In reading the rest of her document, including the practical steps in how to be a police telecommunications operator according to policy and procedure, I recognized how easy it is to let personal experience cloud the way a dispatcher/9-1-1 operator does his or her job. I took thousands of calls that I entered into the system or didn’t enter into the system, ones that I felt I just knew all the information about and the outcome and how the officer should respond, etc, etc. Operators are human with our own experiences, but the bottom line is, and what my friend’s training pointed out was we have to do our jobs according to the rules. We can’t let our personal experience color our responses. Sure, we believe we know what the outcome will be on certain issues or that we feel we know better than the citizen what they need. Sometimes we get upset when an officer doesn’t respond or disposition the call the way we feel they should. All these reactions are normal, but they are based on our own emotions. It’s tough but each call either 9-1-1 or in radio needs to be handled “by the book.” If a citizen asks for an officer, send one. If an officer doesn’t handle the call the way you’d like, oh well. My friend mentioned several times in her training, “Let it go.” Don’t keep tabs on your calls as if you own them. Do check with your supervisor and not a co-worker, especially a new one, if you have questions about how to handle a certain situation. Do not dispatch as if you are the end all and be all of the radio world. It’s hard to let things go and not allow personal experience to enter our actions in the communications room. This doesn’t mean everyone should act like a robot. Even if someone tried to do things rote, it wouldn’t work because again we are each human.
I believe my friend’s training module will be a good one. It’s nice to be reminded that as police telecommunications operators, we don’t really carry the weight of the world on our shoulders although it feels like it sometimes. The fate of humanity is not resting in our hands and our every action will not determine the destiny of our citizens and our officers. We have a job to do and the department has put in place guidelines, rules, policies and procedures to help us do it well. We’ve been given supervisors to help guide us through those gray areas that often come up. We’re not alone in choosing the “which path to take” of the emergency situations that crop up. If, as dispatchers, we can remember this, hopefully many of us will not have to be called into our supervisor’s office to explain a decision based on our experience and not on what we have been trained to do.
About The Author:
Michelle Perin worked as a police telecommunications operator with the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for eight years. She has an M.S. in Criminology and CJ from Indiana State University and writes full-time from Eugene, Oregon. For more information, visit www.thewritinghand.net