Unheralded Voices

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They take the calls, send the officers, absorb the wrath, counsel the weak, instruct over the phone when life is in peril; dispatchers!

Dim the lights, skew the hue, for mental tranquility it’s got to be blue; the ambiance in the dispatch center!

This group of professionals receive more crank phone calls than all others combined, but the callers are actually serious. “I gotta a bear in my pool. Get someone here quick,” hollers the one soliciting assistance on the emergency line. On rare occasion there is a bear, but typically found is a large possum or other marsupial.

“You better send someone fast, cuz’ I’m about to shoot my man. He came home smelling like the cocktail waitress,” exclaims a distressed woman looking for help.

“I’m sorry ma’am, can you explain what you mean?” replies the professional with a phone in hand and microphone at the ready.

“Oh honey, it’s the booty body odor thing all over him. You know what that means.”

“Ma’am, please put the gun down and don’t shoot your husband. We have officers on the way.”

Dispatchers are required to translate “crazy” into “sane,” an acquired skill that takes time. “HURRY, HURRY, HURRY! It looks like an explosion on the street next to the all night convenient store. Car parts and bodies everywhere,” shouts the reporting party.


“Units respond code three to an injury collision at the corner of Fifth and Main,” says the skilled dispatcher with a calm voice. “Fire/Rescue is enroute.”

The next call can be as diverse as a complaint about a broken water line that is flooding a local street, or the barbaric act of one human destroying another with a meat cleaver. Many dispatchers have told me the toughest part of all is sending officers to a violent encounter and then waiting … waiting … waiting! Until responders proclaim, “code four”—everything is okay—the professionals who send others into harms way become anxious with the silence coming through the radio.

Worse yet, while they wait for one scene to be secured, the bitter person across town is calling to complain about fumes emitting from the neighbor’s barbeque. “Sir, can you please hold, we’re working an emergency.”

“No I can’t hold,” replies the cranky old man, “this is a serious health hazard.”

“I’m sorry sir, we’ll get to you as soon as we can.”

“Well, I guess I need to call the mayor. He’ll get someone here quicker than you can.”

“Sir, that is unnecessary, the mayor will be unable to …”

In mid-sentence the dispatcher hears the sound of urgency over the unit radio, “We have a combative subject … we’ve deployed the Taser … SHOTS FIRED, SHOTS FIRED … ROLL MEDICS!”

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Dispatchers link citizens to the assistance they need, and officers to resources while offering help to others. At times the dispatch center can be busier than Grand Central Station, and other times as calm as a library. But there is always an assuring voice to answer 9-1-1 and capable of triaging the tragic tale being told so people receive the services that are needed.

With gratitude, peace officers everywhere offer thanks to the men and women answering the emergency phone lines and speaking into the mic. Your competent, professional, behind the scenes service is indeed worth recognition. Many thanks for your unheralded voices!

Jim is the author of The Spirit behind Badge 145. He worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-seven years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the prestigious Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the IACP course, Leadership in Police Organizations. Jim is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at [email protected] or view his website www.badge145.com, which is geared toward encouraging and ministering to officers.


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