In recognition of
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week which takes place this year from April 9th through the 15th NICE will be publishing the stories of some of our previous
PSAPs Finest Award winners. Below is a story on Justin Hopman from the Orlando Police Department, who was named the 2007 PSAPs Finest Telecommunicator of the Year. Justin was nominated by Bryan Rintoul, former Communications Manager for the Orlando Police Department. Below you can read Justin's nomination highlights which were originally published back in 2007.
As a telecommunicator for the Orlando Police Department (OPD), Justin Hopman works night shifts. He thrives on high-intensity and that's a good thing, given that evenings are by far the busier tour at OPD. "We answer between 200 and 250 calls a shift so it's nonstop on a good day," he says. But while most of the calls turn out routine, Hopman prophetically says, "You never really know what you're going to get when you click to answer the line."
It's that adrenalin rush and unpredictability that draws many telecommunicators, including Hopman, to the profession - keeps them on the edge of their seat, and tests their skills, instincts, and compassion at a moment when they least expect it.
Hopman's decisive moment came one spring evening in 2007. The date was March 12th - the time 21:30 hours. Hopman had just wrapped up a call involving a vehicle accident when in rapid-fire succession, another call came in.
Hopman explains what happened next. "It was a female and she was talking in a normal tone," he recounts. "She wasn't excited or upset. She just said her husband was there and she wanted him removed. So I said 'OK, not a problem. We'll send an officer out to you.'"
Then the woman uttered four words and the incident, which to that point appeared to be nothing more than a domestic squabble, rapidly went downhill.
"He's got a gun," the woman said. "He's threatening to blow my knees off." And at that precise moment, a gunshot rang out. The woman instantly became hysterical.
"I told her to stay on the line but almost immediately the phone was disconnected," explains Hopman.
Moments later, Hopman reconnected with the residence but this time, found himself speaking with the couple's 12-year old daughter. Through his conversation with the girl, he was able to quickly ascertain what had happened. The father had shot himself. The information was rapidly passed on to the officers en route to the scene.
Hopman comforted the child, letting her know that help was on the way. Since the situation was still potentially dangerous, he also took swift action to ensure the family's safety. The girl, her brother and mother, were still in the home - and the suspect's condition was unknown. Hopman instructed the little girl to get everyone out of the house right away. She complied and followed his instructions.
Bryan Rintoul, former Communications Manager for the Orlando Police Department, applauds Hopman for his stoic handling of the incident. "To my mind Justin reached through that phone on that day, and put his arm around the little girl. He took her by the hand and walked her out of that house to safety," he says.
According to Rintoul, the incident is an example of the most difficult type of call a 9-1-1 operator can take. "This is where they're really tested the most - at the peak of a crisis where in a very brief instant they're given the minimum amount of information and asked to come to some serious conclusions and take action fast, without knowing the whole situation. It requires a great deal of judgment, insight and attention. Fortunately for us Justin has all of these qualities."
"The most important thing was to get everybody out of there quickly," notes Rintoul. "And that's exactly what Justin did."
Rintoul says that it takes a strong service-orientation to stand out in the field of public safety communications, and this is where Hopman is a shining example. "People who want to achieve success in this field need to be conscientious, compassionate and committed to serving others. Justin embodies all of those qualities. It was evident from reviewing this incident that he was very empathetic with the child and did his best not only to make a really bad situation less painful, but to keep the family safe at the same time."
Hopman's quest to serve others doesn't stop when he walks out the OPD dispatch center door at the end of a tiring eight-hour shift. On his "time off," he also works as a volunteer fire fighter with the Merritt Island Volunteer Fire Department - a position he has held for seven years.
"He clearly has a great deal of community spirit," says Rintoul. "Justin is one of those people who wants to do good and meaningful work - and he has come to the right place to do it. We're very proud to have him."