They are a patrolman’s lifeline and the first person you meet when you call the Midlothian Police Department.
They have also been recognized as some of the best in Texas.
The Texas chapter of the National Emergency Number Association, a professional organization that fosters the development, availability and the implementation of the universal emergency telephone number, 9-1-1, has selected the Midlothian Police Department’s team of telecommunicators to receive the Texas NENA Team Award.
Selection for this top honor was based, in part, on the team’s remarkable response to a crisis that occurred on Aug. 20, when three Midlothian Police officers and a state trooper were all shot and incapacitated while responding to a call Sunday afternoon.
Officers were dispatched to a call of “shots fired” at a local apartment complex by Midlothian telecommunicators on, what at the time, seemed to be a routine call. In a matter of minutes the entire shift of the Midlothian Police Department had been shot while standing at the door and a DPS trooper was shot while attempting to give aid.
It was Midlothian dispatchers who responded by calling in more officers to contain the gunman and get aid to the downed officers. A five-hour standoff would then ensue.
“Although the tragedy was unfolding on the streets, there was a tremendous behind the scenes challenge being faced by our telecommunicators,” said Laura Wright, Communications and Records Supervisor for the department.
According to Wright, the locations and status of the officers had to be determined along with their injuries; emergency medical response had to be coordinated to ensure everyone’s safety; instructions and guidance had to provided to the multitude of police agencies that were responding to assist us; overloaded phone lines had to be handled along with all the walk-in traffic to the police station; plus we had to maintain our regular duties of handling the regular calls for service that were still occurring during the incident.
“We were definitely challenged and could not have pulled it off without the initiative, coordination and cooperation of every single team member,” said Wright. “They all responded, 100 percent of them.”
Christine Thompson, the only operator on duty at the time, was soon assisted by the other team members Amy Calder, Diane Barber, Christine Doporto, Cathy Stevens, Vicki Layne and Stephanie Medina.
“All brought their own special skills and talents to the situation,” said Wright. “As individuals they are intelligent, witty, conscientious and reliable, but you put them all together in a police department setting and that makes for a remarkable communications center.”
The team will be recognized officially at the annual Texas NENA conference to be held in San Antonio on Aug. 27-29.