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Dispatchers move to new jobs
MARYSVILLE At 8 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 2, Janis Lamoureux and Debbie Dreyer took the last call of their long careers in the Marysville Police Department dispatch center and signed off from the consoles in the Public Safety Building on Grove Street.
For Dreyer is was a bitter end to 21 years of service, a tenure that got her a husband, two children and another family of friends and co-workers. Lamoureux also met her police officer husband Robb at the same place, but as Dreyer recalled the good and the bad, she remembered the night she had to sit at the console and listen to the sound of gunshots over the air. This was during a call she dispatched her husband Stacey to. As an officer was talking the clear sounds of gunfire could be heard in the background and Dreyer listened intently for the voice of her husband as the air went dead.
The suspect has a rifle and you never now if its the suspect firing or the officer, Dreyer recalled. The seconds turned to hours as the shots rang out and the air went dead, she said. The worst part was waiting for somebody to confirm what the shots were, Dreyer explained. Im sure it was seconds, it seemed like minutes.
The suspect ended up dying and Dreyers husband came home. That might have been the worst moment in her 21-year career, as she revisited the helpless, nervous feeling of that night. I believe that ended with the suspect being shot.
And now it is no more. At the new year Marysville switched over to a countywide consortium that now handles 911 calls for most of the northern part of Snohomish County. One of her last duties was to sign off and listen to SNOPAC dispatchers welcome Marysville officers to their organization that Tuesday morning.
Its obviously done and gone, Dreyer said wistfully. It was hard to let go of, but you do what you think is best. It was very exciting and I learned a lot and saw a lot of exciting things. Its all Ive done since I was 21. It felt a little like losing a piece of yourself, I guess.
Her new gig will be a homecoming of sorts; when she first started with the city in 1985 she was intending to be a police officer herself. She was attending Everett Community College and was working the dispatch center as part of a class preparing her for a law enforcement career.
Then I ended up getting married and having kids, she laughed.
They are now 18 and 14 years old, and that frees her to turn a new page. Dreyer will be getting out on the street as a community service officer, responding to animal control complaints and writing parking tickets in addition to other duties. It will be a change from the sealed office she called home for two decades but she looks forward to it.
I think Ill really like it, Dreyer said. It will be nice after all these years to be outside and to be learning new things will be exciting.
For Tracy Glidden the change will be more subtle. After 12 years in the dispatch center the Marysville native will slide over one seat to become a records clerk, a function the dispatchers performed when the phones were silent. By law police departments across the nation have only 10 minutes to hold a person they have pulled over; during that time they can check for warrants issued out of other departments and this has to be available around the clock. Glidden is happy to stay with the city but admits it will be tough to say goodbye to her old line of work.
I really miss dispatching, I loved that job, she said, noting that she still wears a uniform but the transition has had its moments. Its been rough. There are some things that came up but we worked through them.
Some of her peers have made drastic changes. Lamoureux and another woman are now in public works, the sole male dispatcher is a meter reader and one went to the Marysville Municipal Court. All kept their vacation pay and accrued sick leave but they forfeited their seniority when making the shift to the Teamsters union. Most are making the same money, but a few lost a couple hundred dollars per month, according to the union president.
The change is noticeable on the scanner, as not only the voices but the personalities have changed. Dreyer laughs at the faux accent officer Derek Oates would use when reading a license plate from Min-nes-ota pronouncing every syllable in a clipped, Scandinavian accent. Oakes is from the state and takes a ribbing for it from his peers all the time, she explains. Thats a side of police work most citizens dont see, and she hopes she can help change that when she puts on her new uniform in February.
I think in general people think the police are out to get em and they are not. They are just people, too, Dreyer sighed. I think some people think they have some sort of super power, but they are just guys and gals out there trying to make a difference.
Glidden said the dispatchers are reaching out to their fellow officers after a bruising fight to keep the dispatch center in house. Marysville said it will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs and avoid millions of dollars in needed upgrades by switching to SNOPAC. The police officers union fought hard to save the center, which was the countys oldest, on the air for more than 60 years, but the officers and the dispatchers did not see eye to eye at all times, Glidden admitted.
She wanted to thank the members of the executive board, in particular union president Jim Maples and board members Oates, Jeff Franzen, Stacey Dreyer, Russ Irvin, Wendy Wade, Mark Thomas, and James Spickelmire, in addition to the others.
This was a long hard battle and there were officers who gave their time away from their families, Glidden said. We want them to know that we absolutely appreciated what they did for us.
Maples said the new dispatchers are professional but concise, noting that now the officers get a little blurb when assigned to a call, whereas before the dispatchers literally knew a callers life story.
I think theres benefits that the city and citizens will receive by going to SNOPAC, but as far as the personalized service, weve lost that, Maples said. I think it meant a lot of pride for both the men and women that worked in there.