HAMLET – Loretta Sears, telecommunications operator at Hamlet Police Department, can readily relate to Tom Hanks’ character Forrest Gump and his analogy of “life is like a box of chocolates ….” Loretta never knows what she’s “going to get” when the phone rings at the station.
“We get calls about everything you can imagine,” Sears said. “Yes, even the cat stuck in the tree call comes in on occasion.”
But really serious situations are only a “Hamlet Police Department – how can I help you?” away.
Sears is one of four highly-trained individuals who are the liaisons between the public and the Hamlet police. Law enforcement telecommunication operators must effectively function as communicators, of course, but are also expected to easily transition between the roles of therapist, counselor, psychologist, referee, mediator, arbitrator and detective.
“We have our officers’ backs,” Sears noted. “Since we are the first ones to tell them about a situation, we have to be accurate and thorough or else they won’t be sufficiently prepared for whatever’s happening when they arrive on the scene.”
And the officers agree. Captain Randy Dover “can’t say enough” about what Sears and the other telecommunications operators (such as Sheree McInnis) “do for the department in general and the officers in particular.”
“We rely totally on them to let us know what is going on when responding to a call,” Dover reiterated.
It was noted that the summer months (warm weather, people are more active) generate slightly more action than the cooler seasons, but there is really never a dull moment behind the phones and radios at HPD, regardless of the time of year, week or day.
“There’s really no one time that is better or worse for us,” said fellow operator McInnis. “We’re always busy!”
And so it would seem.
Witnessing the action around 5:40 p.m. on a Monday, the sheer number and variations of calls that were coming in to the “command post” at HPD headquarters.
“Oh, this is nothing,” Sears quipped. “We get a lot more than that all the time.”
But the calm, cool and relaxed manner of these telecommunications professionals belies the underlying aspects of the job.
“The worst part is when you can hear the screams or commotion in the background and can’t do anymore than dispatch the officer to the scene,” said Sears. “We really try to keep the caller on the phone until the officer arrives, but it is hard to do that, especially if it’s a child or female being attacked.”
The next time people place a call to the police department because of a real emergency or simply due to the fact that Friskers can’t (or just won’t) get down from her perch in the pine tree, they are encouraged to take a moment at some point to let the police – and the telecommunications operator – know that they appreciate their courteous and professional assistance during their time of need.