APCO: Jeff Cohen makes case for public-safety telecommunicators' job to be classified in protective services category


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Arthur Kirby (not verified)
on Aug 18, 2016

I would like to point out two items.

First, OMB falls under the authority of the Executive branch, and while they do have broad responsibilities, OMB reports directory to the President. Would it not also be constructive to petition, email or write President Obama?

What has not been considered very often is how professional Public Safety Telecommunicators influence people's civil rights. On a daily basis we are charged with the responsibility to correctly locate, identify and interpret warrant and criminal history information. Correct interpretation, or any misstep, will directly effect the outcome of any particular case as it flows through the criminal justice system. Even more directly, the system is heavily influenced by how and what we glean by our conversations. I attest that a convicted felon was denied parole based solely on the replay of of a 9-1-1 tape played at a parole hearing.

When exactly have clerical workers or secretaries had that kind of duty and responsibility?

Debbie Craven (not verified)
on Sep 6, 2016

I am a dispatcher of 12 years, previously I worked as an Administrative Assistant to the director of a private school for students with learning disabilities. I was in charge of all scheduling for the students medical, psychological and counseling appointments. As most were from other states and even other countries. I scheduled their travel arrangements and organized transports to airports, bus stations, train stations. I also had 4-5 of these students that lived at my home so they rode to work with me everyday. I did that job for 13 years and then I went to dispatch. So I think I can attest that dispatching is not the same as an administrative job, it is no where close to that.

Daily now I am on the radio with multiple police, fire and EMS agencies. I have been a shift supervisor for the last two years, and still daily I dispatch while also performing my supervisory duties. I juggle multiple calls at once, jumping from a state police channel to a city channel to answer an ambulance as that dispatcher is doing CPR on the phone. When a unit is on a traffic stop, I log his location and while checking the driver's license, I scan pages of information comparing SSN and dates of birth to determine if the driver is wanted for murder cause my friend, my co-worker, that officer is standing on the highway with this possible killer. If I overlook something, my friend is in danger, I call other states to check and verify information that determines if that person is arrested, if a car is towed, if a woman is riding with the man that abused her. It is 8+ hours of non-stop, loud and constant conversations, I'm listening to the radio on my headset, while talking to someone across the room and listening to the worker behind me give medical dispatch, so I jump to another channel and relay what she is doing to an ambulance to get them on the way. Oh. I failed to mention the phones, they never stop ringing, I'm juggling phone calls while doing all this, they have different ringtones, high pitched for 911, a lower tone for administrative lines. There are 11 counties calls coming into our dispatch, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I give medical instructions over the phone daily and type what I am doing, what the caller ia telling me and relay the information to the units that are responding. I encourage that caller to stop crying and let me help her do CPR on her husband until the ambulance arrives.

I've listened to a wife sobbing cause her bedridden husband is still in the burning house and no one is there yet. I've talked the crying father through CPR on the daughter who committed suicide. I know it's too late, her lips are blue and she is cold, but he refuses to believe its too late, so for 20+ minutes I count compressions with him, listening to him beg for her to breathe. I do it because he will need to know he did everything he could to save her. When the ambulance arrives I hang up the phone, the next call is someone complaining about the neighbors dog barking. But I shake it off and take her information and ask someone to respond, she cusses our officers that 'never do anything about it' .

I've been on the phone while someone is shooting and hear my trooper arrive, then more gunshots ring out. I check his status and there is silence, I continue to call him praying he's okay, asking other units their ETA, then more gunshots can be heard over the phone, it feels like eternity before he answers me and asks for a supervisor to respond. I know by the tone of his voice he was scared, I know he has shot someone and I continue to work. I send EMS, start calling supervisors and the whole time I just want to talk to him to ask what has happened but I have to continue and wait till end of shift to get all the details. The next call is someone wanting a police officer because the manager at the dollar store won't let them use the restroom. I hold it together and try not to scream how stupid her complaint is!

Everything affects our shift, from the weather to the lunar cycle. If it's raining, there will be accidents, storms mean trees down, wind damage to buildings and structures, snow? Well snow means, everyone rushing to get kids, groceries and those that still think they can travel across country. Closed roadways, accidents, roadside assistance and people complaining how badly we maintain our roadways and this would never be the case where they live. I really want to tell them to return to where they came from, but I send them a unit to push them out of a ditch while they curse me over the phone. A collision on the interstate, well that just means a larger amount of people that call, they are in a hurry, running out of gas, have to use the bathroom, kids are starving and those that need medication or medical assistance in the middle of the roadway being shut down.

I listen to parents explain their child was molested at a sleep over, their father is a sex offender and might be touching them or that the grandchild is living with mom and there is dog feces on the floor, drugs on the table but no food in the refrigerator. I listen to people ramble about 20 years of fighting with someone to find out the reason they are calling is that ex-husband is driving by their house and I find a way to help them. I dispatch fire while a mother screams the child is still in the house, I dispatch EMS that a subject is trapped under a truck, and I send an officer to shots fire, all while attempting to eat a cold meal, drink a watered down soda and holding my bladder into the 5th hour of my shift. If I give the wrong information, it could mean legal action against our agency, myself and my officer. If I miss a detail of radio traffic, it could mean deadly circumstances for that officer. I have access to the database maintained by the FBI and am responsible to relay that information to those I work with. If I misuse it, I can be arrested, if I misinterprete it, I can put my officers in harms way.

I've had to listen to a trooper's last words more than once. I work through tears while a co-worker has died, I work 18 hours straight until his killer is found. I try to hold my emotions back and get the job done, I try to be strong as I'm the supervisor and I have to help the others get through the shift.

I am not a secretary, an administrative specialist or an office worker, #IAM911.

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