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Honoring Police Radio Dispatchers; Thank You to Carlena A. Orosco


Carlena A. Orosco

Motivation for Beginning Career

At the ripe age of 21, I decided to seek employment with a law enforcement agency in Los Angeles as a police dispatcher, in hopes of gaining some invaluable experience that would help to shape my career as a Criminal Justice scholar.

Little did I know, I was about to embark on a nine-year, life-changing experience, one that has forever altered my perspective on the role of dispatchers in the day-to-day operations of law enforcement.

Upon being immersed in the understandably rigorous six months of training, it became clear to me that dispatchers, while rarely given the due credit they deserve, serve as the link between citizens and officers in the field.

Challenges of Dispatching

The multitasking ability required to effectively perform ones duties is beyond comprehension.  It entails the handling of requests from a multitude of officers simultaneously, in addition to reading calls, combing through countless pages of subject data, and listening for any verbal cues that may indicate that an officer is in distress.

While the magnitude of the aforementioned duties is apparent, such decisions and prioritization has to occur within the blink of an eye. Throughout my course of training and beyond, I witnessed many people come and go, as the profession is too much for most to handle.

Early LAPD Radio Communications

Despite roughly 95% of the tasks being relatively routine in nature, it’s the 5% of critical incidents that require the most heightened level of awareness, unwavering stress management skills, and a true passion for the job.

It’s that 5% that places police dispatchers in a class of their own.  They are, the cream of the crop.  Although most dispatchers remain faceless to officers in the field, an alliance is quickly forged through their daily interactions.

Anonymous Voice

The voices over the radio serve as a source of comfort, calm, and reassurance in the face of unpredictability and inherent risk.  Although an officer may be patrolling the streets alone, there is always back up on the other side of the radio, ready to travel great lengths in order to keep them as safe as humanly possible.

Although I am no longer a police dispatcher, the experience I have gained is incredibly priceless.  I have the utmost respect for those who choose this profession, as they are most certainly the calm before, during, and after the storm.

As a Ph.D. student, I have chosen to examine the role of dispatchers in the field of policing, as well as the factors that affect their split-second decisions.  It is hoped that by illuminating the scope and complexities surrounding the job of a police dispatcher for those who may be unaware, I can give back to a profession that has enriched my life immensely.

Carlena A. Orosco, M.A.

Temple University

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