Police Dispatcher 

(Female, Age 57) from Centennial, NY

This is a REAL-LIFE job profile written by a Female aged 57 who works as a Police Dispatcher in Centennial, NY. We have removed all names and personal information in order to protect privacy. This professional kindly spent a bit of their time to complete one of our job profile surveys so that prospective job seekers like you could read their insights. Please excuse any punctuation or grammatical errors in this profile.

At a Glance

Current Job

Basic data on your current job

Job Title Police Dispatcher
Other Compensation None Set
Company Size (not answered)
Location Centennial, NY
Years Experience 32 years

Career Ratings

Opinions on your CAREER overall (i.e. not just your current job)

Years in Career 0
Education (not answered)
Income Rating 0 / 10
Interest Rating 0 / 10
Work-Life Rating 0 / 10
Fulfilment Rating 0 / 10

Current job Q&A

Describe the type of organization you work for.
A metropolitan emergency communications center (911) serving approximately 300,000 citizens. Our center receives all incoming calls, both emergency and non-emergency for the police, fire and emergency medical services in our jurisdiction, and dispatches response for same.

Describe your job role and responsibilities.
Calltaking: receive emergency and non-emergency calls for service. Dispatch or refer caller as appropriate.

Dispatching: Dispatch police units to calls for service, maintain status, provide additional backup or other assistance as needed. Monitor 30-75 police officers on one primary and 3 tactical radio channels, interface with other agencies on yet another radio channel.

Please list an additional benefits (beyond compensation) that you receive.
vacation accrual starting at 2 weeks and increasing to 6 with longevity, 8hrs sick leave accrual per month, health insurance with most paid by city, city retirement, social security and optional deferred compensation plan similar to 401k

Do you feel you are under/over or well/fairly compensated at your current position?
when the sky is falling, we could not be paid enough for what we do. Generally, very well compensated

Does your job entail you working with others on a daily basis? Is this something you like/dislike about your job? Please explain.
A working dispatch team consists of 6 to 15 people, depending upon the hour of the day and the day of the week. Additionally, we deal with the public by phone, and with police officers, fire fighters and medical personnel by phone and radio. This has both good and bad points. This field is not for the feint of heart. Co-workers and officers in particular tend to be strong-willed and highly opinionated, with highly developed egos. This can be trying and frustrating, but it comes with the territory.

Do you work collaboratively with supervisors/managers?

Do you work collaboratively with your co-workers?

Describe your work location (e.g., office, home, theatre, in the field) and what you like/dislike about working in it.
A huge room with workspace “pods”, four to seven positions per pod and 4 pods in the room. During very slow (when people have time to visit or joke around) or very busy (the sky is falling!) times, the noise level can be significant.

Please rate each of the following aspects of your current job on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest/best):
Income: 4
Benefits: 3
Hours: 6
Co-Workers: 5
Supervisors: 7
Job Title: 8
Level of Responsibility: 2
The Actual Work: 1

A day in the life of…

Please describe a typical workday for you in your current job:

5am to 6am
6am to 7am
7am to 8am 6-8 am: morning cofee, visit with coworkers, light workload on average until 7. Morning accidents and alarms begin. Officers are changing shift so juggling manpower is a real challenge. This is also the time of day we are likely to get SIDS deaths or discovery of elderly or chronically ill persons who have died during the night.
8am to 9am More traffic problems. During the school year, some juvenile problems, suspicious persons near schools, chilren who are refusing to go to school (yes they call the police for that!), domestic disputes, occasional early morning armed robberies, traffic complaints including reckless drivers, abandoned vehicles, parking complaints, traffic hazards and motorists needing assistance.

During the summer months, the juveniles are generally still quiet.

