Several law enforcement agencies in the East Bay are looking to hire more police dispatchers.
Veteran dispatchers describe the high-pressure job as a demanding, but rewarding experience with making a difference in people's lives.
“The best part about the job is that no day is ever the same. What happens today at work will not happen tomorrow at work. So I thoroughly enjoy that. I don’t get bored. The worst part about the job is it can get so busy at times, you don’t even have a chance to breathe, let alone use the bathroom,” said Angie Switzer, a veteran dispatcher for Concord’s police department.
Switzer said applicants should be able to multitask, prioritize and monitor several sources of information at once.
“You could be on the phone while taking radio traffic, and then an accident will happen and we’ll have like five 911 calls in a row and you’ve got to be able to put one on hold, answer another one and figure out which one to make wait,” she said.
San Ramon Valley Fire District’s new dispatch center is paying $80,000 per year for dispatchers with at least a year of experience.
Concord police department’s job openings have a starting salary of about $57,000 with a raise after new hires successfully complete training. Dispatchers for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department start at $54,000 and Walnut Creek police are also hiring for dispatchers.
Switzer’s desk at the dispatch center is ringed by eight computer monitors with maps, Internet browser windows, radio controls and lots of data that is useful for getting police to the scene in a hurry.
Dispatchers deal with people at their worst moments, and that fear and trauma affects them, Switzer said.
“I do have those calls that just don’t go away. They get easier over time. But you’ll always have the ones that just stick in your brain,” she said. “Some just give you the feels.”
Other callers ask for help disciplining their out-of-control children, or have obvious mental health problems. Switzer finds those calls frustrating because she can’t help.
“I’m not sure why it’s mostly women who do this job. I could give my assumptions, but I don’t think the male population would like that,” she said.