Pd Celebrates Telecommunicator Week

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In 1991 Congress formally proclaimed the second week of April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

The Payson Police Department has honored its telecommunicatorsmore commonly referred to as dispatchers every year at this same time.

The police department employs six full-time dispatchers, one part-time, one reserve who is also the department's secretary, and a communications supervisor.

The starting salary for a dispatcher at the police department is $13.04 an hour depending on experience. Eight hour shifts are the norm, however, there is one shift that calls for 10 hour days, four days a week.

Four of the dispatchers are married to law enforcement officers. One is also a reserve officer with the Department of Public Safety. Another is married to a firefighter. And one has a dream of being a police officer some day.

All are dedicated and committed to public safety.

The busiest time for working a police radio is during daylight hours when a variety of calls come in ranging from a complaint of a dog loose in the neighborhood to speeding vehicles.

However, it's long after the sun goes down that the "hot" calls begin for the dispatchers who handle not only 911 calls, but police and fire radio traffic as well.

Fights in progress, burglaries, domestic violence calls, officer involved shooting, suicidal subjects the list goes on.

Everyone should try to dissuade someone from taking their own life but would you know the right things to say?

Would you know how to talk to a complete stranger over a telephone line who wants to end his life?

Could you remain calm while talking to the person, radioing a patrol officer and fire department to respond? All the while hoping you will say the right things until the officers arrive to take over.

All dispatchers will tell you that when a call of this sort appears on their 911 screen, their long hours of training kick in.

The following Payson Police dispatchers number few among the estimated 195,791 nationwide, however, they all share a great love for their chosen occupation.

Kim Cline

Birthplace: Biddeford, Maine

Family: Husband, four children, five step-children and one granddaughter.

Length of employment: 3.5 years.

Why did you choose this career? Excitement, variety and fun.

What do you like most about your job? The family atmosphere, everyone cares.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Answering 911 calls when a distraught person is on the other end.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? I was on the radio when Officer Allen Dyer was shot. He was new at the time, but already a friend. It was hard.

What is the most frustrating? When people call 911 for a non-emergency, like "what are the roads like? " That happens so often.

How do you deal with job-related stress? You just forget about it all when you leave work and go home and dive into your family.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Playing bingo.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? The police officers of our department want to help the public, not harm them or be disloyal to them. When they catch the drug dealers, they are thinking about all the people that won't get involved in drugs because of it. They really are for the people.

Last words? I am now the police secretary, but I remain a reserve dispatcher. I miss the daily excitement in there (dispatch).

Jesse Davies

Birthplace: Orem, Utah

Family: Single

Length of Employment : About seven months, unless you count volunteer work.

Why did you choose this career? To help get my foot in the door for a future career as a Payson police officer and learn more about the field.

What do you like most about your job? The people I work with and the occasional opportunity to feel like I made a sincere difference in a person's life.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Handling multiple phone calls and multiple radio calls while maintaining a public and professional disposition.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? My toughest situation would pale in comparison to those of other dispatchers, so I won't embarrass myself.

What is the most frustrating? When some of the units don't seem to understand that we have other things we need to do besides answer the radio.

How do you deal with job-related stress? Try to keep a sense of humor, even if it is sometimes pretty dark.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Socializing with friends.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? Contrary to public belief, the police department can't always solve your problems, and 911 is not the acceptable substitute for directory assistance.

Joni Varga

Birthplace: Los Angeles, Calif.

Family: I come from a family of eight. For now my immediate family is just my husband and two dogs.

Length of Employment: Two years, eight months.

Why did you choose this career?: I've never worked anywhere else that is as exciting as police dispatching.

What do you like most about your job? I like that no two days are ever the same.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Rotating shifts.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? A suicidal caller is always the toughest for me. I have had a couple of those so far.

What is the most frustrating? When citizens take out their frustrations on us.

How do you deal with job-related stress? I try to really enjoy my time off with my husband, family and dogs.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Spending time with family.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? I would like for the public to know that the job a dispatcher does is equally important as the job police and fireman do. Hopefully someday we will be recognized that way and will be able to also have a equal retirement plan. I think people would like to work and stay long-term if things like that were in place.

Irma Bramlet

Birthplace: Phoenix, Ariz.

Family: Husband, Todd

Length of Employment : 10 years

Why did you choose this career? After reading the job description in the newspaper ad, I thought it would be a very exciting line of work to get into.

What do you like most about your job? Ninety percent of the time, there is always something different to deal with.

What is the most challenging part of the job? As a supervisor, I would have to say the training of new dispatchers.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? In my first year of dispatching I had an officer that did not respond on radio when I called him. He was "lost" for approximately 30 minutes and I had everyone looking for him, including DPS and the Sheriff's department.

What is the most frustrating? Waiting to hear "what's happening" on a tactical incident.

How do you deal with job-related stress? Try to involve myself with other activities. I'm a member of the Rim Country Optimist Club. I enjoy going to the Valley to spend time with my family.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? I like to read, watch good movies, and spend time with my husband and our friends.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? A dispatcher's job is just as stressful as that of a police officer. We are usually the first to hear a cry for help and we're also the ones that take the call from an irate citizen who is upset about almost anything.

Monique Usher

Birthplace: Tucson, Ariz.

