December 10, 2007

Campus dispatchers—always on the job

Valerie Kessler is one of eight campus police dispatchers. Valerie Kessler is one of eight campus police dispatchers.

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On Christmas day, a majority of the campus community will be anywhere except at the University. However, there are a few exceptions.

“Campus dispatchers are on campus seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” says Katerina Donato-Weinstein, a records/dispatch supervisor in Public Safety. “The dispatchers are the ‘ears’ for the campus police officers. We have to get important safety information for the officers so they can get an accurate assessment and respond appropriately to any given situation.”

Dispatcher duties also include monitoring alarms, answering emergency as well as non-emergency calls, monitoring police radio traffic and dispatch officers, and assisting visitors and the campus community at the front counter. On average, there are two dispatchers on staff during an eight-hour shift.

Campus police officer Tony Tabadisto reiterated the sense of teamwork between the dispatchers and the officers. “The dispatchers are extremely valuable to the police officers,” Tabadisto says. “When police officers do vehicle stops, the dispatchers check the database to see if the drivers have criminal records. If the dispatchers weren’t here, we’d be out there with no backup.”

Donato-Weinstein says the calls the dispatchers receive most often are people either getting locked out of their cars or out of their offices. “The officers can usually get car doors opened without having to call in a third party,” she says.

In addition to the police officers, the University employs campus safety officers to patrol the University. “They’re there just to check out situations. They don’t approach subjects. They can give us and the officers another perspective of the situation, since they’re on scene,” Donato-Weinstein says. About 80 percent of the campus safety officers are criminal justice majors at the University.

When asked what her most memorable moment was as a campus dispatcher, Donato-Weinstein recalls a nervous student walking to her car in the early evening. “She called our office because she felt uneasy walking to her car. One of the dispatchers, Loretta Cuevas, stayed on the phone with her until she reached her car safely.

“The student called back later to express her gratitude. It was a great call to receive, and I was very proud of Loretta for providing excellent customer service.”

At this time of year, the dispatchers also get calls from people with dead car batteries. “When daylight saving time ends, we get about 2-3 people calling a day with dead batteries because they forgot to turn their lights off,” Donato-Weinstein says. The dispatch office is equipped with a battery pack to jump-start cars.

For more information, contact Public Safety at 278-6851 or visit