When describing the personality of Brandy Watts, the word “enthusiastic” immediately comes to mind, especially when the police dispatcher is discussing her career in law enforcement.
As a dispatcher with the Bakersfield Police Department for more than 20 years, Watts, 47, and her fellow dispatchers take multitasking to level beyond what most people can comprehend.
Whether the incoming 911 call is for a robbery in progress, an officer involved shooting, a baby not breathing or a child abduction, dispatchers must simultaneously answer the call and deploy officers to the scene.
Watts thrives in the fast paced environment.
“I’m fulfilled by all of it,” said Watts, who also loves being a wife, mother and grandmother.
And when opportunities to take on more challenging roles within the department present themselves, Watts is among the first to take them on.
“You find an opportunity to work in another detail and say why don’t I go there too,” said Watts, who had a career working in media as an assignment editor at two major networks before joining Bakersfield PD in 2000.
Along with her regular dispatching duties, Watts is trained as a tactical dispatcher, whose responsibilities include supporting SWAT operations involved in high-risk incidents.
Tactical dispatchers work out of a command post set up close to the incident, providing direct support of first responders involved.
“We are a mobile dispatch unit that provides a variety of services which won’t tax the personnel within the call center,” Watts said.
Watts is also a member of Bakersfield PD’s drone unit.
Drones support first responders in a variety of situations, such as tracking suspects, locating missing persons, performing search and rescue and crowd management.
“It’s not surprising to me that she seeks out other opportunities to work within the department with the drone team and tactical dispatch,” said Hilarie Owens, Bakersfield PD communication supervisor. “Brandy is an amazingly intelligent person that likes to be challenged.”
Watts has also had to face challenges away from the job.
About eight years ago, Watts was diagnosed with a potentially fatal form of cancer and had to undergo three separate surgeries. She still has to have follow up checkups at least once a year to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
While co-workers donated their sick time which allowed Watts to take as much time as was needed to recover, she was back at work as soon as she felt well enough.
“Sitting home being idle wouldn’t have been good for me anyway,” she said.
Nearly a year ago, dispatchers in California were reclassified to “first responders,” the same designation given to police officers and firefighters.
Previously, dispatcher positions were labeled as clerical or administrative jobs.
Watts is completely in agreement with the new title.
“Now we are even more accountable as far as training and ethics and things go,” Watts said. “And so it wasn’t just a name and label we received, it’s more responsibility. It’s also an honor at the same time.”
About five years ago, Watts left Bakersfield PD to pursue a career in commercial space tourism.
However, when Watts discovered the career wasn’t what she thought it was, she returned to Bakersfield PD about six months later.
“It just didn’t pan out for me,” Watts said. “It probably wasn’t even going to be as exciting as it is to be a police dispatcher. I was very blessed to come back to the department, and since I’ve been back, it’s been amazing.”