Family: Four children, one husband, three dogs.

Length of Employment : Four weeks.

Why did you choose this career? I enjoy the involvement with the community, and have an interest in EMS.

What do you like most about your job? Rendering aid to citizens and police officers.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Odd hours, and long periods of sitting couch potato.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? Although I have not been working for the Payson Police Department long enough to have many situations, at my previous dispatch position, I had a suicide over the phone/radio.

What is the most frustrating? Any pediatric calls.

How do you deal with job-related stress? Exercise, spend lots of time with family.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Running, hiking, camping, fishing, my dogs. Search and rescue.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? Dispatching is a very specialized occupation that requires ongoing training and many hours of hands-on-experience.

Alison Murphy

Birthplace: Phoenix, Ariz.

Family: Husband, two kids

Length of Employment : Five years

Why did you choose this career? Originally to get foot in the door at DPS in order to get hired in-house as an officer due to a hiring freeze.

What is the most challenging part of the job? On a busy night, just keeping up and not forgetting anything or anyone.

What is the most frustrating? Not knowing what is going on (with officers) during a call and waiting for a Code 4 (officer safe) on a dangerous call.

How do you deal with job-related stress? Make the most of your time off.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Reading

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? 911 is for emergencies only and we do not know what time, where, etc. every event in Payson is occurring.

Jill Van Camp

Birthplace: Olympia, Wash.

Family: Husband, Matt and daughter, Victoria.

Length of Employment : Seven years in June.

Why did you choose this career? It chose me.

What do you like most about your job? The diversity in calls, being able to assist people in need.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Not having enough officers to handle the calls we receive risking officer safety.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? My husband on a felony traffic stop with the suspects who had just shot and killed a woman in a road-rage incident.

What is the most frustrating? My inability to communicate with the growing Hispanic population.

How do you deal with job-related stress? Laugh a lot, nurture friendships with those in the same field who understand.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Gardening, baking and hiking.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? We really don't have all the answers we only strive to.

Sheila Boerst

Birthplace: Menomorie, Wis.

Family: Husband, Jim, son, Isaac.

Length of Employment : Two months.

Why did you choose this career? : I thrive on chaos. When you are constantly busy the days go by so quickly it doesn't seem like work, plus you're helping people in the process.

What do you like most about your job? Variety! There's never a dull moment because each call that comes in is a new personality.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Trying to make complainants for barking dogs and other minor disturbances understand that they need to be patient; we understand and sympathize with their frustration, but often times just can't respond immediately when officers are tied up with more urgent calls such as injury accidents and other life-threatening incidents.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? I haven't been here long enough to encounter a really tough call yet, but I imagine having to dispatch a call involving close friends or family would really push me to the limit.

What is the most frustrating? The most frustrating is waiting! Everything in Payson is close and the response time for emergencies is very, very short only about two or three minutes, but those minutes seem like an eternity when you have the caller on the phone. Especially when it's the parent of a small child or someone's spouse calling for medical attention, it's easy to put myself in their shoes.

How do you deal with job-related stress? I think being physically active in my off-time relieves most of my stress and just knowing I did the best job I could do in any given situation keeps me from feeling too stressed out.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Running, walking, hiking, biking, gardening basically anything outside.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? We are the key link once you pick up the telephone to initiate contact with law enforcement. The more information you give us the better able we are to assess the situation and initiate a response.

Kay Davis

Birthplace: Dumas, Ark.

Family: Son, Dan Davis in Indiana, parents, sisters and brother all live in Phoenix.

Length of Employment: Twenty-six months

Why did you choose this career? After working auto parts for 18 years, I wanted a new career. I am a people person and wanted to stay in a career where I could be around people and to help people. I was looking for a new challenge.

What do you like most about your job? Helping people ... being there for the next person that needs my help, whether it be an officer who needs criminal history run or that 911 caller whose wife died in her sleep. I can be that warm and friendly supportive voice on the other end of the phone.

What is the most challenging part of the job? Keeping my emotions in perspective. Remaining professional by staying calm to get the caller to calm down. Also multi-task. Working two radios, answering phones, typing and speaking all at the same time. Thankfully that does not happen every minute of an eight-hour shift.

What is one of the toughest situations you have had to handle on the radio? A 911 call from a young female screaming in the phone that her sister just hung herself in the back yard. I know she pulled through it and is alive and well today.

What is the most frustrating? When the computers are down. When working alone and the roof caves in. I am working and giving 100 percent to take care of everything that is going on, however, I can't give quality when so much is happening at once. I do the best I can with what I have at the time and am very grateful it doesn't happen very often. Working alone is nice sometimes, but not when the roof caves in. Also there are times when this can't be helped. Talk about a challenge!

How do you deal with job-related stress? I talk about it with someone, a peer or supervisor. I've been known to shed a few tears. I do try to eat right and exercise when possible.

Favorite hobby/leisure activity? Enjoy planting flowers and working in my yard. I love playing bingo, going to the Valley and visiting with my family.

What would you like to tell the public about law enforcement/dispatchers that you feel is least understood? 911 is for life-threatening matters. Not, for a phone number to the library, or a burglary that happened last week, or the dog that's been barking for an hour. It's important for the 911 caller to stay on the phone until someone arrives. They are our eyes and ears.

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