Protectors of the Thin Blue Line

Nothing is more important than officer safety especially to those of us tasked with being their life-line. By following some suggestions from the beginning of your career to your last transmission, you can be the kind of dispatcher that takes care of...

Don’t dominate the air

There is no feeling worse than putting your foot down and hearing the tell-tale sound of covering a unit who is trying to clear at the same time, unless of course this happens when you are working emergency traffic. Realistically though, this is going to happen. Focus on keeping your end of the air as open as possible so that those who may need to get help can. Keep your comments brief but understandable. We have a tendency to want to control the situation from our end and often this exhibits itself as too much domination of air time.

Do give the officers all the information

As operators, we aren’t privy to exactly what is going on on-scene. Due to this, we don’t really know what information is important to pass on. Often it feels we have too many details and we hesitate to take up airtime with superfluous information. What we need to remember is although we can make an educated guess about what needs to be said over the air and what doesn’t, we shouldn’t hold on to any information. If it’s too much to read, alert the patrol supervisor and let him or her know there is a lot of information typed into the call and to be aware of it. Let them make the choice to sort through it and relay what’s important. In the same vein, make sure you continue to read the incoming information on call. A suspect description, direction of travel or the appearance of weapons might be hidden twenty-five lines down.

Throughout your Career

Even after our initial training days are long in the past and when nothing much is going on, we can be cognizant of how we influence officer safety and focus on ways to be valuable people and employees. There are things that we can do for ourselves throughout our careers that make us better operators.

Take care of yourself

Mental, physical and emotional well-being is super important if you want to be at your very best every moment you are on shift. Get enough exercise. Eat well. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation. Use alcohol and caffeine in moderation. Get enough sleep. Take time off. Have interests outside the agency. All those things that help maintain our balance will help us increase officer safety.


Training doesn’t end once you get that certificate saying you are a full-fledged emergency communications operator. Continuing to learn good dispatching techniques, increase knowledge of the technology you use as well as continuing to learn good wellness techniques can make your trek through your career an easier, more satisfying, less physical and mentally disintegrating one. Join associations such as National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and utilize their offerings.

When I was completing my fire training, my instructor told me a motto I should hold close to my heart when it came to prioritizing during a critical incident, “You go home. Your partner goes home. The citizen goes home.” As dispatchers, this applies to us as well. We need to take care of ourselves and continue learning so that we can make sure our co-workers, our officers, go home as well. Finally, these skills will trickle down to our citizens because making the streets a safer place for our law enforcement makes the streets safer for them as well. We don’t control the world, although many of us feel like we should and could. What we can control is how we view our role in officer safety and our continuation to make that a priority with our actions.


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About The Author:

Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.

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