Agency, Title: Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZ DPS), Police Communication Dispatcher
Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA), Recording Secretary
Years of service: (please list first assignment): I have been in law enforcement for 10 years and have spent the last five and a half years at AZ DPS. I have also been serving as the Secretary of the AHPA, and a civilian representative for six years.
Career highlights: I feel rewarded everyday being able to help people, especially the Spanish speaking community. There are many instances where the public needs assistance, but have trouble conveying their needs due to a language barrier. I am glad to be able to help.
One 9-1-1 call has stuck out during my career. There was a woman, from Mexico, who was looking for a family member. She had been given troubling information about this family member here in the United States. Due to the language barrier, was unable to obtain much information. She was eventually transferred to our agency where I took the phone call. I was able to determine her needs and got her the help and information that she desired. Although this incident was handled by another agency (due to the nature and location), I continued to assist with the translation until another police department’s Spanish speaking member was able to take over and advise her further of the situation. With our state being so close to the Mexican border, there is a great need for those who are bilingual to offer emergency assistance.
Duties (quick job description or typical day): As a dispatcher, we are often the first contact the public has with safety personnel. I answer 9-1-1 and non-emergency highway patrol phone line for the southern part of Arizona. Obtaining all vital information and disseminate it to proper responding units in a timely manner is essential to my job. We often have the duty of calming down the caller in order to obtain the information needed to get them assistance. This also includes distress calls from people I work close with – police officers. I do everything it takes to ensure officer safety on the roadways.
Inherent dangers you face: I am not on the road, however I do face dangers indirectly. I am entrusted to protect the public – including police officers. When officers encounter a hazardous situation, I face it with them. During frightening moments, like police critical incidents, tensions and adrenaline are high and it becomes more of a challenge to get all the information that is needed.
For example, I had an officer come on the air to advise he had been shot at. I had to make sure that I got all of the necessary information from the officer so that I could help him. His life was essentially in my hands, because I was the one who could send him the assistance he needed. I dispatched help, and I was happy that the officer and my other co-workers went home to their families at the end of the day.
I care about the people I work with, but dispatchers have to put emotions aside for all 9-1-1 calls when people’s lives are on the line.
Proudest moment: My proudest moment was seeing an officer, who was involved in a shooting, come in to the radio room safe and sound and the assailant was in custody. I was a part of a team that made sure our agency did not lose an officer and the bad guy was behind bars.
On the job/ valuable learning experience: Patience is something you learn as a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
Why did you decide to pursue this career? I have always been proud of those who choose a career in law enforcement. Although I did not want to be a sworn officer on the road, I could still help people by dispatching.
Next professional goal: I am considering being a dispatch trainer and possibly move up to be a supervisor.
Final word (advice to others considering serving our community): There are many ways to contribute to our community through law enforcement, without having to be a sworn officer. Whether serving as a sworn officer or civilian, police work is an honorable and fulfilling career.