Beau Steelman is a junior at Jacksonville State University and works as a dispatcher with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. He is pursuing a degree in criminal justice and plans to become a pilot. Formerly an alto saxophone player in the Marching Southerners, Steelman is involved with JSU’s Student Government Association, the cheer program and was voted “Mr. Friendly.”
What led you to pursue a degree in criminal justice?
I plan to become an airline pilot, and to become a pilot, they want you to have a bachelor’s degree. I have always had a passion for law and law enforcement, and I decided that if for some reason I cannot become a pilot, I have that field to fall back on.
Why are you a dispatcher?
The further I got into my degree, I decided it was important to start working in my field. I decided to start as a dispatcher instead of a deputy because deputies never really know what situations they are going into.
What is something people don’t realize about the job of a dispatcher?
Dispatchers are the first people on scene. We are the first people to know what is going on and assess the situation. We are helping people. A lot of people do not realize what dispatchers hear and endure while we are at work. Calls I have taken have had an impact on my life; they have let me see what goes on in the world. I love helping people. The sheriff uses that hashtag #servantsheart, and that is something I believe I possess. I have a heart for helping people and making sure they are safe.
Take us through a typical work day for you.
I mainly work second shift, so most of the time I will come in at 2 p.m. Our shifts overlap, so I will be here with first shift for two hours. I will swap with them and get on a terminal and log on to our Digital Detective, which is our mobile CAD system. I log into our NCIC and start answering phone calls and putting in information. I find out whose call it is based on where the deputy is, and I dispatch them to the call. In between phone calls and radio traffic, we are also responsible for warrant entry, keeping of warrants and the clearing of warrants. We are also responsible for entering and clearing all stolen articles, protection from abuse orders and bonds in the jail. Between the hours of 2-10 p.m., I can be doing anything from answering radio calls and running driver’s licenses and tags to answering phone calls to entering a warrant or protection from abuse order or filing paperwork.
What is the most stressful call you have ever taken?
The double homicide in Piedmont. It happened on a quiet night near the end of my shift. While I am on the phone with this woman who does not know what is going on in the next room in her own house, I have deputies running lights and sirens going 120 miles an hour down the highway, so I am worried about their safety as well as the safety of the woman in the house.
I have not listened back to the call since I took it. I was still on the phone with her when she saw her husband and her grandson lying on the floor.
As soon as my relief came in, they took me off the terminal; I was in there by myself, so I had to call in all the investigators, all the day shift and administrators and explain to 20 different people what just happened, while I have Piedmont police and my deputies at a scene that still was not secured.
Tell us about a call that had a happier resolution.
A woman called us; she had gone out to her car after laying down her 1-year-old, and the door locked behind her. We were able to send somebody out there who could open her door for her. When you are able to help somebody, it is always a good call to me.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at email@example.com.