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Dispatchers share insights into training

Dispatchers from area law enforcement agencies attended Dispatcher Crisis Intervention Team training this week

¯ Sheri Schwartz, dispatcher for Marietta College Police –

She started working in dispatch in March.

“I thought it was great training. It was great having Nate (Coffield, Columbus Police dispatcher and lead instructor) come down from Columbus, an area that is so large in population. They field so many calls in many areas.”

She said as dispatcher on a college campus, they deal with issues such as someone who has lost their ID or keys.

“Also, somebody who might have been assaulted or somebody having difficulties dealing with roommates,” she added, noting they also have dealt with callers who are suicidal or have suicidal thoughts.

“One thing I really paid a lot of attention to was dealing with mental health callers and how to gather information from them to help officers when they get there,” she explained. “Knowing what questions to ask to get them to open up more to find out where they are really coming from and where they are going to.”

She said she learned not to say “I know how you feel,” but instead say “I agree you are in a difficult situation.”

“Listen to what they are really saying and respond to what they are saying instead of trying to diagnose the situation,” she said. “Questions you have to learn to ask is what I really learned.”

¯ Stacy Holbrooks, dispatcher for Washington County Sheriff’s Office –

“I learned a bunch of helpful tools about how to draw people into the conversation and how to avoid triggers that would set them off or make the situation worse,” she said.

She’s been with dispatch for a year and a half and “with this training, you can kind of reflect back and be like, ‘oh, I could have done this’ or ‘next time I could do this.'”

She said the job has been what she expected “and then some.”

“Sometimes it’s very fast paced and I just enjoy being able to help people and always enjoy law enforcement. My husband actually works at the jail.”

One of the sections of training were four workshops where activities were done while listening to a recording of what someone with schizophrenia would hear.

“The workshops were really good. It was definitely hard,” she said. “We had one where you had to listen to someone and try to repeat the information. It was kind of difficult to block out what was in your head.”

She said even if you knew the information, you couldn’t gather and repeat it.

¯ Donnie Myers, dispatcher for the Belpre Police Department –

“It changes my view on drug abuse and addictions,” he said. “It’s not necessarily bad people, it’s people who have substance abuse problems. It’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of thing.”

He explained it’s the same person, just different personalities that come out when they are using drugs.

“So, learning how to have more empathy for the callers,” he said.

Myers has been a dispatcher for Belpre 911 for 16 years and spent more than two years with West Virginia State Police before that.

He said he was glad that he attended the training and was happy Janice McFarland, director of clinical services for Life & Purpose Behavioral Health, went into more detail on mental health issues.

“It was a lot of information,” he said. “I took a lot of notes.”

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