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Dispatchers on job serving public 24-7

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Dispatchers on job serving public 24-7

Kim Thomas is the senior dispatcher at the Manteca Police Department looking out for the safety of her officers and the community for 19 years since 1992.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED April 18, 2010 3:05 a.m.
Manteca’s police dispatchers are family – spending their entire 10-hour shift in a 12- by 18-foot command center in the middle of the city’s police department.

They work there, they eat there and they take their breaks there – leaving only to use the rest room.  They do have the luxury of a refrigerator in a small adjoining room.

They are celebrating  the “Week of the Police Dispatcher” but with little fan fare for the positions they hold in keeping the city safe – continually having to multi-task from the telephone to the radio and dispatching officers on the street to a myriad of calls – many often overlapping  at the same time.

Of prime concern is keeping track of the officers on the street, knowing that they are safe and being diligent in keeping track of them when they go off the air on a radio call. They say they are occasionally short staffed on day shift having to pull in a police records clerk to man a station.


It was wild in the dispatch center on Tuesday when the shooting occurred on Greenbrier Avenue with only two radio officers on patrol at the time it happened.  They said they were calling in additional police officers,  including the SWAT team,  while running background checks and locating residential addresses that backed up to the scene of the crime.

It was that series of events – along with regular incoming phone and radio traffic – that seemed to overwhelm the system as they called in a back up dispatcher to insure everything was covered.

Their main concern today is that there are not enough officers on the street and there are too few dispatchers.  Manteca has nine working three shifts – 24 hours a day – while Tracy and Turlock both have 16 dispatchers.  

The grave yard shift has only one manning the telephones and the radio dispatch system through the nighttime hours.  There are 12 dispatchers authorized within the department, but two of those positions are frozen and actual staffing is down by one.  The nine dispatchers’ schedules have to be worked around days off, vacations and sick leave.

Senior police dispatcher Kim Thomas joined the department in 1992 and is now working day shift.  She said she didn’t have a passion for the job when she started 19 years ago adding, “I do like what I do.”

 Also working days is Marci Jones, who has been in dispatch for eight months, working days and swing shifts.  She previously worked as an accountant for The Wine Group at its Tracy offices.

David Jones signed on in 1994 as a reserve officer.  From 1995 to 1997 Jones was assigned to truancy officer and booking officer duties.  And from 1997 until 2000 he worked as a part time dispatcher becoming full time in 2000.

Cecilia Liles has been in the dispatch center for 13 years, starting in 1997.

“We always need to be pretty sure where everybody is,” she said of her officers.  “My favorite part of my job is the radio.  You have to come in and be ready to do something within minutes,” she said.

They said the aggravation with the job come with non-emergency calls with people wanting general phone numbers and the non-emergency number.
The family of dispatchers includes Kim Vasquez, Jenifer Ducker, Pam Takashi, and Heather Wattenbarger.  Working part-time on 20 hour per diem status is Rudy Fowler and Jean Maciel.  Fowler had retired earlier from a dispatcher position he held for over 25 years.

The dispatchers in the region were saluted on the Modesto radio station KFIV 1360-AM “Behind the Badge” 9 a.m. program Saturday morning.  Featured were retired Manteca officer and dispatcher Duane Hoerth and Kirk Anderson, president of the California Emergency Dispatchers’ Association.

Hosts for the “Behind the Badge” call-in program are Manteca’s Rex Osborn, Tom Killian and Doug Ridenour – all police public information officers in their own right.
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