Friday, October 31, 2008

Support Group

I took a call a few weeks back that hit a little too close to home. Anyone else in the room could have taken the call and not been affected, but due to things in my life right now it really got to me. This happens sometimes...a dispatcher with a small child will take a call regarding a small child and it affects them a little more than it would other people. A dispatcher who knew someone recently killed in a car accident will obviously be affected differently by taking a call about a serious car accident than others would. It's the nature of our job. Because of that, I didn't say anything to anyone about being bothered by this call, I just figured after a few days I would forget about it and wouldn't be a big thing. However, it continued to bother me for days.

I was walking out to my car a few days ago and stopped in the parking lot to talk to one of the officers. We were just talking about work and how things were going and he asked me if I was the one who had taken that call the week before. I told him yes (thinking it was a little odd that he would ask me that...especially considering how much it had affected me) and without any knowledge of how I was feeling he told me he had responded and had been having a hard time with it. He said it hit a little too close to home for him and wanted to know how the phone call had gone and what had happened etc until they got on scene. He needed to know that to get some closure. I told him I had been struggling ever since as well and told him I wanted to know what had happened on scene so I could get some closure too. And so we stood there and talked about it. I told him what I knew, he told me what he knew and we both went away feeling much better about ourselves and that call.

I could have come home and talked to my roommates about that call, but they wouldn't have understood what the big deal was. I could have told people in dispatch that I was bothered by that call but they wouldn't have understood why. But the officer was struggling and could tell I was too and so we were able to talk it out. I love having a support system at work. I love knowing when I need to talk to someone about a call that's eating at me or something I heard/saw that there is a whole department full of people who will talk to me and understand. They've been through it too. We have a tough job and not everyone wants to hear about it or can realize why we're affected by things the way we are. I'm glad I have a department full of support and I have taken advantage of that support many times!

(Sorry there were no details about the calls on these last 2 posts. Nothing I could share other than I took a child choking call, and the call I talked about in this post was a death.)

A little bit of stress

I realized (actually remembered) this week how much more stressful my job is than alot of other peoples job. I don't think I'm superior in any way because of that, I just think it's the honest truth. Everybody has stress at work, but my stress comes from trying to save lives.

I was at work the other day and took a 911 call where a child was choking. I will never get used to that. I have been trained, I have taken calls like this before both on the phone and while working on ambulance, but I never get used to it. When you take a call like this your heart starts to race and you can feel the adrenaline pumping. There is nothing like doing the Heimlich Maneuver over the phone on a child (or anyone for that matter). I can't even describe what it's like waiting to hear the child cry. All I wanted was to hear some type of noise coming from the child. All I could think was "please let this child start breathing again"!

In this call the child was able to dislodge what was caught in the throat and was crying up a storm by time paramedics arrived on scene. The child was checked and was fine! It was such a good feeling and also a reminder of the enormity of my job. When people call 911 they are putting their lives in my hands. It's quite the responsibility and adds just a little bit of stress to my life!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Caught Up

Well, I think I am all caught up on past calls. I only posted a few, but I think it's a good way to kick off my new blog. I hope you all enjoy reading the things that happen around the city. The posts from here on out will be more current events that have happened rather than past events.

For those of you who don't know, I am a 911 dispatcher for the city of Orem (and Lindon). We are responsible for all emergency and non-emergency calls for both cities. We also dispatch for police, fire and medical. We are all EMD (emergency medical dispatch) certifed and CPR certified.

We work 10 hour shifts and we work 4 shifts a week. Sometimes the days are long and slow and other days it's a battle to keep our heads above water. But in the end it's rewarding. I love helping people and this job is a great way to do just that. I'm grateful for my opportunity to be in the law enforcement community and I'm grateful to work for such a great city like Orem. It's the best!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Whole New City

Orem police, fire and dispatch has taken on a slightly new role...a whole new city. For the last 3 years that I've worked for Orem, and for years before, dispatchers were in charge of Orem police and Orem fire/medical only. On July 1st of 2008 we also started dispatching for Lindon.

Lindon city started their own police department and decided to pay Orem for dispatch, fire and medical assistance. We have a fire station located in Lindon right next to their police department that is staffed by Orem firefighters. They respond to Lindon calls and also Orem calls. We also dispatch for their 15 police officers. It took a little getting used to, as any change does, and there have been adjustements made all around. However, 4 months into this new change, things seem to be running smoothly and all is well. We have all gone on 2 hour ride alongs with Lindon officers to help us as dispatchers get to know the city better. We have gotten to know their officers and finally feel comfortable dispatching for a new city.

It is a huge step we've taken, to add another city to our responsibilities. I'm glad they were confident enough in us to allow us to dispatch for them.

Humor At Work

Sometimes our job can be humorous. I think it's healthy for us to laugh at work sometimes, especially in the field we're in. We are pounded daily with stressful calls and difficult situations. It's good to lighten the mood every once in awhile and just laugh.

