Talk about the front line – that’s where you are as a police dispatcher. Specific duties vary from station to station, but the dispatcher is the first person to get notice of trouble. To be a dispatcher, you need to be familiar with a range of communication equipment and telephone operating systems so you can quickly and efficiently relay information to the field.
Talk to your supervisor and the commanding officer on duty for your shift to be aware of any ongoing investigations or out-of-the ordinary patrols going on. When you’re in the loop and updated on the current activities of the department, you can make better judgments on how to handle calls as they come in. Asking to be updated on the priorities of the day also makes you part of the team, rather than an outsider trying to figure out what’s going on. The police officers will appreciate your diligence.
Practice Calming Techniques
Many of the calls you take during a shift will be from citizens going through crises and emergencies. The callers will be extremely stressed out and often scared. It’s easy to get caught up in their drama, so to be effective, you need to be able to remain calm in any situation. Practice deep breathing techniques by taking deep breaths through your nose and exhaling from your mouth while you’re listening to a caller. Wait a second or two before responding to make sure you’re thinking straight and can appropriately inform the correct police officer or emergency responder.
Keep up with Training
A two-year degree in a field such as criminal justice may help you land a dispatcher job, although it’s not necessary. You may need to become certified in your state, which you can accomplish with about 40 hours of training. To stay fresh, however, and to keep abreast of new technology, invest in additional training on a regular basis. Organizations such as the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials sponsor classes and workshops for dispatchers. These courses will also help you advance in your job.
Maintain Your Logs
The work of a dispatcher is important and often exciting. You play a significant role in many life-and-death situations and make decisions that affect lives. Although handling the calls and giving advice can be exhilarating, don't forget about the paperwork required by your department. Every call you take and the results of the call must be documented. Performance reviews are based not only on the outcomes of your calls, but also on the quality of your reports. In addition to being a vital part of your job, accurate logs come in handy when your judgment is called into question or you need to verify your responses.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."