by ROBIN MURRAY
9-1-1 Training Institute Programs Manager
Lieutenant Tischia Guthrie met me at the window of the Communications Center at the Warr Acres Police Department. She came out to the lobby, and ushered me through a secure door before we made our way back to the Communications Center. Mackenzie Amend was Tischia Guthrie’s partner in dispatch this day.
Tischia started dispatching for Warr Acres in December 2004. I asked her why she chose dispatch as a profession and she shared several reasons. The first reason was her husband was a police officer. She wanted to understand his job better, but she didn’t want to be a police officer. Working in dispatch was just what she was looking for.
Officer Involved Shooting
The second reason was that her husband had been involved in an Officer Involved Shooting. Tischia’s husband felt that his dispatcher is what kept him connected to make it through the shooting. The dispatcher was the one who got help out him and made sure he came home to his family. Tischia knew that obviously she couldn’t work in the same department as her husband, so she started looking at other police departments. She wanted to pay it forward somewhere else.
Tischia has been at Warr Acres for 14 years, now. When I asked her why she chose Warr Acres, she said “Because they were hiring.”
Tischia and I started talking about how much Oklahoma emergency dispatch has changed over the last 14 years. We talked about how the accuracy of 9-1-1 cell call locations has improved since she began in 2004. She said the amount of 9-1-1 calls has increased greatly since she started, and how it still amazes her how on a Wednesday or Thursday you are slammed with calls. She stated that the amount of 9-1-1 calls continue to increase each year.
There are several calls that Tischia has worked that she will always remember. One of them was when a woman was followed home from the grocery store, and then robbed and shot in the stomach. Tischia answered the woman’s 9-1-1 call. She said the woman was able to answer all her questions and able to give great suspect and vehicle descriptions. “We got her help and she fully recovered,” Tichia said. “I spoke with her later on and she had enrolled in self-defense classes.”
Another call that Tischia worked involved two women who went over to someone’s house and drug use was involved that night. In the morning a man at the house grabbed an axe and started chasing the women around the house. He hit one on the head, and he chopped the hand of the other almost completely off. The women were able to escape the home, made it to their car and called 9-1-1 on the way to the hospital. Tischia sent officers to locate the women, and officers to the home where the attack occurred. Officers at both scenes described the vast amounts of blood. The hospital staff was able to save both women. The suspect, who had fled the scene immediately after the attack, drove to Texas and turned himself in to the Texas authorities a few days later. The suspect was extradited back to Oklahoma to face charges.
Tischia also remembered a call that taught her never to assume anything about a caller. She received a call from a male subject who told her that his mom had passed out on the floor. The caller could not provide his address to Tischia so she could send help. Tischia said this confused her because the voice of the caller sounded like an adult male, not a child. Tischia asked the caller to look around the home and find a piece of mail. The caller found an envelope and was able to provide Tischia with the address. She sent help immediately. Officers who responded to the scene later told Tischia that the mom had a heart attack and the EMTs were able to provide medical help. They also told her that the caller was an autistic child.
Dispatch As A Profession
I asked Tischia if she had any advice for someone thinking of dispatch as a profession. “The job is tough, but very rewarding,” she said. “The good times outnumber the bad. Start working on multi-tasking now.
“And don’t look at dispatch as a foot-in-the-door to becoming a police officer. Dispatch is its own career. It takes a completely different person to be a dispatcher than it does to be an officer.”
Tischia can retire in 11 years. “Only 3 percent of people who start out as dispatchers will actually retire as dispatchers,” she said. “I will be part of that 3 percent.”