'The thin gold line’

Steve Nash steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Sheriff Bobby Grubbs looks at a display that depicts Batman and Robin with the Joker, one of the duo’s arch enemies, in the Law Enforcement Center’s dispatch center.

“Captain America! Have a large 10-70 at Camp Bowie!”

“Wonder Woman! We have a 10-34 at 401 W. Commerce!”

“Superman! Someone reported a 10-89 at Brownwood High School!”

“Arrow! Canary! Got the location of a robbery in progress!”

Spread across the emergency dispatch center at the Law Enforcement Center, colorful cardboard cutouts of dispatchers and cartoon action heroes depict the dispatchers sending out messages about crimes, fires and other emergencies to superheroes including Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Dispatchers worked for three months to make and decorate the cutouts, which will be judged Thursday by representatives of the West Central Texas Council of Governments as part of National 9-1-1 Telecommunication Appreciation Week. The Brownwood dispatchers’ decorations will be judged against decorations in other area dispatch centers.

It’s been a fun and lighthearted project in a profession that is “absolutely, beyond a doubt” very serious, dispatch supervisor Deedra Molotsky said. 

“Police officers are referred to as the thin blue line. Fire department is the thin red line. We’re the thin gold line,” Molotsky said. “They’re the glue that holds it all together.”  

The Brownwood Police Department runs the dispatch center, where dispatchers take 9-1–1 calls and dispatch law enforcement agencies and fire departments to wherever they’re needed. Allegiance Ambulance personnel are dispatched from an Allegiance dispatch center.

“When someone screams in your ear ‘I need help,’ it jumpstarts your heart and puts you into overdrive,” Molotsky said.

Dispatchers, Molotsky said, are “the heroes behind the superheroes. Even heroes need heroes, too.”

Last year, the Brownwood dispatch center received 26,866 9-1-1 calls, Molotsky said. While some callers abuse the 9-1-1 system and dispatchers receive unintentional “butt dials,” Molotsky estimated that 95 percent of the 9-1-1 calls represent bonafide emergencies.

“Every call is different,” Molotsky said. She recalled taking a 9-1-1 call from a woman who was involved in a domestic disturbance. The woman could not speak freely because her assailant was present. Molotsky quickly devised a code for the woman to use to convey what was happening.

It’s important that dispatchers “be diligent and read between the lines,” Molotsky said. “Things are not always what they seem.” 

Numerous law enforcement officers have visited the dispatch center to check out the decorations.

Been fun and lighthearted but “absolutely, beyond a doubt” very serious. “What we’re trying to accomplish is the lighter side of this.”

“I honestly cannot pick my favorite because each scene follows the other and I love that about it.”

“This was a way that we all came together as dispatchers because we all collectively worked together.”

“We’re the heroes behind the superheroes. Even heroes need heroes, too.”

“It looks really, really good, y’all,” Brownwood police detective Robert Lee told the dispatchers when he visited the dispatch center Wednesday morning.

“This is awesome,” sheriff’s Capt. Vance Hill said.