Few jobs in life are as difficult and stressful as being a law enforcement dispatcher.
Dispatchers have life and death responsibilities as they receive emergency 911 and non-emergency requests for police assistance, determine the nature of and the urgency of calls, initiate police or other emergency personnel action and maintain close contact with field units to monitor response and needed support requirements.
Chris Jones, 46, of Dizney, has held the position of dispatcher for the Harlan City Police Department for the past 24 years.
During this time he has handled dispatching services for all city police departments in the county, along with the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office. The position requires a considerable degree of initiative and independent judgment, within procedural boundaries, in responding to emotional, disturbed and sometimes abusive people in a variety of situations.
Jones recalled one incident, while working the third shift when the office was on Clover Street, when a woman ran into the office saying her husband was trying to kill her with a screwdriver.
“By the time she got to the window, sure enough her husband came in right behind her with a big screwdriver,” said Jones. “I got her separated in a room and him in another one — then I called for some help. I talked pretty stiff to him and got him settled down before my help came. It was a pretty trying incident.”
Jones said he “really enjoys his job,” noting he has met some “wonderful” people throughout the years through his position.
“I’ve worked under five police chiefs and two mayors,” said Jones. “Of all the council members who have come and gone throughout the years, Charlie Stephenson has been the only one still remaining on the council. I sometimes think about Vernon Ackley and Mrs. (Roberta) Donahue, who were on the city council — fine people who are now gone on. “
Jones said, “I’ve always enjoyed the people in the city. You get to know individuals through this job, especially elderly residents who will call just to be reassured you are here to help them if they need it. Not every call you get is a police lights and siren call, sometimes it’s an elderly person who hears a dog barking or strange sound and they want to keep you on the line to make sure everything is alright.”
Cumberland Police Sgt. Silas Whitehead said Jones “is the life line of police departments throughout the county.”
“If I’m working by myself, then Chris is my partner,” said Whitehead. “He’s the one that is looking out for me. If he doesn’t hear from me in a certain time he’s hollering at me and checking on me to make sure I’m okay. I’ve worked with Chris for many years, he’s a real life line.”
“You couldn’t search this county over and find a better man and dispatcher than the late and former Kentucky State Police Dispatcher Bill Blanton,” said Jones. “He helped me tremendously when I first began as a dispatcher for the city.”
Responsible for office work also, Jones said he maintains things such as police and accidents reports, does warrant searches and collects parking fee violations. He is a certified dispatcher, trained through the Department of Criminal Justice in Richmond.
He is also a certified emergency medical dispatch and a Kentucky Colonel.
Jones and his wife, Carla, have two children, Hannah and Ethan. They are actively involved at Locust Grove Baptist Church. He enjoys fishing, gardening and cooking.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org