Gayle earns honors as dispatcher

Published 9:32 pm Monday, March 28, 2011

Rachel Gayle has been honored as Dispatcher of the Year by the Suffolk Police Department. She started dispatching at age 19.

Rachel Gayle always wanted to be a police officer. But when she set foot in Suffolk’s 911 Communications Center with the police department’s Explorer program at age 16, she knew that was where she belonged.

“I just liked being in the communications center,” Gayle said. “I just decided that was the place for me to be.”

About 17 years later, Gayle has been honored as the Dispatcher of the Year. She received the award at a police department awards banquet last week.

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Gayle was nominated for her work as an acting supervisor, the administrator for the Reverse 911 system, her dedication to teaching new dispatchers how to do the job effectively and her overall work in the call center.

“It is not for one call in particular, but for her overall work and dedication to the Emergency Communications Center,” wrote Sgt. Sandy Springle in her nomination letter for Gayle. “Gayle is constantly recognizing her fellow employees for the job they do, but never includes herself when she is also involved in the incident.”

Gayle started working as a Suffolk dispatcher at the age of 19. She had always wanted to be involved in police work.

“I just always had an interest in it,” Gayle said. “I was just very interested in how everything works.”

After discovering the intricacies of the Suffolk communications center during the Explorer Post program, she applied for the job before she even turned 20.

“I was sitting there going, ‘What did I get myself into?’” she said of her first day. “But once you learn it, you don’t have to think about it.”

Since that first day, Gayle has answered thousands of calls from people needing the services of the police department or the fire and rescue department. One that sticks out recently, though, is when she had a hand in bringing a new life into the world.

In January, Gayle was on duty when the call came in that a woman was having an unexpected at-home birth. Gayle gave instructions to the mom-to-be’s grandmother, who relayed them to her daughter, who in turn was assisting her daughter in another room.

“It was amazing,” Gayle said at the time. “I was a little choked up. It’s not something you do every day.”

Never knowing what kind of calls will come in that day is a little stressful, but also keeps the job exciting, Gayle said.

“It’s one of those jobs that’s never boring,” she said. “You never know when you come in to work what you’re going to be dealing with.”

Gayle said knowing that she is helping to save lives and property when she goes to work is the most rewarding part of the job.

“When you get those kind of calls, it does make you feel good,” she said.

Gayle also has taken on a number of other duties that give her the chance to get out of the dispatchers’ gray-walled, windowless room once in a while. She is certified as a training officer, teaches at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy and is Suffolk’s Reverse-911 administrator.

She also helps new dispatchers get used to their new duties and the systems they use.

“It’s nice to be able to mentor new dispatchers and get them to think the way you need to think,” she said, adding that she often adds specific stories from her own experience. “It helps them understand why you need to do certain things a certain way.”

“She does a lot of work with our Reverse-911 system,” Sgt. Springle said. “She keeps the program up and running.”

Gayle has a 2-year-old daughter, Victoria.