9am to 10am The calm before the storm. Cold burglaries, vandalisms, all the things that happened during the night and are just being discovered. Patrol is fully staffed by now, so we are able to dispatch calls to clear any backlog that may have accrued during shift change.
10am to 11am Generally routine calls as shown above, although emergencies can arise at any time. Officers generally use this quiet time to catch up on reports or to conduct traffic enforcement. 30-50 officers calling out traffic stops and asking for drivers and warrant checks can keep us very busy!
11am to 12pm The troublemakers are up! The day builds from here until generally about 2 am. This is a popular time for bank robberies for some reason (no one is scared of the FBI anymore it seems). Armed robberies are manpower intensive calls involving all the officers in a given area. Officers are needed at the scene to interview witnesses and victims. Officers are assigned to perimeters to try to catch the suspect. It is my job to coordinate and track all of this activity. It may last for hours. It may turn into a car chase, a foot chase or even an officer-involved shooting. When this type of in-progress call comes in, the big challenge is to maintain control of radio traffic, to be sure you are aware of everyone who is responding, and everyone generally does, and to keep track of their positions. Nothing is worse than an officer calling for help and you have no idea where he is.
12pm to 1pm This is the time for lunchtime fights at the shools, which frequently require response by many officers. Foot chases are common, paramedics must always be dispatched to any injury. If arrests are made, the involved officers are off the street for several hours, which makes keeping up with the incoming calls for service challenging.

1pm to 2pm If it has been busy enough to prevent officers from eating, or if they have been called out of lunch for emergencies, they are starting to get hungry and grumpy now. It may come as a heavy sigh, a tone of voice, or the development of selective hearing. I have often been answered by the distinctive restroom echo or the sound of a toilet flushing. If they are on a long-running call such securing a crime scene, I will try to get them relieved or have another officer bring them some lunch. I also try to keep track of which officers have eaten so that they can be moved around to handle calls while officers in other areas get their breaks. The really good officers watch each others backs and volunteer to take calls for each other. Our own break is a 30 minute lunch for a 10-hour shift. To maintain staffing, only 1 person may go to lunch at a given time, so lunches run from about 10am until 3 pm. As a radio dispatcher, you may never leave your position unless there is someone to take over your channel. Strong kidneys are a definite asset!
2pm to 3pm The day is a unique mixture of the very mundane, cold burglaries, cold vandalisms, parking complaints, the “I can’t believe they called the police for this”, and the true emergencies that get your blood racing. Frequently the most difficult and irate callers are not the emergency callers, but the guy who’s mad because his neighbor keeps parking in front of his house and doesn’t want to be told it’s a public street, particularly if his neighbor’s car is not up to his standards.
3pm to 4pm The kids are out of school. Calls come in from the high schools and the middle schools about where the fight is supposed to be and officers are advised. Once the kids start congregating there are usually only a few fighting and 50 or 100 cheering them on. Seasoned officers learn that coming in with lights and sirens disperses the crowd quite effectively.
4pm to 5pm From about 3pm to 6pm, the dayshift officers are trying to complete reports and prepare for the end of their shift. The shifts are staggered which helps a little bit, but it can be difficult balancing the administrative duties with the calls for service. There is nearly always some backlog of calls waiting to be dispatched, but during this time period it can become significant.
5pm to 6pm Evening rush hour. More accidents, more reckless driving complaints. People coming home from work to discover that they have been burglarized.
6pm to 7pm A short lull while the citizenry have dinner. I’ll use the time to extol the virtues of my career. It pays well, especially for someone like me who got married instead of finishing college. It is a unique working environment, knowing that at anytime this may go from ho-hum to life or death. The team that develops as we all deal with these situations is amazing. It really is like a family. We have to know we have each others’ backs, both within dispatch and between dispatch and the officers. A dispatcher who can see a situation from the officer’s point of view, anticipate his needs or what direction the call may take and be ready for that is worth his or her weight in gold, and the officers will let you know that (if you are, or if you aren’t!). We all know that the dispatcher can’t stop a bullet through the radio, but there is a lot we can do to help keep the officers safe. When the officers know that you take this seriously, you have their respect and a friend for life, both professionally and personally. Officers tend to have big egos and can be difficult to deal with. Like any job, you have the good, the bad and the ugly. But by refusing to make their bad day your bad day, or vice versa, you are a professional and are viewed and treated as such. There is a learning curve to the realization that frequently what sounds like anger on the radio is not directed at you but is the frustration and tension of the situation. A thick skin is essential.
7pm to 8pm From now until at least midnight, it’s time to rock and roll. The hits just keep on coming! Domestic disputes, domestic assaults, armed robberies, car thefts, car-jackings, fights, shootings, stabbings, homicides, drug busts, SWAT calls, high-risk arrest teams, you’ll see it all here, while still having to deal with the mundane.
8pm to 9pm It is a real balancing act. Of course the emergencies take priority and often deplete manpower available, but you have to remember that the victim of a burlary or theft also feels traumatized and also needs an officer. That poor security guard holding the shoplifter has really had about enough of his mouth or the crying, depending on the shoplifter.
9pm to 10pm It’s a good feeling to catch the bad guys, but if we catch too many at the same time, we can quickly run out of officers. An average arrest, even for a traffic warrant takes the officer of the street for at least 2 hours. As the dispatcher it is your job to prioritize the pending calls, dispatch them as expeditiously as possible, make sure that the waiting citizen is told we haven’t forgotten them, and occassionally kick the milking stool out from under the officer who’s not ready to go back out into the world (diplomatically, of course!).
10pm to 11pm Now a little about the trials of the job. This is a 24/7/365 operation. Someone has to work nights, someone has to work weekends; someone has to work holidays. This is frequently based on seniority. My son was 7 before I had a Christmas Day off with him. You are tethered to your position by a 3-foot cord connected to your headset and that’s as far as you go. You can’t just jump up and go for a cup of coffee or to the bathroom. Someone has to cover your position, and if all heck is breaking loose, you just have to wait. That goes for lunches, too. You have to be tough. You will be called every name in the book by upset citizens, and you have to take it and still try to get the information you need to get them help. You will talk to the hysterical mother who woke up to find her baby dead in his crib. You will talk to the rape victim who was tied up and beaten. You will talk to the man who just killed his wife or the woman who just killed her husband. But always, you must remain calm and professional and do your job. You will talk to people who are just plain insane and demanding that the president send his helicopter for them or that we stop those gamma rays that are being shot into their homes. You must remain professional. You will hear the very worst the world has to offer, and you have to learn to let it all go and have a life outside of work. You will hang up from that guy who killed his wife and answer the phone to the loud music complaint, when really the complaint is not about the volume, but about the music selection, or the ethnicity or the nationality of the music lover.
11pm to 12am This is a challenging career and it takes a special mental and emotional makeup to last for any length of time. You have to be smart, to think quickly, to do 10 things and listen to 5 conversations at once. You have to be able to let go of the bad stuff, not to take insults and bad dispositons personally. But there is great pride and a feeling of accomplishment in learning to do this job well (count on at least 2 years for that). And every once in awhile, you get to save a life, or you receive a heartfelt thank you from an officer or from a citizen that you talked to in their darkest hour. That is priceless!

