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Chief: Dispatchers key bridge for police & public

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery (left) and Police Cmdr. Jason Leverton (right) recognized staff in the telecommunications department Monday for National Telecommunications Week in DeKalb.
DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery (left) and Police Cmdr. Jason Leverton (right) recognized staff in the telecommunications department Monday for National Telecommunications Week in DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery says dispatchers are the unsung heroes of the department.

Ahead of National Telecommunications Week, which is April 14 to 20, Lowery publicly recognized the dispatch staff at Monday’s DeKalb City Council meeting before presenting the department’s 2018 Annual Report, which showed year-over-year declines in many categories of reported crime.

Telecommunicators, often called dispatchers, are the bridge between people in need of help who call 911 and the police, firefighters and paramedics who arrive at emergencies.

“Imagine yourself in a room, cooped up with two or three other folks,” Lowery said, describing the work environment of the dispatch team. “Then all of a sudden, all chaos breaks out. And of those two or three folks, they have multiple things to do. If they don’t do their job, if they don’t take the time to lay the foundation for that call, all things can go bad on that street.”

Lowery first recognized new telecommunications hires Brittany Mellinger and Heydin Perkins, then shared specific examples of calls handled by their co-workers: Heide Clark, Sean Woyna, Christopher McMeen, Brittany Westergren, Geoffrey Wells, Keller Kurth, Hillary Engler, Ryan Fisher, Elizabeth Basham, Alyssa Jennings, Garrett Williams, Jessica Green, Carol Halsey, Adrienne Oziah, Kelli Wilkens, Kaitlin Armstrong and Jennifer Barnett.

Cmdr. Jason Leverton provides administrative and supervisory support, while communications coordinator LaToya Marz is the manager of the center and direct supervisor of the dispatchers.

According to the department’s annual report, the Communications Division answered over 115,000 phone calls, including more than 22,486 911 calls, and dispatched 55,847 police calls and 6,184 fire and EMS calls.

Leverton, and Marz, who stayed behind to cover the dispatch center while the telecommunicators, were recognized, Lowery said.

“Dispatchers are often windows to the world,” Lowery said. “Their work is what people perceive of the entire department. I’ve been in this business four decades, and have never seen [telecommunicators] do a better job.”

In addition to their police, EMS and fire duties, telecommunicators monitor radio traffic for the department of public works, other neighboring emergency agencies, and all security cameras throughout the police department, City Municipal Building, DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, and mobile cameras as needed, the annual report states.

Mayor Jerry Smith read from a city proclamation declaring the week of April 14 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in DeKalb.