APOA - Op Ed Bill Casey

Dispatchers and COVID-19

In this coronavirus pandemic, a massive number of Americans have suddenly found themselves out of work with all of the mandated closings. Essential workers, however, are still attending work at a massive risk to themselves. When we think of essential workers, we think of police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and paramedics, but we don’t think of the second list of grocery store workers, plumbers, garbage collectors, repairmen, taxi drivers, truck drivers, air traffic controllers, and bus drivers.  

This all said, one essential group that is often forgotten about are 911 dispatchers. They are not law enforcement, but definitely work in tandem with them and are very important to public safety. They are as important to police work as air traffic controllers are to flight. (Often, according to anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered from talking to a few I know personally, former police officers often become 911 dispatchers when retiring. This is a fine way for them to serve their community while retired.)

911 operators are- without a doubt- essential, but are not defined as first responders. While they are not asking to be categorized at the same level as police, they are usually defined nationwide as clerical workers, with a few locations in the United States defining them differently. There is a bill in Congress right now called the 911 Saves act that is working to take this nationwide, but it has made slow progress.

This needs to be remedied very soon, and the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect time to push for this nationwide. While not all essential workers may end up getting the recognition they need, law and law enforcement is one of the most important, if not THE most important pillar of modern society. It is only fair that their dispatchers be considered a very important part of their work, however indirect.

Recently, New York has written a bill into law to end cash bail.  (While bail reform efforts exist in multiple cities and states, New York’s reform is a de facto nationwide test case, as it includes New York City, by far the largest city and metro area in the nation.  If cash bail is eliminated in further cities and states, New York’s success will likely be pointed to as a reason.) Read more here.

American Police Officers Alliance