Police dispatcher reveals impact of ‘horrific’ calls she has dealt with – Devon Live

A police call hander is bravely and honestly speaking out about the personal impact on her of 'horrific' incidents she deals with such as a pregnant woman losing a baby after being assaulted, and a mum reporting the sexual abuse of her child.

Despite not being frontline staff, Lisa Burnett - a resource deployment officer (RDO) - has been revealing in a blog how hard it can also be for those who are the the first point of contact when people ring in with an emergency.

Recently she revealed how an incident where a woman was assaulted by a man and then lost her baby was the most 'horrific' she has dealt with during her eight years of policing.

The 30 year old, of Exeter, said: "At first I was incredibly angry with the suspect involved, then as the shift came to an end, I found myself upset for the victim and her family. I didnt deal with the job, but I was asked to make the critical incident manager (CIM) aware of an arrest that had been made.

"I can't go into too much detail as theres a lot of investigation work going on around it, but I read the log because I was stupidly curious as I like to know what is going on in my area so to speak.

"As I read each line my heart sank and I felt like I should of been there, and should have done something. I know Im not a police officer, but I felt an instant connection to the victim, and not anything Ive really felt before as I've never been a victim of a horrendous crime."

She continued: "When I went home, I went to bed and cried. I was trying to explain to my husband about the job and the emotions I was feeling, and then started to feel silly that I felt so sad for the female.

"I felt like I wanted to write a card to her and send her flowers, but I know I can't. I wanted to reach out and support her, but my job stopped me from doing that. I had to remain in the control room as a dispatcher and not get involved.

"I never get too involved in any job that I see, hear and read. Im quite good at separating work from home and not thinking too much about things.

"But on my days off I kept thinking about that poor woman and I did cry a few times over my days off. It was the only way I knew how to cope. I tweeted that I couldnt believe what I had just dealt with and I received so much support, even though I couldnt say what had happened.

"It was nice to know I had people out there, some even strangers, who cared about the job I did and who I was. On the other side of the coin, there were a handful of internet trolls.

"Some of them said that they disagreed with me, and that dispatching officers hearing calls and reading logs wouldnt affect me in the same way as someone on scene or being involved.

"To a small degree they are right, but that doesnt stop someone in my role developing mental health issues because of the job we do. I know several call handlers and RDOs who have either gone off sick or left because of the nature of the calls they have dealt with.

"When you work in the control room, you cannot see the incident unfolding, you can only hear it. Thats when your mind starts conjuring up a scenario of what the people look like and what is happening."

Lisa joined Devon and Cornwall police in 2012 as a call handler and specialised in taking crime complaints from members of the public and police officers. After four years she became an RDO.

Last year, Lisa spoke to Devon Live her mental health struggles after having IVF treatment and then suffering a miscarriage, all things which she had tweeted about.

She was signed off from her job after feeling she had been hit by a train when the enormity of what she had gone through struck her two months later.

She is now back at work, and still going through IVF, and says there are many calls at work which continue to impact on her.

Recently she says she had a call from a distressed mother who was having a panic attack while trying to tell her what her emergency was.

Lisa recalled: "I helped her with her breathing and just said when she was ready, to tell me what her emergency was. As she went to tell me, she started screaming in a distressed state while crying and trying to breathe and said, 'my seven-year-old year old daughter has been sexually assaulted'.

She continued: "As I kept my cool, and at this point I was fine, I took very brief details from the mother as I didnt want to make her more distressed then she already was. Throughout the call when I was taking details she begged her daughter to cuddle her but her daughter, who I could hear crying in the background, didnt want to cuddle her mum.

"It was a very brief call, but enough to make me think. I ended the call with as much information as i could gain and sent it to the RDO. I took a deep breath and I couldnt stop thinking about the screams in my head.

"I paused and just as I was about to take another call I felt tears streaming down my face. I didnt quite understand why at first. No one noticed around me as I kept it quiet. I then went to the quiet room and cried.

"I knew I had been triggered again and I felt so emotionally attached to the job I just dealt with. I wanted to do more, but I couldnt. If I phoned the mother back again, it would only make her more upset. I had to let officers deal with it.

"These are the type of calls we deal with on a daily basis that arent really shared in the public domain. These are the only two calls in my eight years of policing that have had a huge emotional impact on me."

Lisa added: "I still think about that female who lost her baby, I still hear those screams in my head. I do think about those people who I have tried to help and lost to suicide. I wish I couldve done more and I do try, everyday.

"Every shift I come into, I wonder what calls I would be dealing with and if there ever will be one that makes me think twice about the job I do. I do my best. I keep my cool, and I try to meet everyones expectations.

"I put everyones needs before my own. I help my section out, and I try to give officers breaks when I can and at times sacrifice my own to deal with jobs.

"Now, after reading what I have dealt with in the past month, would you say I was frontline?"

Lisa says she began writing a blog about her experiences a couple of years ago, and has now started one on Facebook to raise more awareness about different roles in the police force.

She said: "The best therapy for me is to listen to music and write down things at the same time. As far as I'm aware I don't know anyone police staff wise who does any blogging.

"When things build up I will put it in a blog and it makes me feel much better. It's also about showing people there is a human being behind that uniform."

The rest is here:
Police dispatcher reveals impact of 'horrific' calls she has dealt with - Devon Live

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