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Bel Air honors police, emergency dispatchers

Harford County 911 dispatchers Michael ShermanRoss Coates, center, with Bel Air Mayor Robert Reier, far left, and Town Commissioner Edward Hopkins after receiving a proclamation for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
Harford County 911 dispatchers Michael ShermanRoss Coates, center, with Bel Air Mayor Robert Reier, far left, and Town Commissioner Edward Hopkins after receiving a proclamation for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. (DAVID ANDERSON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Bel Air town officials honored municipal and Harford County emergency and police dispatchers earlier this week, part of a nationwide recognition effort.

The Board of Town Commissioners presented proclamations to a Bel Air Police Department dispatcher and two Harford County 911 emergency dispatchers during Monday's town meeting to commemorate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week April 12-18.

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Town Commissioner Edward Hopkins, who is also Harford County's director of emergency services, described the duties of a dispatcher, which include staying on the line with a 911 caller to get all relevant information and also coordinate a police, fire or emergency medical response to that location.

"The key is that they are a very important aspect of public safety and often unrecognized," Hopkins said.

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Hopkins said he and other public safety officials took the time during the prior week to thank dispatchers for their service. He presented a proclamation to Bel Air Police dispatcher Kristie Taylor.

"I realize that when you present a proclamation, sometimes its really not much more than a piece of paper, but it's the heart and spirit that goes behind it," Hopkins said.

Mayor Robert Reier presented a proclamation to Harford County emergency dispatchers Ross Coates and Michael Sherman.

Reier said county dispatchers go through an "intensive training program," which includes obtaining certifications in emergency medical, fire and police dispatch protocols.

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"Dispatchers use the public safety radio system, which serves all public safety providers within the county," he said.

The proclamation notes that county dispatchers have helped apprehend suspected criminals, ensured the safety of Harford residents, coordinated with emergency services personnel and "exhibited compassion, understanding [and] professionalism during the performance of their job in 2015."

Sherman recalled that he started his career as a dispatcher more than 30 years ago with Bel Air.

"It's a very fulfilling career," he said. "When I first started I don't think we even called it a career, it's actually a calling."

"We work hand-in-hand with the folks that work downstairs [for Bel Air], along with the other agencies in the county very well, and it's a big team effort," he said.

Bar Foundation fundraiser

Bel Air attorney Elizabeth Thompson, who is a volunteer with the Bar Foundation of Harford County, encouraged town leaders to support the organization's upcoming fundraiser on May 2.

The Bar Foundation is a nonprofit organization, through which attorneys provide pro bono, or free, services to low-income clients.

Thompson said the foundation relies on "sponsorships and public funding and grants in order to run the program."

She said the fundraiser, which will have a Kentucky Derby theme, is scheduled for 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 2 at MaGerk's Pub and Grill on Bond Street.

Tickets are $65 per person, and they can be picked up at the foundation office at 18 Office St. in Bel Air.

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