Los Angeles: Following the tragic shooting deaths of four Police Officers from the City of Oakland, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Communications Division is sending help."Shots fired…Officer down!" are words that a Public Safety Dispatcher [PSD] never wants to hear over the police radio. But when the call does come in, PSDs must immediately react with superior skill, reassurance, and professionalism. Almost like a machine, PSDs dispatch additional resources, coordinate communications, and provide support for Police Officers responding to the incident, all while dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and emotion.
Such was the case last Saturday, March 21, 2009, when a man wanted on a parole violation gunned down four Oakland Police Officers in two separate incidents. The shootings prompted an outcry of support and outrage from community members in Oakland and across the nation.
In response to the shootings, the California Tactical Dispatchers Association [CTDA] sent an urgent email to its members saying, "Oakland PD needs our help." CTDA began soliciting PSDs from across the state, asking them to come to Oakland Wednesday, March 25th through Friday, March 27th. The squad of PSDs will be providing coverage at Oakland PD’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Center, allowing their personnel to attend the funerals and memorial services for the slain Officers.
Todd Austin, a member of CTDA, and PSD Supervisor for the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] 9-1-1 Dispatch Centers, notified his Commanding Officer of CTDAs urgent call for help. Without hesitation, Captain Regina A. Scott, who oversees LAPD’s two Dispatch Centers, authorized Austin’s assignment to Oakland PD March 25th through March 27th. Austin, a 10-year veteran of LAPD, will be assisting Oakland PD with call-taking and dispatching duties for several days, along with PSD personnel from across the state.
"I am honored to be traveling to Oakland to help our brother and sister Dispatchers", Austin said. "The loss of any Police Officer in the line of duty is tragic and emotional, but losing four Officers in one day is difficult to even fathom."
Austin said that in California, PSDs receive the same basic training whether working for a large Department such as LAPD or a smaller agency like the San Fernando Police Department. Because of this standardized training, Dispatchers can work at any agency in California. "The training we receive is particularly beneficial during large scale events requiring the response of multiple agencies, such as the Metrolink collision in Chatsworth last year" Austin explained. When he arrives in Oakland, Austin said the transition from handling calls at LAPD to Oakland PD should be minimal, as both agencies use some of the same equipment and applications. "The terminology Oakland uses on the police radio may differ from LAPD, but we are all dedicated professionals and will make it work…that’s what we do.", Austin said."We [PSDs] have chosen this career to answer the calls for help from the communities we serve," Austin summarized, "Only this time, the call came from another law enforcement organization. Help is on its way, Oakland."
For more information contact LAPD’s Communications Division at 213-978-6585, or visit the California Tactical Dispatchers Association website at www.tacticaldispatch.com