The University of Dallas Police Department is one of the most important groups on UD’s campus. UDPD does everything from reprogramming student ID cards to helping students during emergency situations, all to keep the campus and its inhabitants safe.
Assisting in this effort are the police station’s student workers, who work as telecommunicators. Though they have different responsibilities in many areas of campus life, one of the most important is being able to dispatch police officers. However, only a properly licensed telecommunicator can dispatch police officers, and all police departments in Texas are required to have them per state law.
But becoming certified is no easy task. As both police Captain Edward Garth and Police Administration Manager Elaine Sanford explained, students who wish to work for the police department have to go through a rigorous training process to become an official telecommunicator at UD.
Since UDPD has an official status as a police department, they are required to have licensed telecommunicators present. “We learned that police departments have to have telecommunicators in order to dispatch a police officer. It’s a requirement by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement,” Garth said.
Interested students go to Sanford, who explains to them the details and requirements for the job. From there, they undergo a background check which Garth administers. Some requirements include having U.S citizenship, completing a psychological exam and being a resident of Texas, among others. Applicants then take an intensive 80 hour course over a two week period, including a test to pass the course.
After passing, prospective student workers have to take an official state licensing exam at a testing center that, once they pass, they can work as a telecommunicator. They must also take continuing education courses every two years to keep their license current.
Gabriel King is one of the telecommunicators at the UDPD. He said taking the course was both a challenging and rewarding experience. “It was difficult and it was a real eye opener. I have been interested in first responder work for quite a while and taking this course is a good way to see what first responders deal with,” King said.
Sanford noted that the police department pays for its workers to take the course. She also explained that the certification they receive is exactly the same as someone working for an emergency call center. “If that was something [students] were interested in doing, they could go from here to a 911 call center and start working,” Sanford said.
Though UD is an incredibly safe campus, Garth explained that telecommunicators are trained in crisis intervention and how to answer phone calls from people in distress. They are instructed to get as much information as possible to help the officers they are sending to the scene. “The more information you go in with, you kind of know what to expect,” Garth said. He also said some workers went to the Irving PD call center to observe people taking 911 calls as part of their training. “There is no substitute for experience.”
King said that his duties include manning the front desk, taking phone calls, programming IDs, and monitoring the Rave app on a computer. In the event an alarm goes off, the telecommunicators will locate where the alarm is on campus, and then contact the police officers. “There’s some days when it’s quiet and you get to study. There’s some days when the fire alarm goes off and then it gets really busy,” King said. Sanford added that there are two phone lines, one emergency and one non emergency, and only certified telecommunicators can answer the emergency lines.
Due to the licensing requirements, working at UDPD is a major commitment, both for the student and the university. “It’s an investment by the university to send someone to get this telecommunicator license,” Garth said. “ They have to pay for training and then for the license.” Sanford also explained that the training requirements reduced the number of students working at the police department. “Last year I had 10 student workers, and this year I have 2,” Sanford said.
It is also a demanding job mentally, and it requires quick responses if emergencies arise. “When you have fire alarms going off, someone who is not strong enough may get rattled and not get the information out that’s needed,” Sanford explained. Garth also added that telecommunicators for 911 centers are in short supply, with many of them having to work overtime because of the shortage. “It’s a very high–stress job,” Garth said.
Still, King is grateful for what UDPD does in helping its student workers. “I’m blessed and thankful that the department did that for us, because now it opens up more job opportunities,” King said.