When there is a safety concern or a crime takes place on or around the transit system, the operators in the Transit Police Operations Communications Centre (OCC) receive those reports. Kristin Ory, one of these operators, received one such call regarding a person having a mental health crisis on the system, with the potential of self-harm.
Kristin dispatched a number of Transit Police officers and worked with policing partners who together negotiated with the person in crisis, successfully got them to safety and into the care they needed.
“The call took around six hours… It was an emotionally draining event but an example of how the teamwork of the call takers and police officers came together to ensure a successful outcome,” she said.
“I think one of the most interesting parts of our job in the OCC [often called “dispatch” by the public] is that each of us wears so many different hats while on duty. When you text or call in, depending on the nature of your report, the call taker will be asking you questions that all hold the goal of ensuring safety first.
“That same call taker may be calling for EHS or Fire, may be calling SkyTrain Control to hold trains, answering police officers as they come over the radio needing information on a file they are responding to, and listening to SkyTrain Attendant radios to get updates.
“The dispatcher is listening to all the work their team is doing and to neighbouring police agencies so that the officers responding to a call have the needed information to ensure public safety and the support and resources they need to do their job safely.
“We balance all this work by prioritizing the calls as they come in. It is a busy hub that keeps us on our toes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Kristin.
With the Transit Police OCC staffed 24/7, operators work ten-and-a-half-hour shifts and rotate from answering phones and texts, to dispatching officers, to calls for service. They also track all of the on-duty police officers’ locations at all times to make sure they are safe and the operators know who’s available to respond when there’s an incident. They also look up information in several different databases to help officers do their jobs. For example, they can let officers know if the person in their custody has any warrants. And they help coordinate responses to incidents with TransLink and external agencies.
“The best part of my role is that I get to talk to people. I love people, and being the voice they hear, who can help ease their worries when they are unsure of a situation involving a crime. I have learned how to be that “voice in the dark” for when others need help, and how to strategize as a dispatcher to ensure the safety of the members on the road and the public,” says Kristin. “It’s a gift to be in the seat we are in, one we earn through our training and hard work.”
It’s Emergency Services Dispatchers and 9–1-1 Awareness Week from April 9 to 15. If you find yourself contacting Transit Police, be sure to let the dispatcher who answers your call or text know how much you appreciate what they do to keep transit running.
Anyone who feels unsafe on transit, is worried about the safety of someone else, or sees anything suspicious can contact the OCC directly by phone at 604.515.8300 or by texting 87.77.77. Always call 911 in an emergency.