Last week, several newly hired police dispatchers in Southern California graduated from a dispatch academy, a rigorous 3-week training course designed to prepare new dispatchers for the job ahead of them. The Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center in Huntington Beach, CA, hosted the academy which was taught by several seasoned instructors.
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is a state office that stipulates training requirements for law enforcement personnel, including dispatchers. In California, most public-safety agencies first hire dispatchers and then send them to the required POST training academy. The dispatchers that attend this academy are relatively new to the job, most within the first year of getting hired and still on probation.
Maura Cruz, a dispatcher for the Anaheim Police Department (CA), graduated from the class last week. “I learned the most from listening to calls fellow dispatchers handled in real life”, said Cruz. Dispatchers listen to actual 9-1-1 calls and also do caller simulations to evaluate and critique their handling of the most exigent of situations. They watch training videos and listen to tapes to become experts in emergency communications through voice command, tone, and inflexion. “My favorite part of the class was the training we received to talk over the radio”, said Cruz. “It was interesting to see everyone’s confidence level change after we received training and given the opportunity to practice.”
Dispatchers are not all that unlike officers in that they also develop a strong bond with one another through working emergencies together. “I thoroughly enjoyed the lifetime friendships that I developed there in such a shortl amount of time”, said Dispatcher Erica Maitland, who works at the Beverly Hills Police Department (CA). Maitland graduated from the class last year. “By the end of the class, the hardest part was saying goodbye; we were such a tight-knit group that those classroom friendships easily transferred to my everyday personal life and most of us, to this day, still keep in contact… something I will cherish for the rest of my life”.
Veteran dispatchers and officers from various agencies work as the instructors. They have hundreds of years of professional working experience between them all, and they each bring their own individual talents to share with their field expertise. Once the dispatchers complete their training and graduate from the class, they return to work at their respective agencies, taking with them the invaluable skills they acquired. Handling crimes in progress and talking to suicidal callers become routine after receiving specialized training from the class. “When I returned to Beverly Hills, I had a new confidence in my abilities as a dispatcher”, said Maitland.
The next time you call 9-1-1, know that the dispatcher you speak with went through weeks of specialize training to ensure he/she is able to handle whatever emergency you are reporting. Operation 10-8 congratulates all the dispatchers who recently graduated and wishes them a long and rewarding career of service their communities.