“That road is going to make a ninety-degree left-hand turn soon.”
When I was driving 90+ mph chasing a stolen vehicle, those words rang through the radio like church bells.
As a young officer working graveyard, I was the primary unit in a pursuit that left town out onto country roads. I was not familiar with the area at that time. I was totally focused on catching the bad guy.
As I was calling out the roads we were passing, at least the ones I could see in the dark, my dispatcher came on the air and told me about that sharp turn coming up. I let off the accelerator and gave the suspect a little distance.
As I came upon the curve, I was able to make the turn, safe and unharmed. I made the turn only to find the suspect’s vehicle sideways in a ditch off the shoulder.
That was one of the first times I can remember where a dispatcher helped me in what could have been a terrible outcome.
Most days during my first years on patrol, when I heard my call sign from a dispatcher, I would think “What now?” Calls that I felt didn’t require an officer. I thought I knew better, and the dispatcher could have sent someone else.
Or worse yet I would hear, “Copy call out of beat”. I mean come on really?!? You can’t send someone else!
I soon learned if you pick up their Starbucks or lunch order, you get out of those type calls a little more often.
But as the years went by, and I made friends with dispatchers, I learned more about how hard their job really is.
Not only are they dealing with the irritated car burglary victim, but also the suicidal subject, or the person who can’t find their elderly parent with dementia who walked away.
The number of calls and all the crap they take before finally dispatching an officer is hard to comprehend. Then, when an officer is finally on a “hot” call and not responding on the radio, their fear and anxiety go through the roof.
Because they care about us officers and responders on the scene.
Our department wasn’t great at debriefing serious incidents early on in my years. But the few that I was involved in, the dispatcher explained their part and how things sounded from their end. I realized that as stressed as I was, their stress level was right there with mine.
Later in my career, I was often defending my dispatchers to someone who complained about how rude they sounded, or that they didn’t listen to the person’s problem.
When I explained a little of what they deal with, the person usually understood.
In twenty-one years, I might have been a little short on the radio with dispatchers. Especially over what I now realize was trivial, and for that I am sorry.
So to all you dispatchers out there, 10-36.
We love and appreciate all you do for us, and for the communities you serve!
Have a great week!!
Shawn R. Cavin