The sign affixed to the dispatchers’ door at the Westminster Police Department reads, “The safety of 100,000 people and 130 employees begins in this room. They’re in good hands.”
Those good hands — the men and women of the police dispatcher team, whose chair-bound jobs from department headquarters play a crucial role to all personnel and people out in the field — are looking for a few more to join their ranks.
On Aug. 15, Westminster hosted its first-ever police Dispatcher Meet-and-Greet information session as part of a recruitment effort to bring in three new dispatchers. The full-time jobs are rewarding, demanding, stressful, essential, difficult — you name it, Chief Darin Lenyi told a room of about 15 interested applicants.
Westminster police hope the information session will provide the nitty-gritty, crucial details of what the dispatcher job entails and what it would require.
Equipment-wise, a dispatcher must simultaneously master a massive arsenal of electronics: seven monitors with different information, four mice, multiple keyboards, phone lines, a headset, and a radio system.
Skills-wise, they need good communication, fast typing, good note-taking, attentive listening, and the ability to multitask. Emotionally, one must handle the pressure.
To that point, Lenyi didn’t mince words illustrating the demanding nature of the job. Dispatchers, who are truly the “first first responders,” are usually the public’s initial point of contact for police. Sometimes they might be the last person someone speaks to before death. Whatever the case, they can’t slack off when people need help. “We’re on the way,” are words they say often.
“You are the lifeline,” Lenyi told the applicants. “It has to be you.”
Once the three vacancies are filled, Westminster Police Department will have a dispatch staff of 14 personnel, who collectively work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They handle 130,000 calls annually for more than 90,000 events big and small.
“We’re looking for career-minded partners, because it’s more than just a job,” said Dispatch Supervisor Kristen Kannard, a 19-year department veteran. “It’s more than just helping people. It really is a passion.”
Police personnel joked that one perk of the job is, “telling cops where to go.”
“If you’re inquisitive and like asking questions, that’s definitely another perk,” Kannard said. “We want someone with critical thinking skills. It’s real world, life and death.”
Dispatchers are considered non-sworn personnel but are classified as sworn civilians. They are members of the Westminster police union.
They don’t have to endure the same physical training as officers, but they undergo their own methods of training that can take as long as nine months. The multi-month recruitment process is similar to that of the officers.
Applicants must be 18 years old, U.S. citizens, and have a high school diploma. Bonus pay is given for being multilingual — in Westminster, knowing Vietnamese and Spanish are a plus — and having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Pay starts at $27 an hour and includes health benefits, pension, tuition reimbursement, vacation days, holiday pay, and sick pay. Shifts are usually 12 hours (nights or days) on a rotating system. The department is offering a $10,000 hiring bonus for lateral dispatchers.
An informational video is presented for prospective applicants at the Westminster Police Department’s Dispatcher Meet-and-Greet event. Photo by Paul Rodriguez/ for Behind the Badge