Julie Shannon remembers the chilling 9-1-1 call like it was yesterday. “I just murdered someone,” the voice at the other end of the phone said. Shannon, a veteran 9-1-1 dispatcher with the Murrieta Police Department, remained calm and listened to the man as she gathered information for officers sent to the scene. “I tried to assure him that he was in a safe place,” she recalls, “but my main focus was officer safety.”
For her professionalism and compassion, Shannon is one of two dispatchers with the Murrieta Police Department to be honored by the California Public-Safety Radio Association, a group that represents 400 police, fire and other public safety dispatchers in Southern California.
Shannon won an award for Outstanding Performance by an Individual and co-worker Mattie Soria received honorable mention as Dispatcher of the Year. They were selected from nominees in five categories.
Shannon and Soria were the only dispatchers in Riverside County to be honored by the professional group this year.
“It’s a goal I wanted our department to achieve,” said Cris Martinez, support services supervisor for the Murrieta Police Department. “More gratifying was the fact that we won not just one award, but two.”
Martinez, who joined Murrieta police nearly two years ago as supervisor, said both women are great dispatchers.
“They expect the unexpected and react to it,” said Martinez, who oversees 19 employees in the 9-1-1 call center.
They also display common sense, remain calm in stressful situations, perform well in life-and-death scenarios and are able to do a variety of tasks at the same time.
The two will receive their awards at the annual California Public-Safety Radio Association banquet on April 14 in Buena Park.
Although the workload is “very unpredictable,” Soria said the biggest reward of her job is “being able to help people in emergency situations.”
Soria, 30, a resident of Murrieta, joined the department nearly four years ago. Last year she was named the department’s civilian employee of the year.
Even after 18 years as a dispatcher, Shannon still likes her job.
“There’s never a dull moment,” said the 42-year-old Temecula resident. Despite the shift work and working in a room full of overachievers, Shannon says she is lucky to be working where she does.
“This is the best dispatch center ever!” she said.
CPRA is the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials – International. APCO is an international, not-for-profit professional organization comprised of 15,000 members in 46 chapters and five regions around the world, all dedicated to the enhancement of public-safety communications.
CPRA serves the people who manage, operate, maintain and supply the communications systems used to safeguard the lives and property of citizens everywhere. Among the CPRA ranks there are over 500 professionals representing the police, fire, EMS, forestry, highway and conservation services.