Troy Police officer recognized

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2001


Staff Writer

Sonny Howard is one of the first voices one hears when calling the Troy Police Department.

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Thursday night, Howard became the first person from the Troy Police Department to be recognized as part of the Troy Kiwanis Club’s project of honoring community helpers.

One of the TPD’s seven dispatchers, Howard has spent about 15 years helping police officers and citizens under a variety of circumstances.

After receiving the certificate, Howard thanked club members for recognizing him.

"It’s something we enjoy doing," James Joyner, president of the Troy Kiwanis Club, said of honoring community helpers and the service they give to citizens.

Joyner said he realizes being a dispatcher is "a big responsibility" even in what most people consider "a sleepy little town."

Howard’s name was submitted for the honor by Capt. Benny Jinright, who said being a dispatcher is "one of the hardest jobs" a person can have and Howard is one who handles difficult situations well.

Considering a total of 31,266 calls for service were handled by the TPD last year, Howard and his fellow dispatchers have much to do. Not only do they handle TPD calls, but having the county’s only National Crime Information Center system means Howard often has to run checks for the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, Brundidge Police Department, Troy State University Police Department and the Alabama State Troopers.

As a dispatcher, Howard never knows what he might encounter when answering the phone.

"There are just a lot of calls we deal with," Howard said.

In an average day, Howard responds to about 30 calls during his shift and has had as many as 47 calls in eight hours.

Sending officers to a residence or business is "just a drop in the bucket" of their duties, said Jinright, who oversees the Staff Services Division that includes communications.

Howard said there have been times when he had the ambulance service on the phone at one ear, listening to the caller with the other ear and talking to the officer responding via the radio.

"A lot of times, there’s not anyone in there, but you," he said of dispatch.

In addition to sending officers on complaint calls, such as thefts and domestic disputes, dispatchers also answer alarm system signals and, now, have the responsibility of the early warning sirens.

Howard also knows about how much technology has changed the face of law enforcement.

"I reckon you could say, now, we’re up with state-of-the-art communication," Howard said of the technology that surrounds him every work day.

With all his duties, Howard’s main concern is protecting and serving the officers and public.

"My primary concern would be the safety of the person concerned," Howard said.

Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said dispatchers "play a vital role in the public’s safety. Dispatch/communications is the lifeline of the police department."

Howard’s goal each time he has a call is to give officers as much information as possible so they know exactly what kind of situation they are entering. Doing that can keep everyone involved safer.

"I’ve actually heard gunshots on the phone," Howard said.

Like other dispatchers, Howard has listened to calls for help from upset individuals, including children, and had to sit and wait for someone else to take care of the problem.

"We’ve got some fine people. We’ve got some caring people," he said of his fellow dispatchers. "If you don’t care, you need to find another thing to do."

It is that concern for others, Jinright said, that makes Howard the ideal person for the Kiwanis Club honor.