A twenty-something dispatcher taking 911 calls, yapping on the radio, and dealing with the general public - with a mad case of headset hair. Not quite so jaded yet, but not naive as I once was. Losing my soul one call at a time.
In the last few years, mental health care in law enforcement in general has become more of a priority than it has been in years past. But like a lot of things in the law enforcement realm, Dispatch is the last to know, or in this case, last to receive that message. We’re FINALLY being included in major incident debriefs and offered similar resources to the field.
In practice, there’s still room for improvement.
There recently was an officer involved shooting in my department, and the dispatchers on duty during the incident were invited to the debrief with the sworn side. Three of those dispatchers decided to attend, and of the three, two were on days off. The one that had work that night, was told that she could attend the debrief that was scheduled for the early afternoon, and would have to be back on time, for her shift, with no adjustment or grace given, and that they would not assist in helping her find someone to cover part or all of her shift. Since she had worked the night before, that only left her a couple hours between the end of her shift and the start of the debrief. Once the debrief was done, there would maybe only be an hour or two before she was expected in for shift. And that’s not even to mention getting her kid to school, preparing her food for shift, shower, etc. in her personal life. That’s enough to make most people reconsider attending.
The inflexibility of our own department to accommodate a healthy mental health shows that we are not there yet. There is still more work to be done for our dispatcher’s mental health, and the attitude towards it as well.
So dispatchers, keep up hope. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If your department doesn’t believe it, then you should believe in it enough for yourself. We spend our days prioritizing everything, and that overflows into our personal lives, putting mental health low on the list. So take some time for yourself and keep fighting the good fight.