It's National Public Safety Telecom Week. Manitoba RCMP media relations officer Sergeant Paul Manaigre says those involved in this part of police enforcement are an extremely valuable resource for frontline members, and he knows firsthand.

Manaigre notes he spent 21 years in frontline police work as an officer in a police car, adding these people are almost like a partner who don't sit with you in a police car as the front line officers do, but they're people how give you that information that you need when you're making a traffic stop, when going on a call, or if you need information.

"Basically, they're a lifeline for frontline officers," explains Manaigre. "A lot of time, we do work one officer per call per car. That communication is just with the one person who checks up on you, gives you directions to a call if need be, or if you're looking for a background check on someone that you're about to deal with, it's vitally important. We recognize them the whole 365 days a year, but right now, you see how we're going to pay attention this week for a little extra special incentive to just let them know that we do value what they do for us."

He notes that's the person whom officers call for backup, who may have to get the resources to officers if they need one of the police dogs to come out, for example. 

"They're the ones who make those calls to tow trucks, too. Sometimes, we might be in an area where there's no cell coverage. They're just that extra police partner helping us on calls every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They're kind of hidden-away people. They're not out there and meeting the people. They're in their dispatch centre. They're basically behind their mics, and for us, we speak with them. The public doesn't get to see them. The public does make those calls to them and that's who takes the information. The files get created and that information then gets dispatched to the officers."

Manaigre adds special training is provided to this part of the force for very good reason.

"Any 911 calls will go to an office in Brandon and then if they need police, they'll find out where. And then if it's for an RCMP jurisdiction, they'll take the call, find out where it's going, take that information, and then the call-taker provides the file that they put together to the appropriate dispatcher for the region that it's going to."

He notes a full complement at one time was in the low 50s for the number of dispatchers. This means that at any given shift, especially on the weekends and the summer months, you're going to have probably close to a dozen dispatchers on duty because of the call volumes.

"It can be crazy in there. We have a position now as officers where we have to provide a supervisory service in our dispatch centres for the members that are working. So, for example, in some of the smaller detachments, if something happens at night, if they don't have a supervisor on duty, they'll get hold of the dispatch centre. We'll have an officer in that role as that supervisor. You get to sit with them for their shifts. We each take turns. We will do almost a week of worth of shifts. You get to be a part of that world for the weekend so you you get to see the quiet times and then the crazy times."

He notes if something serious pops up, they have to provide their experiences as supervisors, especially for the officers and those how to proceed with the events unfolding before them. 


"That's where you get the first-hand look of the knowledge they need to do their job. They've got, at times, three to four computer screens in front of them with all these programs running. They're typing away, and it's a lot of skills required to keep them moving. The shifts can be long and if it's busy, it's going to be tiring. That's the world of policing. You have your good times and then you have this -- just wow -- things just don't stop. They'll deal with people that are in medical crisis. They're trying to help someone who's waiting for an ambulance, but it's come to us. So, our call-takers will stay on the phone with them."

"I know of instances where they're talking to children and one of the parents is perhaps hurt, and they're trying to reassure them that help's on their way. Those get a little more difficult to hear when you're sitting in that chair watching them do their job because your hands are tied. You're on the phone with them, so the only way you can help them is with your voice. For those that are accepted into the OCC program here, there is quite an extensive training period because there's a lot of computer knowledge of the programs, and how everything works together. I don't know how many weeks it is, but it is quite extensive."