Thursday, January 10, 2013

HB 175

Franke Wilmer
Include dispatchers in the sheriffs' retirement system


  1. 9-1-1 Dispatchers have one of the hardest, most challenging and fulfilling jobs that any first responder can have. Like Firefighters, Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical workers, their days can run from the most routine to the most devastating and back several times in an 8, 10 or 12 hour shift. Every time a phone line rings or a unit calls out on the radio, you can never be sure what it will bring. I can guarantee you that for most of your constituents they never want to hear the phrase “9-1-1 what is your emergency” because when they have to make that call it is usually because they are having what will end up being one of the worst days of their life.

    The 9-1-1 system in the State of Montana did not happen by accident. 14 years ago only the largest areas in Montana had 9-1-1 Service and had highly trained Public Safety Communications Officers but the legislature of the time realized that this vital service and the work done by these public servants needed to be available to every area of Montana.

    The Montana Legislature then took the steps to make that happen, the legislature amended the Montana Code Annotated in section 7-31-203 to create a requirement that Public Safety Communication Officers attend the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, created a certification process and gave the Montana Public Safety officers Standards and Training Council the requirement to oversee and set additional rules like the need for on-going training and professional development.

    The Montana Legislature created through the Montana Code Annotated 10-4-102 a mechanism to assist local government in obtaining the equipment and training needed to insure that all citizens in the State of Montana would have access to 9-1-1. The legislature also created a mechanism to help fund the growing needs of 9-1-1 centers to staff and training the Public Safety Communications Officers that would be needed to answer the call from citizens and responders. In addition, the legislation created the 9-1-1 Advisory Council to help keep the State of Montana aware of emerging technology and the needs of 9-1-1 Service in the State of Montana.

  2. In all of these steps and so many more, the legislature rose to the challenge and said that when a responder or a citizen is having their worst day, the voice on the other end of the line needed to be someone trained, someone skilled, someone who cared. You recognized that these fine folks truly were the first responder on every scene, they were the responder there with the officer when shots were being fired at them, they were there for the auto accident gathering and providing information that would help save the life and you recognized that they were also the voice that would comfort the mother, father, brother, sister who just found their loved one who had passed away. Every dispatcher could tell you a hundred stories that could illustrate how much of a first responder they are. I have been an EMT since the early 1990’s and I have been a dispatcher since the late 1990’s but the calls that are still with me, that I can pull up the emotion and feelings I felt at the time of the call are few and far between because most of them were routine but one of the ones I will never forget was being on the phone when a mother came home to her son who had passed away. He was barely 20 years old and I can still hear her wail and the sobs she cried as we tried to save her son.

    When the legislature created 20 year retirement for Law Enforcement Officers, Detention Officers, Firefighters and others, it was in part to recognize that the work they did went beyond the everyday experience, that some of what they saw and did would be with them forever, you recognized that these first responders should be treated differently than workers in other parts of government, I would ask you to listen to all these supporters, look to your own legislative history and recognize that being a Public Safety Communications Officer is different and as such belongs to be in a retirement system that recognizes the differences and challenges that the profession of Public Safety Communications Officer brings.


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