Above, Los Angeles School Police Chief Steve Zipperman applauds the work of the department’s 18 dispatchers, including Celest Escrebre, seated, and Nadia Sotelo.
They cover 1,300 school sites and properties 24 hours a day, year in and year out – the critical link between callers seeking help from Los Angeles School Police and officers responding to both routine and emergency situations.
The 18 civilian dispatchers manning the department’s Communications Center answer some 135,000 calls for service each year, making them an essential part of the nation’s largest independent school police department. This week, designated as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, dispatchers received an outpouring of thanks and support from those they support and serve.
“Our dispatchers are committed and dedicated to our students and our District,” said Sgt. Nestor Gonzalez, taking a break Friday from his duties as watch commander. “Day in and day out, they answer calls for service – whether it’s a water sprinkler going off at 2 a.m., a crime in progress or a school lockdown. They are our first line of defense.”
Dispatchers are responsible for obtaining details from the caller so they can prioritize a response and assign the appropriate resources. The faster this information is obtained, the more quickly officers can respond, Martinez said. And the dispatchers also have to be familiar with the schools and communities throughout the District’s 710 square miles.
Gonzalez says the dispatch unit has earned a stellar reputation among law enforcement officers. During this week of recognition, officers and community members have stopped by the Communications Center, dropping off pizza and other treats in a show of appreciation for those who have their back.
“The recognition is well deserved,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of responsibility and decision-making has to happen in a split second.”
Just as police are known as the “Thin Blue Line,” dispatchers are considered the “Thin Gold Line” between the public and the emergency responders they serve.
Gonzalez has a different take on the symbolism.
“When an officer is in the field and calls for backup, they’re the golden voice in the middle of the night,” he said.
School Police Chief Steve Zipperman said the dispatchers are a “critical link and life line” for the department’s 410 sworn officers and 101 school safety officers.
“Our dispatchers play an important role, as they are often the first point of contact with the community we serve,” Zipperman said. “For their continuous professionalism and dedicated service, they are deserving of our recognition this week and our appreciation each and every day.”