Friday, November 21, 2008

Life Saver

Dispatchers save lives! Don't believe me? Let me tell you what happened tonight at work.

I was working at the college (my part time job) in dispatch. The officers had just left the PD when I received a slightly panicked call from a lady saying she was stuck. It took me a minute (after calming her down and getting used to her accent) to get more of the story out of her. She said she was stuck in one of the buildings on campus. I thought I had heard wrong, so I verified "ma'am, you're stuck INSIDE one of the buildings on campus?" She assured me that she was. I was a little dumbfounded, having never found myself in the same predicament. I kept thinking I should ask her if she tried the door, but to me that would be the obvious thing to do before calling the police. I asked her if she's usually here this late and she said sometimes but she's never been trapped before. I asked her what door she usually leaves through and she told me but said it's locked. I finally, having run out of all other ideas, asked her if she physically tried the door. She said she tried the emergency exit but it was locked. I told her the emergency exit couldn't be the only door in the whole building and asked if she had tried any of the others. In a very exasperated tone she told me she just needed help because she was locked in the building. As a last effort I asked her how she knew she was locked. Her response was "I was sitting in my office and saw the custodians come by and lock all of the doors in the whole building." Without trying to make her more emotional I gently reminded her that sometimes doors can be locked from the outside but still open from the inside, and persuaded her to try a door...just once. I told her I'd stay on the phone. (I think I was emotional support...) She went to the closest door and pushed the handle, and sure enough she was freed from her fearful imprisonment. She thanked me repeatedly, told me her and her coworker (yes, there were 2 of them...and they were both instructors) were very thankful for my help and we disconnected.

Who knew that a very tired dispatcher could help 2 accomplished instructors figure out how to open a door? Good thing dispatchers save lives, eh?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ultimate Sacrifice

I think the worst thing that could happen in law enforcement is for an officer (or firefighter/paramedic) to be killed in the line of duty. We have been fortunate to not have this happen in the time I've worked for the city. I know we've have several officers injured in the line of duty but none killed.

A North Salt Lake City officer was killed while pursuing a suspect in a stolen vehicle. Officer Charles Skinner slid out on a wet road and crashed into a sign causing critical injuries. After surgery and other tests it was found that he had no brain activity and was taken off life support. Officer Skinner has 2 small children, twins, that are just 4 weeks old and now without a father.

I didn't know Officer Skinner. I had never even heard of him before his accident. But I feel for him, his coworkers and his family. What an awful thing to have to deal with. I can't imagine the pain they are all feeling. I try to think how I would feel if it were one of my coworkers but I can't even begin to imagine. It's a scary thing to think about. I have friends and family members who are police officers and who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. What an amazing sacrifice they make every single day.

I want us all to take a moment to remember those who have died in the line of duty, doing what they love and protecting their communities. These officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. I thank their families for sharing them with us. I think of all the people who were helped because of their work. I think of their coworkers, their friends whose lives they were willing to die protecting. These officer are my hero's, as are the officers who put on their uniforms every day, kiss their families goodbye and head to work to protect people like you and me. Thank you for making that sacrifice. Please remember them!

What am I thinking?

Sometimes I wonder why I'm in the law enforcement field and I seriously consider if I really want to be an officer after all. I still want to be an officer but I seriously question my sanity sometimes because of that choice. Why would I willing put myself in a career where everyone hates you? Why would I put myself in career where women have to work twice as hard as men to receive half the credit? Why do I want to work with bad people, drunk people and crazy people all day?

This week at work has been interesting. It's been surprisingly slower than usual which at times is nice. But we have not been bored! As dispatchers we have to watch the jail screens. We have 3 big screen TVs on our wall with motion sensor cameras for the jail, parking lots, etc. When anyone is moving in the jail it pops up on a full screen as well as still being on a quarter screen on a different TV.

I am always so amazed at the similar way most drunk people act. I don't know what it is about alcohol that makes people want to get naked, but it happens, ALOT! Sometimes they get naked and sleep, some will pace, some will get angry and some will dance. Drunk people (and alot of non-drunk people) also feel the need to cover the camera which gets them in trouble. They'll get their blankets, mats, toilet paper and clothes taken away all because they can't sit down and behave themselves. And yet so many times, as soon as those things are given back they cover the camera again.

At times I feel I am too young to see some of the things we see in jail! And even worse is searching the females that come into jail. Not a fun task or something I would want anyone to have to do. I have performed pat downs, strip searches, clothing searches, watched people go to the bathroom, and stood in the jail for the officers so that their prisoners couldn't claim things were said that weren't. It's a task that comes along with my job, and even more with the job I want, but not a pleasant task at all!

We have people in jail who pray, sing, pace, punch walls, work out, sleep and cry. I am always interested in watching the people in jail to see what they act like. I have never been in jail and never plan on it, but I wonder what I would do if I were in that situation. It definitely is interesting (and at times humorous) to watch. It can make slow times go a little quicker.

Being able to be in dispatch and watch the jail has helped me feel better about my career choice. I would much rather be an officer than a jailer. Officers get to arrest people and drop them off and then they're done. Jailers (and in our case since we have our own jail, dispatchers) are babysitters. Ever tried babysitting a drunk person? I wouldn't recommend it, trust me! =D