9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Officer-Dispatcher Relations-Dealing with the Love/Hate Thing

Taken from Police Link Website, Training Articles
Written by Michelle Perin who worked as a police telecommunications operator with the Phoenix AZ Police Department for eight years.

The relationship between officers and dispatchers is unique. It's been described as a love/hate thing. I love her for getting me back-up quickly in that fight. Or, I hate her for seeing I statused eating for ten minutes past the approved time and clearing me over the radio to ask about it. It is also parasitic. Both the officer and the dispatcher feed off the other. The officer gets the information he needs without having to look it up on his own. The dispatcher gets to have a bit of excitement in patrol without actually having to be out there being spit on. The relationship is similar to a marriage. Like many, it is co-dependent and, often, dysfunctional. The funny thing is there are few sources for nurturing the officer/dispatcher relationship. No books like 101 Ways to Keep Your Officer Happy. No counselors trained in crisis intervention when the relationship turns sour. So, what are a dispatcher and her officer to do? Here are five tips aimed at happy marriages. They have been altered to fit.

1. Adhere to the correct role relationships

Officers are not trained to do a dispatcher's job and dispatchers are not trained to do an officer's job. This statement is simple enough. Unfortunately, in practice it gets a bit more complicated. Often officers feel like dispatchers are telling them how to go about their routine business. After all, most dispatchers get to tell officers what calls to take, what time they can eat and whether or not the person they are out with is a dangerous felon who might decide he doesn't really want to go back to jail. There is a lot of power there. But, like Spiderman was told, "with great power comes great responsibility." And part of the responsibility of being a dispatcher is remembering that officers know what they are doing. If they aren't taking a call or don't ask for some information, there is a reason. Remember, as a dispatcher, your role is to assist the officer along with dispatching calls for service. Officers, likewise, need to remember the distinct roles. Dispatchers are there to help, but they also have certain policies and procedures. They're also required to follow any directives given at any moment, like the liuetenant saying no one eats until that burglary holding since this morning is taken care of. If each remembers their role, the marriage can be a pleasant one.

2. Forgive and Forget Conflicts

This is a huge must. Officers and dispatchers can hold on to an incident long after the moment has passed, the animosity lasting for hours, or days, or years. When my husband switched squads, he told me of a chat he had in briefing. Another officer told my husband, in reference to me, "I remember her. I typed her something once and she sent back this nasty reply." Regardless of the thousands of interactions I had with officers, this one thought of me negatively over a single incident. And it goes both ways. If an officer goes on a traffic stop right after you give him a paper call, you might think he did it to avoid the call and, in essence, to spite you. It sure feels that way, but it's usually not the case. The biggest thing to keep in mind when you feel slighted is it probably wasn't intentional. With a quick phone call or text message, the issue can be worked out. And, if the other person, be it the officer or the dispatcher, was just being nasty, oh, well. No point getting yourself all worked up over it. Like the saying goes, holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.

3. Live on a Mature Level

This should go without saying, but if you consider the age differences in police work, some of the confusion can be cleared up. Imagine a 19-year-old rookie working with a 64-year-old dispatcher, or a 52-year-old veteran and a 21-year-old dispatcher. There are going to be conflicts, but again, there are many things that can be done to keep the marriage harmonious, no matter how Spring-Autumn. First, like with forgive and forget, talk things through. If you feel something about the other's professionalism needs to be addressed, try to work it out. If that doesn't work and it's detrimental to the police department, take it to a supervisor. After all, you are colleagues, not siblings. Second, as long as they aren't dangerous, accept the flaws in the other. He might naturally sound amped up all the time, even when asking to eat. She might have an annoying voice that reminds you of nails on a chalkboard. Try to overcome the annoyance and accept them for their ability to do their job.

4. Keep a Shared Passion

Entering the law enforcement field is not a decision most people take lightly. Many officers talk about how they wanted to be a cop since they were "this high." Although few dispatchers dreamed of the headset at a young age, once they get into that seat, they love their job. People in both occupations often have similar attributes; they like to be in control, they want to help people, they are organized, and the have confidence. Although these traits play a huge role in the officer/dispatcher marriage conflict, keep in mind the big picture. Everyone is trying to help the community, to serve and protect and to do one of the finest jobs in the world--public safety. Shying away from the us vs. them ideology will help you remember you're all on the same team.

5. Know When You Are Talking Too Much

Enough said.

Police work can be challenging without the added difficulty of a troubled relationship between the officers and dispatchers. The good news is that by working together, like in a healthy marriage, you can enjoy a wonderful, fulfilled relationship. Accept each other. Support each other. Encourage each other. You're in it together. You might as well be happy, because divorce isn't an option.

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