When the fresh-faced cadet first saw the dispatch center, he was blown away.
It was nearly 26 years ago, and Jason Hurd-Servin was working the front desk, along with other cadets, at the Anaheim PD.
But it was the dispatch center on the second floor he craved to see.
“It reminded me of the control deck on the Starship Enterprise, with all the windows and computers,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the coolest thing ever. I want to work here.’”
Three or four hours before his graveyard cadet shift would begin each day at the APD, Hurd-Servin would plant himself in the dispatch center to soak up all he could about police communications — how the dispatchers answered incoming emergency and business calls, and how they talked to officers in the field.
“Within the first few weeks, I knew it was the job for me — just the excitement of it,” Hurd-Servin said.
On Jan. 2 this year, Hurd-Servin, 45, landed his dream job at another O.C. police agency.
Filling a full-time spot that had been vacant for about a decade, he became communications manager at the Orange PD. In his new position, he oversees 15 full-time dispatchers (two are shift supervisors), with two other potential hires currently in the background process.
Hurd-Servin’s new job caps a 25-year career in law enforcement that began in 1989 when he was a 17-year-old explorer at the Garden Grove PD.
After his stint as a cadet at the Anaheim PD, he worked as a dispatcher for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and then the Westminster PD and, for 21 years before he joined the OPD, the Newport Beach PD.
“There is where I want to finish my career,” Hurd-Servin said. “This has been a long, wonderful career that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s had its ups and downs for sure, just like any job, but I’m so humbled, honored and thrilled to serve in this capacity.”
Hurd-Servin has yet to fully move into and decorate his office at the OPD.
He’s been too busy having fun with his new gig.
In 2017, OPD dispatchers handled 233,605 phone calls, and of that amount, 58,691 — or about 25 percent — were 911 calls.
Hurd-Servin relies heavily on Communications Supervisors Debbie Voth and Matt Windish, who run day-to-day dispatch operations. He usually gets to the office around 6 a.m. so he can spend time with dispatchers working the graveyard shift, which ends at 7 a.m.
For the last 10 years, OPD sergeants and lieutenants had been filling the role of communications manager on an ancillary basis.
OPD Chief Tom Kisela, who began running the agency in April 2016 after spending his entire policing career in Orange, realized the importance of the position and made it a priority to hire a full-time, non-sworn communications manager.
And in Hurd-Servin, he’s getting one of O.C.’s most seasoned police dispatchers.
“This is such a complex job,” said Hurd-Servin, who grew up in Garden Grove and got interested in law enforcement in high school. One of his buddies was a GGPD explorer who urged Hurd-Servin to become one.
“In my opinion,” he added, “it’s one of the most complex and difficult jobs for now-sworn personnel in law enforcement.”
In addition to multitasking skills, police dispatchers have to remain calm amid chaos, be assertive yet always professional and polite, and be able to handle 12-hour shifts — mostly while sitting.
The job, although immensely rewarding, definitely is not for everyone, said Hurd-Servin. The failure rate for new hires is 50 percent, he said.
Hurd-Servin recalled the first call he was allowed to answer while being supervised by a dispatcher when he was a cadet at the APD.
“It was a 211 (robbery) in progress at a convenience store,” he said. “That was one of the most exciting things in the world. My adrenaline was pumping, my heart was racing — I got that tingling sensation and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the real thing.’”
When the OCSD hired him in October 1993 as a radio dispatcher trainee (his first full-time job in dispatching), they assigned him to San Clemente, which the OCSD had just absorbed as a contract city.
On his first day on the job in San Clemente, he helped dispatch what would become a notorious homicide.
Steven Woods, 17, had gone to the beach with friends after a San Clemente High School football game. They got into a confrontation with a group of Latino males, and someone threw a paint roller pole at the car Woods was in as it sped off.
The sharp tip of the paint roller pole went through Woods’ head. He fell into a coma and died three weeks later.
After working in San Clemente for a little more than two years, Hurd-Servin worked at the Westminster PD for a year before joining the NBPD.
During his 21 years in Newport Beach, Hurd-Servin spent nine years as a non-sworn member of the NBPD’s hostage negotiation team. In 2003, he received a Medal of Lifesaving for talking down a barricaded man who held a knife to his neck. In 2011, he was promoted to police communications supervisor.
He says one of his most beloved mentors throughout his career has been Wendy Koudelka, civilian supervisor of communications at the NBPD.
Communications manager positions don’t often open up at police agencies. So, when the OPD announced it was looking for one in August 2017, Hurd-Servin pounced.
“I wanted a new challenge for the last decade or so of my career,” he said.
The OPD will be implementing a new computer-aided dispatch system in July. Hurd-Servin is excited about the upgrade, which will take 12 to 14 months to complete.
Outside of work, Hurd-Servin is a die-hard college football fan.
Always an admirer of former dual-sport professional athlete Bo Jackson, his favorite team is Jackson’s alma mater, the Tigers of Auburn University.
And recently, Hurd-Servin has become a big advocate of fitness, working out several times per week at Orange Theory Fitness.
After undergoing bariatric surgery in October 2016, Hurd-Servin, who is 5 feet 11 inches, has shed 125 pounds and is down to 205 pounds.
Asked what his approach to management is, Hurd-Servin said: “I lead by example and try my best to earn the respect of those I manage.”
One of the person’s he respect most is Orange PD Chief Tom Kisela.
“I am especially thrilled to work for a good man like him,” Hurd-Servin said. “This agency has been wonderful. Chief Kisela talks about what he calls the four Cs: commitment, character, competency and communication. The one thing I like about that is he exemplifies that and lives that.
“He has a true and genuine dedication to the community, and I like that. Service to the community is why most people get into this work. It’s what I enjoy doing, and why I got into this industry.”