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Dispatcher Thomas Hall wouldn't have any other job

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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Cheney police officer/dispatcher of the year

Cheney dispatcher Thomas Hall doesn't think of his job as just that— a job.

Nor does he want residents to think of him and the rest of his Cheney Police Department comrades as merely public safety.

"Think of us as insurance," Hall said.

Hall has been named the department's 2015 Dispatcher of the Year, the third time he's received the award. He appreciates the honor, but sees it ? something akin to a sports most valuable player award.

"All of us here in dispatch, we all do a great job," he said. "It's a group award. Without my coworkers, I'm nothing."

Born in South Korea into a military family, Hall said they moved every 3-4 years while he was growing up, eventually settling in Sanford, Maine where he graduated from high school. It was an experience Hall grew to appreciate as he got older because it taught him how to make new friends, become more understanding of people and appreciate new cultures, relations and nationalities — traits he applies every day.

In 1992, Hall moved to Port Orchard, Wash, to join some of his mother's family who had opened a restaurant in the Kitsap Peninsula city. After a year in the business, Hall said he told his mom that what he really needed was an education, choosing Eastern Washington University because it was "close enough, and far enough from my parents."

Hall said he also came to Cheney because the university was small enough to be able to better focus on the needs and successes of students. He graduated in 1998 with a communications degree.

After graduation, Hall worked for UPS and then Airborne Express as a supervisor. When Airborne was bought by DHL in April 2003, with the latter subsequently announcing a reduction in force, Hall said he "saw the writing on the wall" and eventually left. He hired on with Cheney Police as a dispatcher in March 2008.

"To be honest, it was the best decision I ever made," Hall said.

Married with two kids, ages 22 and 16, Hall said he's seen a number of changes in his time at the Cheney dispatch console. One of the changes he's noticed is with the EWU students, particularly their thought processes, which tend to reflect more of a sense of entitlement to what one has rather than earning that possession or respect.

There are other changes too, such as call volumes increasing and a workload that more and more doesn't just involve answering phones and contacting officers. The makeup of the residents has changed as well, Hall said, as has the size of the city.

"1 remember when after McD's (McDonald's) it stopped," Hall said. "But it's good. Change is scary, but change is good. The city needs to evolve as people move in."

To keep up with the changes, particularly with technology and dispatch techniques, Hall said they are always engaged in some kind of training, which also allows department personnel to meet and exchange experiences with other dispatchers from different law enforcement agencies.

Hall, who lives in Spokane, said he appreciates the move Cheney voters made this past fall when they approved Proposition 1 to raise the city's property tax levy lid in order to fund public safety. It's a "great step," he added, for a city and a department from where he hopes to one day retire.

"I work for a great city. Why would you ever leave a situation like this?" Hall said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.



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Original Publication Date: January 21, 2016



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