by Hale Hughes
On April 3, Governor Greg Abbott extended his appreciation for those who work behind the scenes of our local law enforcement agencies and apply their specialized skills and calm presence in their highly-specialized roles as telecommunicators, or dispatchers as they are commonly referred as.
Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford was kind enough to allow the Tyler County Booster a peek inside a day in the life of these uniquely skilled professionals and get a first-hand glimpse of the workload they see on a daily basis. While many may think 'all they do is answer the phones', it's only a small part of what they are required to do, and in many instances, under duress. They not only monitor phone lines, they also process warrants and complaints for the officers in the field and they don't just service the law, they are also invaluable to the local volunteer fire department and the forestry services that work in and around Tyler County. EMS relies on their information and calm presence when an emergency is at hand and even the utility services are directed by our local dispatchers when power is out or in the time of area emergencies. These Tyler County people are the voice of 911 when you call and the safety of their officers is their number one priority each day as they communicate and send them out to take care of various issues, disturbances and community service projects each day.
It should also be noted that this is a department that never closes, ever. They are on duty every hour, every day including weekends and all holidays. Dispatchers make sure the resources are available to the officers for their ultimate safety in any event, environment or time of need. It's a very rewarding job, but one that isn't for everyone, according to Tracy Bump, a 21-year telecommunications veteran and Carolyn Bennett, a 30-year veteran and mother of 10, both of which are Master Licensed Telecommunicators by the state of Texas. It's the highest licensing possible in the field of telecommunications. According to Bump, "We have to be blunt, direct and matter of fact and then the next call we may have to play the role of mom or sister and then follow that up with calm, informative instructions for them to have the absolute best chance to escape the emergency they called in about." She quickly added, "There is no crying in dispatch." Information is absolutely critical and key and the dispatchers are the main source of that information.
There are ten total telecommunicators employed by the Tyler County Sheriff's Office and each of them are licensed jailers and correctional officers. Along with Bennett and Bump is Erin Spurlock, Ashleigh Bonner, Leigh Ann Whitworth, Jessica Smith, Debbie Lively, Kalyn Byerly and Jerry Saunders. Jo Lynn Harvey, like Bump and Bennett is also Master Licensed in telecommunications, which shows that Tyler County is committed to staffing the absolute best available people for the job. Tyler County residents should be proud to have such dedicated people who sacrifice so much of themselves for our community. Take time to thank these individuals when you see them, for their efforts are often overlooked. When you see just how much these individuals are responsible for and the manner and calm level-headedness that is required, it's no wonder that Abbott is quick to recognize Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.