I’ve always been hesitant to talk about my job on here. I work directly with law enforcement and people are extremely passionate about the issue on both sides. Discussing it (as with many other political or hot-button issues) doesn’t really interest me. I’d rather debate which was the best season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer than talk about politics with someone (it’s season five, by the way, and anyone who thinks otherwise is greatly mistaken). But when a mass shooting happens in the county where you work, you feel the need to address it.
Working at 911 is amazing. Anyone who works there will be the first to tell you it’s definitely not for everyone—some people aren’t able to do the absolutely insane multitasking it takes to be good at it, and some just aren’t wired to handle the enormous amounts of stress you have to deal with on a daily basis. In other words, most dispatchers are pretty dark, weird, fantastic people. A few of them also might happen to be normal, but they’re the exception.
As luck would have it, I happened to be off last night when the shootings began, so I won’t get firsthand accounts of what it was like at dispatch when it all went down until I go back tomorrow. But even though I’ve only known these particular dispatchers a month, I know them well enough to know that they rocked it and handled their business, keeping all the responders informed and organized. That’s what dispatchers do: step up at a moment’s notice and do whatever it takes to get the job done. In that regard it’s not unlike the officers, deputies, paramedics, and firefighters we dispatch for.
We generally deal with people at their worst. Accidents, robberies, fights, medical emergencies, all the way down to the crotchety old man who just wants his neighbor’s dog to shut up. It takes a toll, and requires both the ability to deal with the stress in the moment and let it go and decompress during your time off, otherwise you’ll go crazy. This is not work you want to take home with you.
I don’t personally know Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder, the man who went in with no backup and took out the shooter, but I’ve talked to him on the radio. There’s a fair chance I might’ve even rolled my eyes or sighed loudly when he called in a traffic stop while I was busy with something else. But he stepped up and did what had to be done, which is what we as dispatchers do on the other side of the radio, too.
So while praise is being given to Chief Schroeder and all the other responders from all the agencies involved (and rightfully so), I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge my fellow dispatchers in Harvey County, Sedgwick County, and everywhere else. What we do is hard work and you have to be a little crazy to like it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And for the record, there will be no more sighing or eye rolling when someone calls in a traffic stop.