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Dorothy Johnson

Communications Officer/Police Dispatcher
Virginia, USA

What is your job title and how long have you been doing this type of work?

My job title is Communications Officer II.  I'm not a police officer but I work for the police department.  I'm the first person you talk to before you get to speak or see a police officer most of the time.  I take 911 calls and dispatch the calls to police, fire and rescue personnel.  I've been a Communications Officer, also known as a dispatcher, for 15 years.

What is a typical work week like for you?

Everyday is different, there are some days where we are really busy taking call after call and there are some days when it's very slow.  Our busiest time of the year is spring and summer.  We have a large beach and when it starts getting warm people like to go out and things get started.

What do your husband and kids think of your job?  How does your profession and schedule blend with your husband's and vice-versa?  Do you bring your work home with you or leave it behind when you end your shift?

My husband is a police officer and understands my job well, my kids have grown up with this and are used to my schedule.  My schedule changes every 28 days.  It starts with midnight shift (11pm to 7am), then evening shift (3pm to 11pm) and then days (7am to 3pm).  We're allowed to switch our shifts with anyone, so I've gotten rid of all my mids [midnight] and evening shifts for the past three years now and have primarily been working day shift, so I can be home and do more with my kids and my husband because he works day shift Monday through Friday.  The one thing I do do is leave my job at work, I never bring it home.  There is too much stress at work to bring home and that's not good for me or my family.

What were your favorite subjects in school?  Which subjects helped you the most towards the work you do?

My favorite subject was reading.  In elementary school, I used to love acting as one of the characters in the book when we read aloud in class.  I also liked spelling bees and of course PE.  Where I work we do a lot of reading, and listening.

Did you always want to grow up to work in this field?  Did you ever want to be anything else?

When I was in high school I put in for this job that I have now.  I ended up changing my mind because of the shift work.  I had also wanted to be a teacher and teach handicap children.

Would you like your children to follow in your footsteps?  What advice do you have for people who want to enter your field?

I want my children to grow up and do the job they want to do.  If they want to follow my footsteps or their dad's that would be okay.  The advice I have for people that want to enter my field is to make sure this is want they want to do.  You have to work shift work, give up your weekends and work holidays.  You can't always get Thanksgiving or Christmas off to spend with your family.  You can't always go and watch your child's soccer, baseball game or watch their school play.  The type of person that would be good for this job is one that knows a little about computers, can type, knows the geography of the city you live and want to work in, has patience, is a good listener and talker and likes to work shift work.

What do you like most about your job?  What do you like least?

The thing I like most about my job is helping people.  I don't like it when people call for help and then turn around and don't want the advice or help you are trying to give them, then they yell and scream at you.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like to spend time with my family.  We like to go to the beach, I love to watch my boys who are 15 and 16 years old go surfing.  We like to go Nags Head, NC and go 4-wheelin' on the beach with our truck.  We all like to ride our bikes together.  I love to watch my kids play in their sports and travel with them to marching band competitions or soccer games.  I also like to spend time alone and read a good book.

What is the hardest thing about being married to a police officer?

The hardest thing about being married to a police officer is I don't know if he's coming home or not at the end of his shift. I worry about this when I'm working and when home with my boys.  The worse thing is having police officers knocking on my door telling me that my husband, father of our boys is dead, that a bad person took my boys' dad away and they and I would never see him ever again.

Do you have any thoughts to share with children and people around the world?

I would want everyone to be kind and polite to one another.  Take care and love the people around you, take care of the things you have.

Do you have a hero or special quote that inspires you?

My hero will always be my parents.  They have taught me so much through the years and are still teaching me things.  They have been there for me when others haven't.

Do you speak other languages?  Have you ever traveled to other countries?  What type of places have you lived?

I speak no other languages.  I have traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when I was a teenager to visit a friend.  Her father was in the Navy and stationed there and my parents let me go for Christmas one year when I was 16 years old.  My dad was in the Navy when I was growing up so we moved around a lot.  I've lived in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and our last move was here to Virginia. I love living in Virginia Beach. I just love the beach.

What things influenced who you are and how does that help you with your job?

My family, children and close friends have helped me become who I am today. I've learned from everyone around me.  You pick and choose who you want to be like, you drop the bad and take the good and decide from there.  I talk to so many people during the day when I'm working, I hear a lot of things and have to give so much advice.  I take what I have learned from other people and share the advice I need to give or just what these people want to hear.  All this I think has influenced me and has helped me in my job.

- 1 February 2002


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Last Updated:
25 March 2002

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