Stephen McAlpin’s roommate had a life-changing suggestion for him: become a dispatcher.
The roommate was a police officer at KCPD, on the job one year at that time, but long enough to see McAlpin would be a natural at serving his city.
“The more I looked into it, the more I wanted to do it,” McAlpin recalled. “I always desired to do more with my life trying to help people.”
That was five years ago when McAlpin worked in retail and food services. As a dispatcher, he has since helped thousands of residents in need, crisis, and grief. When they’ve needed someone to listen, he’s been there.
“I think the rewarding side of dispatching matched my expectations,” McAlpin said. “The more difficult calls and the challenges that come with them, I was not expecting. So I learned to adapt, and I’m still learning to adapt to those kinds of things.”
Within the last year and a half, McAlpin has made it his mission to better protect himself and his co-workers.
He joined peer support groups and invested in Crisis Intervention Training. McAlpin also surveyed his peers to learn what resources they knew, hoping to increase this awareness. He then set up a resource library filled with books and pamphlets – focused on anxiety, financial stress, real-life issues – so that call takers and dispatchers could access help with ease.
Currently, McAlpin is developing a mentorship program in an attempt to increase retention in the Communications Unit. The program is going through the department approval process.
“I’ve made all these connections with different organizations in the area that work with mental health, mindfulness, and meditations,” McAlpin explained, “basically giving you all these resources and tools to help you cope and process through things.”
Dispatching is challenging, but it’s also gratifying. McAlpin feels accomplished serving in his role.
“For me, the good calls are the ones, by the time they get off the phone, I know I’ve helped them even if it’s as simple as explaining how to get an order of protection,” McAlpin shared. “I give them all the information they need so they can have the situation under control.”
McAlpin is now a trainer as well, teaching new employees how to give callers, Kansas City residents, the best service possible when they dial 911.
“I love this job,” McAlpin said. “I’m also trying to make things better.”