I know the phrase “everybody has got one.” These are just my thoughts and not intended to offend anyone.
Working in the field of public service, especially law enforcement and 9-1-1 is similar to serving in the military and requires a special person. We seek employment in this field not because we are searching for fame and fortune, but because we want to help other people. Public service means just that, to “serve” the public.
No matter what we do in life, we must make sacrifices, even more so in law enforcement because we want to serve, we want to make a difference, but not everyone, no matter how good of a person they are, can do this type of work. By choosing this line of work, we have made a commitment to put the needs of others above our own and if we can’t do that, we are in the wrong line of work.
We have the same problems as everyone else. We have to pay bills, we get sick, our car breaks down, a family member dies, our children become ill, etc. With that said, the job we chose requires us to sacrifice in order to help others. There are exceptions as with anything such as serious injury or illness that enables us to be in a condition of not being able to serve as an example. But in reality, we must overcome these situations and adapt to the normal problems that other people have. When our life is in chaos, just as the lives of the people we serve are in chaos, we put our problems to the side, rise up and help others. That is the “nature of the beast”. That is what we do, that is our job.
As an employee of a law enforcement agency emergency call center, we are members of a team. The larger the agency, the larger the team. In our case, we are a small team consisting of 4 dispatchers and 1 supervisor. We become and are, family to each other and in many cases more so than we are to our natural family. There are times of course when we need someone else to cover for us, but we must all work together. Someone has to be on the radio and answer the phones 24/7/365.
In the military I was a team member of a much larger team, but could not leave the combat zone when my child got hurt, my wife was sick, my son went to prison, my father died, my dog got killed and so on. It hurt my heart like hell, but I had to be in control and make arrangements for things to be taken care of without me being physically present.
I had to make sacrifices as a soldier to serve my country and I have to make sacrifices as a dispatcher to serve my community. I knew this when I chose this profession. We have to be on call, we have to work overtime, we have to work holidays, we have to work nights, we have to work weekends, we have to be reachable 24/7 and it’s tough.
I wish I could have seen my children born, but I had to sacrifice for my country. I wish I could have attended my aunt’s funeral, but I had to sacrifice to serve my community. I spent most of my life in the service of others, 22 years in the military, 8 years with the Texas Youth Commission. Over 2 years in Iraq assisting military forces and nearly 8 years as a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
I can’t remember how many life events I was not a part of because I was working, sacrificing in order to help others. It is only tolerable and manageable with the assistance of my fellow team/family members helping me when I just couldn’t get through it without their help.
This was my choice, but where would the American people and the people of my community be without people like us? We are going to miss birthdays, births, anniversaries, funerals, weddings, Thanksgiving dinners, celebrations, Christmas mornings, church services, stock shows, the circus, swimming, the beach and park, school plays, sports events, band concerts, graduations, tooth fairies, Easter bunnies, trick or treaters, and all the other events happening while we serve.
We are dispatchers, we are licensed telecommunicators, we are professionals, and we need to be proud of that.
Not everyone can do what we do and that is alright. There is no shame in saying I can’t do that. Not everyone can be a law enforcement officer, not everyone can be a soldier and that is alright too. But we can and we are.
We have committed ourselves to this “calling” and we are good at it. We have sacrificed ourselves in the service of others because someone had to do it. Someone has to be the calm voice on the phone when someone else’s world is falling apart. If and when (there will be a when) we no longer feel this or believe this, when we can no longer put the needs of the people we serve above our own, we need to step down and walk away and let someone else “special” answer our call for help.