I am disappointed

I am not a dispatcher.

I am a journalist.

But you probably wouldn’t realize how our lives parallel unless you stepped into the newsroom of The Messenger at any given moment on any given day and heard dispatch coming across the scanner. The Webster County Law Enforcement Center is literally the soundtrack of my job.

And because of that, some kind of kinship exists.

Not that the dispatchers know it. They don’t know me.

But I know them.

Well, sort of.

Over the years I have gotten to know them through their voices. Does that make sense? The hours and days of listening have taught me their language.

Those years have also shown me that, once in a great while, there is reason to chuckle.

Take, for instance, the time that gigantic Fort Dodge pig went for a stroll, stopping only occasionally to dine on the neighbor’s hostas.

Where did that pig go? Anywhere it wanted.

With local officers on foot tracking its every move, local dispatchers were tracking their every move on the scanner.

That was one of the good times.

Truth is, though, good times don’t happen very often when you work dispatch. A dispatcher’s day is more likely to be stuffed with other peoples’ drama.

And trauma.

We know, for instance, that when an accident is paged out as a PI, someone is hurt. PI stands for personal injury. Over the years, as we have learned the language of dispatch, we know when the end result will be the worst. You can hear it in their voices. Nothing overt. Call it a nuance. They’re too professional to betray it any other way.

They are the first ones to answer the 911 calls about a baby who is choking, or an elderly man who has stopped breathing.

They pass on reports of shots fired, probably hoping, like we do, that someone’s violating the fireworks ordinance and not taking a life.

Where their days go, so go ours.

That is the way it is tonight. As I write this, there are dispatchers wondering what will happen to their jobs. I say this because the Webster County Telecommunications Board on Thursday voted to outsource — or “privatize” — the management of dispatch jobs in Webster County. If they follow through with a contract, dispatch will get its orders from a company in New Jersey.

Very few people seem to have found peace with the decision.

When the vote was announced, there were tears.

Dispatch, you may not know it, but you are a part of my professional life and, therefore, I consider you friends.

I am disappointed.

Jane Curtis is the editor of The Messenger.


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