely everything changed for me. Mostly how I tend to even more hide in my cocoon of a home and dislike being around others!! Except those I chose to be around!