Around Town

Dispatchers play pivotal role in law enforcement

SOUTHWICK – Since 2008, the U.S. congress has recognized the month of April as 9-1-1 education month.

According to Know 9-1-1, a national educational campaign, the month of April is an opportunity to gather resources and materials to make the public more aware of the importance of 9-1-1 services.

A major reason why 9-1-1 services are successful is in the hands of the very first person someone speaks with and that is the dispatcher.

Southwick Police dispatcher Peter Coe is seen at work in the dispatch center. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Peter Coe, a dispatcher at the Southwick Police Department with 30 years of experience, has seen 9-1-1 services change over time. A major part of that change is technology.

“The concept is that it’s (technology) improved the services of 9-1-1, but it’s also complicated them,” said Coe.

Noting that networks AT&T and Verizon are the most accurate cell phone services for 9-1-1 calls, Coe added that cell phone calls are quickly replacing landline calls for emergency calls.

Despite that, Coe says the value in receiving a landline call is it gives the dispatcher the exact location of where the call is coming from and who’s calling unlike a cell phone call which may be able to identify the caller but cannot pinpoint an exact location with absolute certainty.

“It gives us every piece of information we need,” said Coe.

When speaking to individuals during an emergency call, Coe said the civilian may be a part of the call if the incident involves something immediate like a choking child or a heart attack.

“They (the dispatcher) have to be prepared that they’re going to be a part of the process,” said Coe.

The dispatcher’s role has also grown over time as they are now dispatching for emergency medical calls. Dispatchers are now trained to deliver babies or do CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) over the phone.

For the dispatchers, they can sometimes feel that they’re the forgotten aspect of law enforcement. Coe pointed out that people have come up to the dispatch window in the past at the Southwick Police Department to tell him about their recent 9-1-1 call and don’t even realize that Coe was the one speaking to them during that entire process.

“We’re a behind the scenes activity,” said Coe. “They don’t even realize we’re the same people they’re talking to when they had to dial 9-1-1.

Being in law enforcement for 34 years now, Southwick Chief of Police Kevin Bishop is aware of dispatchers being underappreciated.

“I always felt that they’re an unrecognized unit of the Emergency Medical Services system. I do feel that they play a very important role,” said Bishop. “If something goes wrong, it’s step one, everything goes downhill after that, it’s so important, the jobs that they do.”

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