This week’s blog will focus on our Comm folks. They always seem to get left out so I wanted to make this post just for them. Most cops don’t think of the person at the other end of the radio. You might as well be a computer voice to them: Alexa? You listening? Shamefully, some officers still adhere to the “If you ain’t sworn, you ain’t born” philosophy. The only time they give you special attention is when they aren’t communicating clearly and they want to reach through the mic to wring your neck like it’s your fault that you can’t read their minds correctly. Hopefully, that is changing. When I was a rookie and they had someone call in sick from the Comm center, they would assign a rookie to fill in. Remember now, this was way before all the computerization that you folks have to know and keep up with. And the shifts were 8 hours back then, not twelve. Our Comm center used to be in the basement (another indication of how well you folks were valued!!) Believe me, when my Comm center shift was over, I was never so glad to get out of there. And I suddenly had a very deep respect for what you did.
Another time when I realized what an extremely important role you play is when we had an officer go down in an alley. He was losing consciousness after advising on the radio that he had been shot. The patrol folks were trying to locate him and the dispatcher kept talking to him. Yelling, no, screaming at times, to keep him alert and fighting for his life. She saved that officer’s life and I’m sure neither one of them will ever forget that night.
12 hours locked in a room with other folks, some of whom you might not even like. But you learn, faster than the patrol folks, that it is a team effort. Call after call, someone is having what they perceive as an emergency. And after it is all said and done, all you get from the patrol folks is “10-8, report”. Did the baby that fell into the swimming pool survive? Did that old man who was assaulted pull through when they got him to the hospital? Was the store owner who got robbed okay? Were the people who crashed on the motorcycle going to make it? On and on it goes. All day or night, rarely getting closure to most of the calls. Sometime you answer the intake line and all you have is screaming on the other end. You had to calm them down just so you could understand where they were and what the emergency was. What if you are trying to take the information and you hear shots ring out on the other end!! It is up to you to remain calm and do what you can to get an officer in route to help…if it’s not too late!! Or how about this: 131? 131? Headquarters to 131? Tone alert! Headquarters to 131, respond!! Crickets.
I can’t pretend that I know what you go through, considering the very few hours I worked the Comm center. But maybe there is something you can share that will help another Comm spec somewhere. How did you cope? How are you doing? Have you ever asked yourself: How long will I be able to do this? Get help if you need it. PTSD is not career selective. It can get anyone!!!