Here’s a look inside working at a Valley police dispatch center
Apr 10, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 8:29 am
(KTAR News/Colton Krolak)
PHOENIX — The room was quiet despite the clacking keyboards, the ringing of phone calls and the often-hectic scene on the other side of the line.
In between the steady flow of calls, Traci, a police communications supervisor in Scottsdale whose last name will not be shared, showed an array of seven computer monitors, each one containing vital information for her to do her job: a list of available police officers, the location of incoming 911 calls, and a communications system to digitally provide real-time information to first responders while still on the phone with a 911 caller.
“This is 911, do you need police, fire or medical?” Traci asked. The caller told Traci his relative’s son had become aggressive and he was scared. Traci kept a calm tone, even when the man became unwilling to answer her questions. Working as a dispatcher for more than 20-years has her used to that, as many people associate her questions with nothing being done, not realizing officers are already on the way.
“You have to learn to be still customer service oriented but assertive at the same time because patrol needs this information for the calls that they’re responding to. They need to know if there’s weapons, they need to know if there are other people in the house,” Traci said.
“You understand that people are calling you on their absolute worst day at their worst possible time, and they don’t necessarily have everything, and it does become stressful because we have seconds to provide this information to the officers.”
But those are also the moments that make the job so interesting to her.
“You get dropped into the middle of these people’s lives and all of this chaos, and then the officers get out there and your adrenaline goes down because now they’re safe with the officers,” she said.
Elizabeth Rodriguez hasn’t been on the job as long as Traci, but she agreed with the excitement that comes with the job.
“I love taking phone calls, because you never know what you’re going to get on the other side of the line…,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is just months removed from the intensive training program that prepares new call takers to be a successful dispatcher—five weeks in the classroom and six to nine months of on-the-job training with a seasoned dispatcher beside them, providing feedback and help as needed.
“I think for me that was the most difficult part was kind of being able to trust myself and my instincts,” Rodriguez said.
She said she understands how the job can seem daunting as even she never imagined she would find herself in a 911 call center, but she’s fallen in love with the job, relishing opportunities to be a comforting presence.
“When I go home, I’m definitely like tired, but then I kind of think back to what I did throughout the day, and even if it’s just like one caller that you get that’s panicking, but then you calm them down throughout the call, and at the end they’re very appreciative and thankful,” Rodriguez said.
“That’s what makes it all worth it to me that even if I was able to help one person, that’s kind of what makes my day.”
The Scottsdale Police Department is looking for more dispatchers. The department will host a hiring event at Mesa Community College on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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