Multitasking a must for police dispatchers

Madeline Roche • Jul 14, 2019 at 7:20 PM

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

If you hear this phrase, you are most likely panicking and in need of help. What about the person on the other end of the line?

After spending time with dispatcher Kate Barker at the Norwalk Police Department, I learned a lot about her job.

The phone rang and rang throughout the shift. I was very impressed by how many tasks she could handle at once.

While answering non-emergency calls and 9-1-1 calls, she also communicated with officers, typed what she heard over the radio, jumped back and forth from computer to computer, monitored security cameras, looked up information and filed paperwork, as well as assisted civilians at the window.

As part of her dispatcher duties, Barker looks up information at the request of officers and also checks their locations so she can tell civilians exactly when help will arrive.

Barker did not seem overly stressed or overwhelmed. I thought she handled each situation well, being very efficient in the process.

Codes and terms are used often in law enforcement, which requires memorization.

One example is .19 — pronounced “point nineteen.”

Chief Mike Conney said this expression comes from the Ohio Revised Code 4911.19, which dictates the law on impaired driving. An officer will use this code to signify they’ve found a possibly impaired driver.

Other police lingo includes “half unit” and “quarter unit” — terms signifying a person’s spouse and child, respectively.

Barker was a police officer before working in dispatch, so she was already familiar with these codes and terms.

Staying calm is an important part of the job — especially when dealing with an emergency. Barker spoke in a reassuring, yet firm way.

Good communication is vital for this field.

Barker has a good relationship with the officers. We all joked with each other throughout the shift and a good atmosphere imbued among the police station staff.

Barker also looks out for the officers. She said she knows they have a lot to deal with, especially when bringing someone into the jail. So if on the security camera she sees officers coming in, she will open the door or garage for them.

Although not too many emergencies arose while I was shadowing Barker, there was not a dull moment.

Someone butt-dialed 9-1-1 while I was in dispatch. While I have been guilty of this myself, I learned how this sort of thing can be frustrating for police. The call must be located and if a location is found, the officers have to check on the address.

I appreciated seeing how well the staff worked together. One officer even took everyone’s orders and bought dinner.

Dispatch is a big job, involving a lot of responsibility, but Norwalk is fortunate to have a great team. All of us should appreciate what this department does because when we need help, they will be there for us.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Mad about…” series involves day-in-the-life stories about local workers. Reflector Correspondent Madeline Roche spends time doing their jobs and then tells readers what it's like. If you would like your business to be featured, call 419-668-3771 or email madelineroche@norwalkreflector.com.



Position: Police dispatcher

Qualifications: Applicants must also be 18 years old or older. They must first pass a civil service test and a background investigation.

Pay range: Dispatchers start off making $17.79 per hour at NPD. The maximum wage a dispatcher can make is $22.12.

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