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Spotlight: Communications Division
(March 21, 2004)

SPOTLIGHT: COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION

"9-1-1, What is your Emergency?"

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office Communications Division operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. During every holiday, severe weather event, and all night long, dispatchers field telephone and radio calls for help. On a normal day, there two and sometimes three dispatchers fielding calls from the estimated 121,604+ residents of Johnson County, not to mention non-residents who are passing through the area and use cellular phones to report an incident. Therefore, to say that it can be a stressful and busy job sometimes can be an understatement.

Located in a secure shelter in the Emergency Operations Center is the 9-1-1 Communication Center. As part of the Project Hoosier Safe-T Motorola Digital 800 MHz system, the Sheriff's dispatch handles all communication needs for the following agencies: Johnson County Sheriff's Office, Whiteland Police, Bargersville Police, Johnson County Community Corrections, Trafalgar Police, Princes Lakes Police, White River Fire Department, Whiteland Fire Department, Needham Fire Department, Trafalgar Fire Department, Amity Fire Department, and the Nineveh Fire Department.

In the beginning of law enforcement communications in Johnson County, the Sheriff and his deputies' were summonsed by a large red globe that was placed on Jefferson Street just east of East Court Street in Downtown Franklin. When the globe was lit, townspeople would look for the Sheriff or a Deputy to report that someone needed their help. Often, they did not need to look far - as the Artcraft Theater had reserved seating for the Sheriff so he could be located quickly. The first two-way radios were placed in Johnson County squad cars by Sheriff Howard "Bob" Maxwell around 1950. Just a little more than a decade ago, the Sheriff's dispatcher sat at a small desk adjacent to the Jail book-in room. The dispatcher spent as much time helping the jailer deal with inmates as he or she spent answering the radio. Now, the dispatchers wonder if they will have time to take a lunch break.

In 2003, the Dispatch Center handled 30,225 calls. With generally two dispatchers taking this volume of calls, it is often quite busy in the 9-1-1 Center. Full-time Sheriff's dispatcher's earn a base salary of $23,617 per year with additional stipends of $1,200 for those who work a night shift, and $1,600 for those who work the afternoon shift. Part-time dispatchers earn $7.50 per hour while being trained and then $9.50 per hour after training has concluded. Applications for the position of Sheriff's Dispatcher can be obtained online or in person from the Sheriff's Office; Applications are always accepted regardless of position availability and are kept on file for about one year. Most skills can be learned during training, however, interested applicants should be geographically familiar with Johnson County. A good dispatcher should have a calming personality and be able to manage someone in a panic state in order to focus them and obtain information from them. Prior dispatching experience is very helpful. For further information about the position of Sheriff's Dispatcher, contact Communications Supervisor Malinda O'Rourke by email at morourke@co.johnson.in.us or by telephone at 317-736-2260.

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