Tammie Sykes knows dispatching.
For just under 20 years, Sykes has either dispatched or taught dispatching in Gadsden County.
She got her start at the Quincy Police Department as a mother of a young child.
Sykes says she was looking for full-time employment that fit her scheduled needs as a parent, and someone informed her that the local police department was hiring dispatchers.
“Someone told me that Quincy had an opening, and I thought, “What the hell?” and I guess I just lucked out,” said Sykes.
Dispatching fit her schedule, and Sykes dispatched for the City of Quincy’s police department for 10 years before leaving briefly to teach a class at the law enforcement academy in Gadsden County.
While the dispatching class she taught never really got off the ground in the way the organizers had hoped, Sykes says her year-and-a-half of time spent there was something she’s proud of.
The class she instructed was filled with teenage students who were dual-enrolled at a local college and high school.
Sykes says her class taught future dispatchers about the rules and regulations in the career and gave the students confidence in asking questions and getting information.
Her class, full of girls, had a graduation rate of over 90 percent, and the majority of the students graduated directly into dispatching jobs at local agencies.
After teaching, Sykes began dispatching at the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, where she remained for three years before returning to her roots at the Quincy Police Department.
Now, back at the police department, Sykes says she’s been able to witness the changes that have taken place over time in the community and agency, such as changes in officer retention and crime rates.
Sykes’ several years of dispatching, and her varied experience with other agencies, has given her a unique perspective into what the average day of a dispatcher looks like.
Sykes says there have been difficult moments through her years as a dispatcher, such as helping an out-of-town man who lost his mother on Mother’s Day while driving through the area.
As part of her job as a dispatcher, and in going above-and-beyond with service, Sykes provided moral support to the grieving son, while also directing emergency services to him.
Later, Sykes says she helped him get in touch with a funeral home.
“That being Mother’s Day, I bawled my eyes out with him,” said Sykes. “That was probably one of the worst days.”
But there have been just as many good days and fresh starts.
During her time at the sheriff’s office dispatch center, Sykes says she and her team helped deliver three babies.
“When I worked at the sheriff’s office, we had three babies be born before even EMS could get there. We’re on the phone, trying to help the mom just breath, and she tells us “I’m going to push!” and we tell her, “No! Don’t push!” We’ve delivered three babies over the telephone!” says Sykes.
Those, she says, are the better days.
To those who are considering a career in dispatching, Sykes says to give it a try and give yourself time to adjust.
“Give yourself at least six months. If at the end of the six months you aren’t running out the door screaming, then you’ll be good at the job.”
“It’s so stressful and so busy. You’ve got to be able to multi-task because there are multiple lines, and three different officers on the radio, and you’ve got to keep them all in order. You have to know who needs what information, who needs what done,” adds Sykes. “If you can’t multitask, you can’t dispatch.”
At the end of the day, Sykes says her priority is making sure her Quincy officers get to go home safely to their waiting families.
Ashley Hunter – Editor@prioritynews