Darien looking to add 2 dispatchers
DARIEN — When Capt. Don Anderson started working as a police officer in 1983, there were three numbers to call police. To find them, you had to look them up in the phone book.
Now with the ability to dial 911, emergency calls have tripled since the days Anderson began policing, making dispatch work more specialized than before. In many situations, taking emergency calls involves dealing with a person in the midst of one of the worst experiences of their lives and often requires highly-trained professionals.
Rather than having officers trained for active police work sit behind a desk and man the phone, Darien is looking for civilians to help.
Anderson has been in charge of heading Darien’s civilian dispatch program, which aims to have a full team of nine civilians operating the dispatch desk at police headquarters by July 2020. As budget season approaches, Anderson and the rest of the department are looking for the funds to continue their plan and add two dispatchers to start around September 2017.
Until several years ago, Darien police had a sergeant working their dispatch desk.
“When you got promoted to sergeant, you worked communications,” Anderson said. “In the modern world of policing, that’s not a good use of a supervisor.”
When the sergeant was gone, patrolmen would work the desk, but the department found they needed someone specially trained and focused solely on dispatch work.
“We thought it more proper to have a dedicated staff to the position,” Anderson said. “We believe the job will be done better by properly trained civilian officers that are highly skilled.”
Dispatchers now are in charge of arranging the appropriate services while staying on the line with the caller to get more information on the emergency, as well as give instructions. For example, if a caller is with a person having a heart attack, the dispatcher will give instructions on how to administer CPR. With the system in Darien, however, there is only one person working the dispatch desk on nights and weekends, and calls end up being outsourced to another dispatch center.
“Our goal is — when we have a full civilian dispatch system — that we can have full-time dispatch and bring it back in-house,” Anderson said.
Darien police had their first civilian dispatcher in July 2014, but ended up replacing the dispatcher when they were not a good fit. According to Anderson, it takes a certain temperament and skill set to be a successful dispatcher. People in the position must be detail-oriented, able to assess a situation quickly and be quick on their feet.
The second dispatcher — currently the only civilian dispatcher — James Delli Carpini, works Monday through Friday during the day with an officer. He started with the department in August.
Delli Carpini came to the department after spending nine years working for a company that builds call/dispatch centers, seeing the operating side of dispatch work. He has a background in emergency services as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Weston.
“Now I’m on the other end, sending people to the emergency,” Delli Carpini said.
Delli Carpini was drawn to his new role for a change of pace. He was trained by officers at the station who had been taken off patrol and attended a class aimed at preparing Delli Carpini for his role.
Now, daily life for the civilian consists of getting information on emergency calls and keeping an often hysterical person on a call while sending officers to the scene. He listens to fire and EMS radios to send police with them when appropriate and monitors the State Police hotline. He helps visitors who come into the lobby of the police station, as well.
“If you’re not good with stressful situations and multitasking, it’s not for you,” Delli Carpini said.
“He’s very competent,” Anderson said. “We want eight more like him.”
Should things go as planned, Anderson may get his wish by 2020, which he believes is the best way to provide the best services to the town of Darien.
“The town is getting more bang for their buck by having officers doing what they’re trained to do,” he said.