The article this post is in reference to caused quite a giggle for several people. It just goes to prove that criminals aren't always the brightest. An officer was driving in his patrol car and was stopped at a stoplight. A vehicle pulled up to him and rolled down his window, motioning for the officer to do the same. The male in the vehicle stated that he wanted to talk to the officer about a previous DUI (driving under the influence) case he had been involved in. The officer told the male to pull into the mall parking lot and they would talk about it. The driver took that as literal as it could be taken, and ran through the red light to get to the mall parking lot. When the officer was able to meet with the subject it turned out that once again, he was intoxicated, and was charged with DUI.

Not the brightest person ever, but at least it's one more intoxicated person off the road at his own expense! I'm glad when people like that can be taken off the road without injury or accident to them or others. And you have to get a good laugh out of the way it all happened!

Nationwide Coverage

Orem is not a big city, especially in comparison to the actual "big cities". We do have quite a few residents and alot of day time people in the city but we're still kind of a quieter city. So for us to have a case that goes nationwide is pretty rare. When I think of police cases that go nationwide (and this one went international) I think of mass shootings, bus crashes, natural disasters, high profile murders, etc. But none of these were the type of case we had. None of these were even close. Orem went nationwide because we arrested a female for resisting arrest while being issued a citation for having a brown lawn.

I say she was arrested for resisiting arrest, because she was. Most people chose to believe (even after it was verified otherwise) that she was arrested solely for having a brown lawn. That was not the case. She was arrested for resisting arrest while being issued a citation for having a brown lawn.

I'm sure you all know how this case turns out. She plead guilty to charges without going to court and the case is now closed. There were alot of people with alot of opinions on this case, and I am one of them. From the very beginning I was on the officers side. The officer involved is a good officer. Alot of people called my opinion biased because I work for the police department, and you can say that if you want, but I made a decision and I stand by it. I was able to hear both sides of the story and I believed the officer. Every person is entitled to their opinion, and I made mine!

I'm not going to say alot about the case. People read and heard all about it in the media. I will say that I'm glad I was able to see the support the officers in this department had for the officer involved. I'm glad I was able to see that sometimes in police work you have to make tough decisions. Alot of times people think police work is black and white, but there is a huge gray area where it's you and you alone that has to make a split second decision and stand by it. This is a great place that I work and I'm glad that we have such good officers to represent this department and this city.

One more thing I want to say about this situation is this: Don't believe everything you see/hear in the media. I think the media can be a great resource, but it can also be a great pitfall. When this case was going to go to trial they were going to have to bring in more than 100 people for the possible jury pool to try to find just a few who hadn't been influenced by the media and could be fair. So be careful in what you choose to believe, and once you make a decision, stand by it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saving A Life

Alot of times people ask me why I like working in law enforcement and why I want to become a police officer, and to me the answer is easy: I like helping people. Alot of times I have the opportunity to help people through the worst thing that has ever happened to them. They turn to us on the worst days of their lives and we have the responsibility to help them if and how we can. I know it's true (and it's a very valid point) that I could help people just as much by being a paramedic, and it's a safer job, but being a police officer is something I just really want to experience.

Early one morning I was about 30 minutes from getting off a long, quiet grave shift, and was hoping for no more calls. Of course, right at that time, a 911 call came in. I answered and was talking to a man who was quite upset saying that his wife was suicidal. I asked him the address where she was and he gave me their home address but said she had left on foot and he was following her. He was such a good caller and was able to keep me updated on where she was while the officers were enroute. I asked him what she had done that led him to believe that she was suicidal, and he said that she had taken a handful of tylenol and had also tried to cut her wrists. I had officers arriving in the area when the male started to yell that she was jumping off a bridge into water and hung up on me. Right at that point an officer arrived and shortly after the backing officer arrived.

I didn't know for sure if she had made it off the bridge or not, but it didn't sound like a good situation. We already had medical units enroute and they were upgraded to urgent response (lights and sirens). The officers on scene were quiet for a few minutes and then they got on the radio saying they were in the canal with the female who was now unconcious and they needed medical NOW!! Well, the ambulance was driving as fast as it could and it was difficult to hear the officers keep yelling for medical and medical saying they couldn't go any faster. I could hear the concern in the officers voices. Finally medical arrived and were able to help the officers get the female out of the canal and into an ambulance. They transported her urgently to the hospital where she was able to get some help.

Now, both of the officers who went on this call are good officers. They jumped into a canal, fully dressed, in the freezing cold to save the life of a suicidal woman who they didn't know. They are police officers to help people, and that's what they did that day. Both of the officers were honored for what they did that morning, and there is a chance that the female lived due directly to the officers selfless actions. That is one of the calls that inspired me to become an officer. I had been considering it for a little before that but when I was able to see how they were able to change the life of a citizen I was inspired. I want to make the community better and that's what I saw them doing!

The Most Difficult Call I've Ever Taken

One of the scariest calls I've ever taken was in January of 2007. I was working a grave shift at the 911 position when the call came in. A female called saying that her ex-husband was at her house and was banging on her door. The female was very composed and was giving some very good information over the phone. That composure quickly changed to terror.