Table of Contents

How you got your job

How did you get your current job?
My current job was in 1979, newspaper classified ad.

What was the application process?
paper application, still the case

Did you have to interview for your current job? If yes, what did the interview process entail?
An involved hiring process, beginning with a general aptitude test call Criticall, which is designed to test your listening skills, recall, typing, and stress reactions. The biggest key to this test is that if you lose your cool and become overwhelmed (that’s what it tries to do), you will fail the test. The interview process now is before a board of 5 or 6 people, supervisors and line workers. It is an individual interview with scripted questions. This is followed by a polygraph exam, a physical, a drug test, a psychological exam and an extensive background check. This is pretty standard in all departments. Now that many jurisdictions are using combined communications centers (police, fire and medical combined), some are doing away with the polygraph and or the psych test. If you are applying to a police only dispatch center, you can still count on the full gamut.

If you can remember, what questions were you asked during the interview?
The process now is different than when I was hired. Now it centers more on determining your ability to work as a team player and your basic personality type. Questions like, Tell us about the most difficult person you ever had to work with and how you handled that; Tell us about one of your most difficult personal situations and how you dealt with that; Why did you leave your last employment?.

Do you feel your employer properly prepared you for your job? Explain.
They sure didn’t when I started! I went from drunk students falling down stairwells to robberies and shootings with no clue! I spent my days off driving my 2 year old son around to learn the city. I did learn to swim, but it sure wasn’t easy! The prevailing theory now is much more of a train for success mindset and dispatchers emerge much more prepared.

Was there training for your current position? If yes, what did it entail?
When I started there was minimal training. About a week of training in the calltaker position, and 2 weeks in the dispatcher position. It was all on the job training with another dispatcher and then it was sink or swim. Now there is an 8 week classroom training program where you learn city geography, jurisdictional issues, basic state, municipal and city statutes and ordinances, department policies and procedures, call taking procedures including how to calm and/or deal with hysterical or irate callers, prearrival medical protocols (what to do until the paramedics get there), protocols for obtaining suspect and vehicle descriptions, how to set a perimeters either to keep people out or to keep people in, how to use the state and national crime information database to obtain information on warrants, drivers license and vehicle registration status and to check vehicles and property for stolen, how to use in in-house computer-aided dipatch system to enter and dispatch calls for service, appropriate referrals for call which do not require an actual police response, and stress management. This is followed by on-the-job training which includes time spent on all shifts with training dispatchers. This takes between 3 and 6 months depending on what kind of prior experience you have and how quickly you learn, but you must be ready to be released from training and working independently within 6 months.

