What Your Dispatcher Really Thinks About You


When I first began my dispatching career 26 years ago (happy anniversary to me this month!), my trainers hammered it into my brain on a daily basis that officer safety is #1…..always…..without fail. I took that to heart, and that is what I have taught every dispatcher that I have trained over the years. This should be every good dispatcher’s mindset. Now to the fun part….how that becomes irritating to our officers, and to those of us behind the headset!
You’re on a traffic stop. I do my two-minute check on you, and I get the dreaded mic click. 99% of the time, you and I both know that means you’re ok. However, I am not ever going to let you fall into that 1% by accepting that mic click as a valid answer. In that split second, I am scanning the DCI information to see if there is any red flag that I missed, and considering the possibility that your mic click was due to the fact that you are fighting someone or you have been shot. If you’re ok, you’re irritated that we continue to check on you until you answer. Then we are irritated because you’re irritated with us. But we know that you are ok, and that is the most important thing. Just tell us you’re ok to end this viscous cycle. 🙂
You’re on a domestic violence call, which we all know is one of the most dangerous calls for an officer to be on. I do my checks on you like clockwork. I can hear the sigh, the frustration in your voice and can just picture that eye roll of yours as you continue to answer me. I’m stuck in an office, with absolutely no idea what kind of situation you are in. I can’t see it, I can’t hear it, only you can. Again, I am not going to let you fall into that 1% category and take a chance of having something happen to you. Please be patient with me when I am just trying to do my job and keep you safe 🙂

The same woman calls about the same car that is still legally parked on the same street she called about for the past 5 days. (insert huge eye roll here…) I can hear the anger and frustration in your voice. Unfortunately, I cannot tell her I’m not sending an officer out there again, that it is a waste of resources, because she is requesting an officer. Don’t kill the messenger. I think it’s just as dumb as you do, but if I express emotion when dispatching a call, I get written up for it 🙂
You call out with a suspicious person. You get the dreaded “stand by”. I can hear you thinking, “WTF?? Seriously?? What is more important than this person I’m going out with who could shoot me and you’d never know who it is or where I am??” I hate telling officers to stand by just as much as you hate hearing it. I started out in a single-person dispatch office. I dispatched police, fire, ems and answered all of the incoming phone lines….alone. There were times I had to decide which was more important, an officer’s traffic stop, or giving someone CPR instructions. Even in consolidated centers, dispatchers still have to answer the phones while working a channel. There are times when I have someone screaming in my ear, someone dying, someone who has been shot, a child who is watching his father beat his mother, and a decision has to be made which one is more important. Do I always make the right decision? Nope, but I do my best to balance everything to do my job for everyone. Don’t get mad until knowing the reason I told you to stand by. 🙂
My job is to make sure you make it home to your family at the end of each and every shift. When you get into a foot pursuit, a vehicle chase, a shooting, a fight, my heart is in my throat until it’s over and I know that you are ok. When you catch the bad guy, I’m cheering with you. When a bad guy gets away, I’m doing everything on my end to figure out addresses, friends, family members, to help you figure out where he might go. When you are out there chasing cows or chickens in the roadway, yep, I’m laughing at you. When you’re on a traffic stop, working an accident, on any type of call, I do not relax until you are clear and ok.
I always have your back. I’m always concerned, like a mother hen. I will do everything in my power to make sure you get home every day. I will celebrate with you, I will mourn with you, I will always walk beside you. I’m your dispatcher.

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After growing up in my father’s Italian restaurant, I began a 27-year career as a police, fire and EMS dispatcher. Now living along the coast of North Carolina, I am enjoying writing, my pet sitting business, and being the executive director of our local merchant association. I will always advocate for dispatcher recognition, the acknowledgement of mental stress on dispatchers, and all first responders. 


This short statement from a person who’s been in the trenches, trying their best to look out for the best interest and safety of not only the ones in blue, but everyone else within their sphere of contact.
This should be mandatory reading for EVERYONE on the other end of a dispatcher’s radio. Everyone. Too many times the dispatcher is the one who catches flak for doing their job to the best of their abilities. Too many times, those out in the field just don’t seem to ‘get’ the fact that your dispatcher IS your absolute lifeline. When you get into a tough situation (and sooner or later you will), your dispatcher is the one who will send you the help you need to be able to get out of that tough situation and go home alive. Dispatchers are one of the most neglected, yet one of the most important links you have. Be nice to your dispatcher. They make all the difference.

I know. Been there, done that, retired with a whole case of T-shirts.

Thank you so much for the support, and thank you for your service, too! We are definitely the unseen, forgotten first responders. My goal is to bring a voice, a face, a human being, to the forefront.

Dispatchers are truly the FIRST First Responders! In the hotseat, favorite job ever!

As a retired officer I would like to thank dispatchers who give those required checks. one saved my butt and allowed me to survive to retire. i had a revolver pointed in my face and if i had answered the check he would have shot me. my lack of response caused dispatch to send a whole bunch of assist cars. the sirens caused the dude to run. Officers you must answer that check every time! Build the rep for that habit so that when you cant answer dispatch KNOWS there is a problem. 30 years ago my training coach gave me a copy of this saying and i passed it on to every officer i trained. Here you go: “You may know where you are and what you are doing. God may know where you are and what you are doing. But if your dispatcher doesn’t know where you are and what you are doing you and God had better be on good terms!”

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who are our other voice from above!

Thank you for sharing your frustration.

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