While I was on the phone with her (and with officers already enroute to her house) I heard some glass breaking. The caller started to get a little more upset and said her ex had just broken through the front window of the home. The caller said she and her boyfriend had gone to her bedroom and had locked themselves in. I was still talking to the female trying to get her to stay calm and give me some more information. I asked her if she thought her ex had a weapon and at that point she started to scream. I heard what sounded like a banging noise in the background and my caller was just screaming. It was the worst scream I have ever heard! I told the other dispatcher that I heard screaming and banging in the background and that nobody would talk to me on the phone and she updated the responding officers.

I kept trying to get the lady to talk to me but she just continued to scream. I finally heard over the radio that the first officer was on scene. Due to our protocol and the situation surrouding the call I didn't disconnect right away. I was waiting to make sure the officer got out with the female before I hung up. I was still listening to screaming on the phone when I heard the officer over the radio yell "10-33".

In the police field we use 10-codes. When an officer arrives on scene he says 10-23, when we copy what is said to us we say 10-4, when we need him to make a phone call we say 10-21 etc. One of the codes I hate to hear over the radio is 10-33 (and I've only heard it 4 times in the 3 1/2 years I've been a dispatcher). 10-33 means "help me quick" simpler terms it means "one of us is going to die if I don't get help now"! It is not a good thing to hear over the radio.

As soon as I heard the officer yell 10-33 the phone line went dead and it was silence. I no longer had the female screaming in my ear, I no longer heard banging in the background and I had a pit in my stomach. When an officer yells 10-33 the radio is cleared code-red (no radio traffic) until we hear the officer is ok. It was probably only 1 minute of radio silence, but it seemed to last forever. I was sick to my stomach concerned about the officer and his safety. Eventually other officers arrived on scene and helped him get the situation under control and finally told us the officer was ok. It was such a relief.

Later that night that officer came up into dispatch and told us the story. He arrived on scene to see shattered glass and entered the home to find blood all over the home. He also heard screaming down the hall. The officer, sensing he needed to help now and couldn't wait for backup, went down the hall to see what was going on. When he got to the end of the hall he saw a male at the end of the hall with a very big knife, stabbing people through a hole in a door. Apparently the banging noise I had heard was the male suspect kicking in the door. He had kicked the door almost completely in and also had a kicked a large hole in the door. My caller and her boyfriend were on the other side of that door and were having to hold the door with their hands to keep him from coming in. However, there was a large hole in the door and the suspect was stabbing his ex and her boyfriend through that hole. I was on the phone listening to a woman who was being stabbed.

The officer said he had grabbed his gun and told the suspect to stop. He said the suspect turned and "squared-off" with him, aiming the knife right at him. The officer said he was about to pull the trigger when the suspect turned away from him and started stabbing through the door again. At that time the officer grabbed his taser and tased the man until his backup arrived and they were able to take control of the situation and take the suspect into custody. They also had to transport all 3 (the 2 victims and the suspect) to local hospitals to be treated. The suspect, who was intoxicated, was then taken to jail. It turns out there were also 2 children in the home who were unharmed and returned to their mother after she was treated.

I don't know how many of you have heard the death scream before, but it is scary. It is enough to make you sick to your stomach. It is something I could live with never hearing again. I am just so grateful in this situation that my caller lived and also that my officer lived. I would have felt such a huge responsibility if anything had happened to that officer. It is our job, our main responsibility, to keep the officers safe. They are putting their lives in our hands every time they come to work and that isn't something I take lightly. I am so happy that this call had the ending that it did. To look at the whole story on line as it was posted in the daily herald click the following link:

Going back

My first few posts on here will be going back in time a little and posting a few calls that were memorable to me and/or the community. One of the most difficult calls I've taken, a call that went nationwide, a huge step for our department and others. I hope you don't mind the stroll back through memory lane. I promise after I post these past calls that I'll start with more current ones!

Another Blog

Hi all! I have started a second blog. This blog is a place where I can post my thoughts about work. I also plan on posting articles about work. My friends always get tired of listening to my work stories, so now I have a place to put them.

Now obviously I can't put every call on here, and obviously I can't put every detail of calls on here, but there are plenty of things I can share and I intend on sharing them with you on this blog! I have named this blog "walking in others shoes" because I'm hoping it can give everyone who reads it a different perspective on law enforcement. Whether you are seeing it from your point of view, a police officers point of view, a dispatchers point of view, the suspects point of view or the victims point of view, I hope you can learn something. Take a minute to walk in others shoes and see things the way they see things!

I really appreciate the opportunity I have to work for the Orem Police Department as a dispatcher. I have learned so much in the three short years I have been there and I feel like I have grown as a person. I have seen and heard alot of difficult and life changing things. I have become much more grateful for the little things in life and also for the security I have in my life. I appreciate every day my opportunity to help make my community a better place to live. I can't guarantee regular posts...I never know what's going to happen at work on any given day, but I would really appreciate your thoughts/comments on different items that are posted. Happy reading!