Do you feel your educational background prepared you for your job? Explain.
In many ways it did. I was articulate. I knew how to study independently. At the same time, I had to learn to put away my college vocabulary and learn to deal with citizens and officers on their individual levels.

If applicable, do you feel your internship experience helped you prepare for your job?
not applicable

If someone wanted to go about getting a job similar to yours, what would you recommend for him or her to do?
A small agency is a good place to start, they generally do not require prior experience and are not as busy so you have time to really learn the job. I started at a university police department for 5 years before coming to the big city. It gave me an excellent background, especially as I was completely unfamiliar with law enforcement before that. Another option (which we frequently accept in lieu of prior dispatching) is to work at a call center. Anything with high volume and exposure to a variety of customer types.

What skills do you think a person should have if they want to pursue a position like yours?
Most of this job can be taught. What you need coming in are basic typing skills; attention to detail; the ability to multitask; an open heart and the ability to deal with the entire spectrum of society, from crackheads to the mentally ill to the mayor, and to treat them all with dignity and respect; basic English and spelling; emotional stability and strength, you will hear the worst the world has to offer; the ability to be a team player, including showing up for work when you really want to party on Friday night (remember, if you call in sick, someone else has to give up their day off); a thick skin to work with very strong personalities on both sides of the radio (you have to be like a duck and let things roll off your back); a sincere desire to be of service, even when the recipient of the service does not make this easy; the ability to go from zero (abandoned vehicles) to 120 (shooting, stabbing or other assorted mayhem) in the blink of an eye; you have to be satisfied to give yourself that pat on the back, excellence is the standard and more often than not no one remembers to tell you what a great job you did.

Do you feel that you need a certain level of education or training to be successful in your job?
minimum high school diploma or GED

What advice would you give to someone who was about to start work in your position/ line of work?
This is a great career if you have the mental/emotional aptitude for it. It is an extremely secure career (the worse things get, the more they need us)with good pay and benefits. As I said earlier, the technical aspects of the job are very teachable. The mental and emotional ability to make a career of it have to be developed also. You have to be able to remove yourself emotionally from the terrible situation in order to do your job. You can cry later, but then you have to let it go or you won’t be able to come back. You must be able to trade the ridiculous calls that make you want to hang up or tell that officer just what you’re REALLY thinking(you can’t, by the way), for the sublime, when you actually get to be instrumental in saving a life, averting a catasrophe, or being that calm voice of reason that helps someone through the worst day of their life.

Long-term career plans

Is your current employment part of your overall career plan? Why or why not?
My current job is my career!

What are your current career goals?
I have thought about promoting to shift supervisor. I am a lead worker, but still perform the dispatch function. I can’t bring myself to give up dispatching. I truly love it! Additionally, things at the supervisory level become much more political, and I am content to stay out of the snake pit.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your career?
I hope I have given enough details about the actual job. It is a complicated and ever-changing job and somewhat difficult to describe. But it is a challenging and very rewarding career. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Prior work history

Please list your most recent jobs prior to this current job:

Title Length Salary Description
Prior Job 1 Dispatcher 1974-1979 5/hr Answer all incoming calls, dispatch calls for service, maintain status of officers, process police reports, maintain typed (yes, typed!) logs for radio traffic, phone calls, incoming alarms, and calls for service, assist in processing and posting bond for prisoners, handle walk-in customers after normal office hours, monitor police, fire and maintenance alarms for the campus and make proper notifications if activated.
Prior Job 2 employee 1973-1974 .99 per hour graveyard shift; make and serve sandwiches primarily to drunk or very high college students, prep food and supplies for dayshift, operate cash register

Educational background

Please list your educational background:

High School GPA:3.75

GPA School Degree
College (Undergraduate)
or Technical/Vocational
2 Colorado State University none//the folly of youth
Graduate or Professional
(Masters or Doctorate)

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