The Voice in The Darkness
I started my career in dispatch in mid 2016. I signed up knowing I would get little
recognition or praise, but thought being almost 30, my life experience would help me. Over the next year, I was training at a fast - paced, high - intensity environment. I am one of very few males in dispatch. My agency is very large, one of the top ten in the country. I knew from the beginning that I would hear things that any amount of training wouldn’t prepare me for, I still managed to underestimate it. I work the graveyard shift and I love it. It’s fast - paced, the calls are always entertaining, and the Officers I work with are mostly just out of training, but are hard charging. From the very beginning, before I even began training, I promised myself the safety of my Officers was going to come before myself. I always made sure they got lunch, if stuck on a call, I would always call
and check on them to see if they need me to get them relief for a bit. Then, my first OIS happened. It was terrifying. It was a domestic call. The bad guy came
out with a gun and didn’t want to put it down. They seemed to talk to him for what felt like forever, but he chose. I confirmed my officers were ok and un-injured. Without much pause (we get 10 minutes to take a walk), I got right back to handling calls and dispatching units. Fast forward 6 years and a few more OISs. I was working on a Saturday night (mandated overtime we have been doing since Covid started), so a 13 hour day instead of 10. I had a 2 man unit go on a traffic stop in a pretty well known trouble apartment complex. Within a
few seconds, the foot pursuit broke out. Code red on the channel. I’m watching my radio screen as the officer and her partner were mic clicking me trying to talk. I asked for a suspect description and direction of travel. Still mic clicks. I started working on getting K9 and Air Unit en route. Still mic clicks. Finally, the click stops and the silence is broken with something I will never forget. Her
voice screaming and in obvious pain “control, shots fired, officer down, I’ve been hit”. I yell it out in our dispatch room, what I have. Then, I get back on the air and tell her I have medical and everyone on the way. I asked her where the suspect is because now I’m getting upset, we need to hunt this suspect down. “He’s down, control”. She’s a fucking warrior. Check. As units arrive, they forgo waiting for the ambulance, load her in a patrol car, and take off. I’m trying to raise her
partner, to make sure he is ok, and she keeps answering “control I’m hit, I’m ok” finally I could hear the officers that picked her up in the background as she is trying to talk to me, “stop talking to him he isn’t talking to you”.
They made it to the hospital in record time, we had roads and freeways shut down for them. After 15 minutes, a Sergeant who responded to the hospital came up on air and told me she is going to be ok, she is talking and awake. Getting ready for surgery. Then the emotions began to spill out. I broke down. Everyone was just staring at me, not sure what to say or do.
I’ve had shooting before and pressed through but this time I couldn’t, but I did. I wasn’t offered any other option, staffing shortages. When I made it home I was numb. I was confused. I was so damn worried about my
officer. Why? How? Is she really ok? I would like to meet her. To ask, “are you ok”? I go to sleep, after an hour I hear it. Her screaming for help again. I wake up breathing heavily covered in sweat with my 5 year old son laying next to me as peaceful as can be. Ok breathe. You’re ok. They told you she is ok. Sleep again, a short time later more screams. Ok forget it, I’m up now. I
go down stairs to have coffee with my wife, my son following behind. She asks me how my night was. I told her it was busy. She asked if I worked the shooting and I told her yes but my officer will be ok. I don’t tell her about the nightmares figuring it will pass. That night, I went back in to work (we don’t get time off for stuff like that). Puke in the parking lot for fear that the next stop will be the same screaming. I tell my supervisor I’m not ok, that I’m having anxiety and nightmares. I’m told to reach out to our peer team and speak to
them, so I do. They tell me to reach out to the Dept Doc and they give me an appointment 6 weeks out. 6 weeks. Alright, I must be making this a bigger deal than it is. The nightmares continue for a few weeks. But begin to fade away. I walked in for my appointment after the 6 weeks and it was moved another 6 weeks. I ask my leadership if I can reach out to the injured officer and they tell me no, it’s an open investigation and you can't compromise that. I don’t want
to talk about the shooting, I just want to talk to her. Nope. Got it. So time goes on, the anxiety has faded but still there. I found help from outside my
agency. Please remember when facing the fear and danger of the job, your dispatchers are always there ready to bring everything we possibly can to you. We listen to trauma over and over again on a daily basis and can be forgotten by our agencies. Remember we face an untold amount of stress, together we can get through it.