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Boreal Community Media

A Boreal Exclusive - A day in the life of a Cook County Dispatcher/Jailer with Heather Wicklander

Jul 18, 2021 10:56PM ● By Editor
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Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - July 19, 2021

How did you get interested in this job?  

Well, I’ve been part of the public safety family for a while and when I saw the ad for a dispatcher/jailer at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office I had to jump on the opportunity. When full-time-livable wage jobs are difficult to come by here in Cook County, I definitely didn’t want to pass it up.  

What type of training or qualifications are needed to get hired for this job?

A high school diploma and knowledge of the local area.  Once hired there is extensive training.  There are many computer systems and programs that we work on in our daily routine, along with using a radio, answering calls, maintaining officer safety, and making sure of the wellbeing of our inmates that are in custody.

Describe a typical work day for you?  How long are your shifts?  Do you rotate shifts (days/nights)?

This is a difficult question because like all things here in Cook County the “seasons” fill our days differently.  A typical work day consists of answering phones non-emergency and 911, dispatching calls to deputies, handling any radio traffic that comes in or request via radio, checking on the well being of any in custodies, helping the public at our walk up window, and multi-tasking all other things that come in through the day.  

Our shifts vary from 8 to 12 hours with rotating from days to nights every 7 weeks.

How many members of your team?  

We currently have 7 members

What are some of the most unusual calls you have taken? 

There have been a few of these; however, one of my favorites is when we had a call on a stumbling deer out in the woods.  Come to find out the deer was eating Mountain Ash Berries and was a little tipsy.

How do you wind down after really stressful or traumatic calls?  Is it hard to leave work at work once you get home?

When we get those stressful or traumatic calls the best way that I’ve found to wind down is to talk it out with my co-workers that were involved.  We have a debriefing of such, which is a wonderful stress reliever. Also, there are two of us here at the Sheriff’s office that have recently gone through training on being a peer counselor and reaching out to one of us is another way to decompress too.  Some days it is hard to leave work at work; however, the best strategy that I’ve found is to just sit quietly for bit in the driveway, so when I walk through that door to home I’m present there and not still at work.

Who do you think are the unsung heroes in the Cook County response to emergencies?

There are, in my opinion, no unsung heroes here in Cook County.  The county residents and emergency response agencies do a great job at recognizing all of us from dispatch, deputies, EMRs, and so on.  We all are essential links in the chain of emergency services.

What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in law enforcement dispatch?

Every day is different here but once you have the basics down and know your resources this is a job that is very rewarding. Also, it’s not a job that is cut out for everyone; however, if you have a quick mind, can multi-task, and like a little controlled chaos this is the job for you.


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