I've been going into 911 on Mondays for more than seven years, now. I have been staying constant with that, no matter what, even when my left hand hurt when I touched a keyboard, I'd go in an do nearly everything with my right hand.
To detail more of what I do... there are eight phone lines into Dispatch. There is one police coordination radio channel, a data radio channel for confidential records information, half a dozen tactical channels along with the SWAT channel, and two fire coordination channels (only one of which is usually used unless someone has to set up a command center for a big fire or, of course, our 2013 flood). Most of those aren't running most of the time, but the capacity is there for when a disaster hits and then all the lines can be going at the same time. And all of them are recorded whenever they're used. My job starts when an officer, the court, a prosecuting attorney, a PI, or a private individual asks for our records about a specific incident, I winnow through all the records for anything that pertains to that incident.
I tag them all, collect them into an audio file and it used to be that I burned a CD, but finally, this year, they went all digital and now I can just throw that file into the court records for that case and they get to whomever needs them.
I love the job. In part because I get to help put into place a little tiny piece of what goes for justice on an everyday basis. I get to help prosecute everything from domestic violence cases to murders to shoplifting. The other part of it is that the dispatchers are a very interesting bunch of people. Who else would want to interact with people, constantly, on the very worst day of their lives and talk them through the few things that can help save them? And I get to see on an ongoing basis the kinds of people who, when shots ring out or a fire starts, run toward the danger, not away?
I also love that I have control over lot of small aspects of the job, things that I can do to streamline and simplify and ease how I search, how I save things, how I shape the single machine that can get me the records I need into what I need and want to make it easy on me. And the dispatchers all hate hearing themselves and having to do the records, so they're all very thankful when I do it.
But nothing, ever, will top the time I was sitting there, listening to my channels in the midst of Dispatch and I hear one of the lady dispatchers say, deadpan, "No, sir. You cannot just shoot him."
I swear now that the Mom Voice is Omnipotent.
When COVID started ramping up in March, I called in to tell them that I wasn't going to come in, and they thanked me. They were telling all of their dispatchers to self-isolate, if at all possible, and at work they would still be in the open seating arrangements, but the stations are so big, they've always been a good eight to ten feet apart. The air flow was increased and huge air cleaners were put in, and no one wore masks in dispatch because communication was super important when lives are at stake. They basically treated the dispatch center as one family unit, which meant that at home they mostly did their best to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. A hard choice, but it kept everyone healthy.
It's why when the media gets all outraged at a police chief mandating no masks in his department, I suspect that they're not telling the whole story. Mis-communication kills people when they're running toward a bullet or having to teach CPR on the fly...
In July, the numbers were down far enough, they emailed me to ask me if I wanted to come back in, so I did. No one in dispatch had come down with COVID, and on top of that, no one in our police force or firefighting corps did either. Safety and Justice implemented the masks and distancing orders early, and everyone took their temperature before entering the building. Tests were readily available to everyone. And I was really happy working with them again.
Just before Thanksgiving, though, with the numbers going back up again, I asked to be excused for a while again, at least until the numbers are down. They didn't ask me to go this time, and I believe they have enough of a handle on it that it would be safe for me, but...
I am simply acting through an abundance of caution for now, and with the vaccines coming on-line soon, I'd rather be cautious now and have years of going back to do what I love rather than doing it now and risking dying and never getting to do it again.