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Being a dispatcher challenging and rewarding

November 1, 2022

By Sheriff David Kramer

Boundary County Sheriff's Dispatcher Jeremy Espino
Being a sheriff’s office emergency communications officer, or dispatcher, handling 911 calls, dispatching for all the first responders in Boundary County, including law enforcement, fire and ambulance, is both a challenging and rewarding career. The calls can range from barking dog complaints to crimes in progress to someone contemplating suicide. Our community should be very thankful for the professionalism and care shown by the communications officers that we have serving.

All the communications officers now must be certified by the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training after completing communication officers courses, which helps prepare them for handling the types of calls that come in to the dispatch center.

They must be able to multi-task between all of the phone calls that come in to the dispatch center as well as handle radio traffic from the first responders. Being the first to be notified of an emergency, they help by trying to diffuse a situation and provide helpful advice while first responders are on their way.

In a recent call, an individual contacted the dispatch center advising that they were planning to commit suicide. The emergency communications officer who took the call, Jeremy Espino, was able to talk to the person on the phone and get them to agree to not commit suicide and to seek help, all while a deputy was en route.

The deputy was able to help facilitate this person getting to a place where they could receive some help. Espino was recognized and commended for his portion in this situation ending well. I asked him to provide me with his perspective of this call.

This is what he told me.

"I received the call while on night shift," Espino said. " As a dispatcher, you always know a call like this can come, but you don’t know when to expect it. Then I heard, 'I just wanted to let you know where to find the body.' It took me a second to realize this was a suicidal person. At that moment I was so thankful for the training I’ve received.
"I have been a youth pastor and in ministry for a while. I have had to help others in similar situations, but this was my first time as a dispatcher. Though similar, they are not the same. Not knowing what I was going to hear on the other end of the line, whether the caller would just hang up or go through with their plan while on the phone with me was very unnerving. I knew I needed to help this person and I was thankful that just a few months before I had read a training manual on this very kind of call. I knew this person needed to realize that they were about to make a decision that was permanent, one that they couldn’t come back from.

"I knew they need to hear their name called back to them, showing that someone was listening to them. I needed to know if they had a plan in place already, and if they did, if I could get them to put that plan on hold until someone, one of our deputies, could meet them and talk with them.

"All this and more was running through my mind while talking with this person ,who was distraught and feeling hopeless. I believed that this person was calling, not just to let me know where to find his body, but because he needed to know that somebody cared. I was fortunate enough to let this person know that I cared. As I listened to his story, I realized that I could relate. I was able to connect with them through my own story and in the end, this person chose to live.

"Becoming a dispatcher was never in my plan for my future, but I can see how God led me to be in the right place and on that night, at the right time. Helping and serving this community has been a rewarding experience. Our hope, here in the communications center, is that somebody in need will call and know that someone, who knows how, is here. We care and are ready to help."

I think his last sentence captures the very nature of every emergency communications officer who works at the sheriff’s office -- “We care and are ready to help”.

There are resources available if you are in a crisis or contemplating suicide: Boundary County Victims Services (Crisis Line) (208) 267-5211, Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255, or text (208) 398-4357, North Idaho Crisis Center, (208) 625-4884. Calling 988 is another way to connect to help.

If you have an interest in how to become an emergency communications officer and work in the dispatch center, we would be glad to talk to you. You can contact our dispatch supervisor, Lynda Ekstrom, at lekstrom@boundarysheriff.org.

Questions or Comments? Send us an email!

Mike Weland, Publisher

6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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