Dispatcher's Actions Prevented Scary Situation From Worsening
Waukesha Optimist Club honored the Firefighter of the Year and the Dispatcher of the Year this month.
When an innocent bystander saw a man get hit by a car in June near the Waukesha Public Library, all that person wanted to do was go to the man, help him, stop any bleeding and give him whatever medical aid he needed.
The witness to the car accident probably was shocked at first, and maybe a little frustrated, when Waukesha Police Department dispatcher Denise Erickson told him or her to not go up to the man.
But Erickson knew something the caller didn’t know. Another dispatcher was on the phone handling a report of a man with a knife who was threatening others during an altercation near the library. During the altercation, the victim got into the car and hit the man with the knife, according to Brian Jensen, supervisor of the city’s dispatch center.
“She quickly linked in those calls and said, ‘Hey, I think this is probably our suspect,’” Jensen said. “She kept the caller on the phone and said, ‘No, don’t go up to him, we think he has got a knife.’ That person backed up, the police came in, but I think that by her being fully aware of the situation and keeping that caller on the phone and giving that caller that information, I think she was able to keep a situation that was bad from getting worse for someone who was just willing to help.”
For her efforts, Erickson has been honored by the Waukesha Optimist Club as the Dispatcher of the Year.
Erickson has worked for 25 years in the Waukesha police dispatch center, handling high-stress situations and emergency calls. And throughout that time, she’s been an emotional support and mentor to the young officers, said Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack.
“What I appreciate about Denise … is that motherly figure she offers to the young cops,” Jack said. “As a 23-year-old kid coming in here, I thought I knew the world – didn’t, obviously, still don’t. … Denise really trained the cops without being their trainers or without upsetting them or coming across like you are training them.”
Firefighter of the Year
The Optimist Club also honored firefighter Brett Meints for as Firefighter of the Year for his work building a new mentorship program for middle school boys at Horning Middle School.
About seven to 10 firefighters, students from Carroll University and retired people have been working at the school with at-risk boys who need extra help with reading. The school had discovered there “was a correlation between reading issues and boys with at-risk issues,” Meints said.
The group’s worked with the boys to build their confidence and reading skills. They also spend time on various activities with the boys, check in to see how they are doing and keeping up with their lives. They’ve gone to Brewers games, toured Carroll University and even gone fishing.
And they’ve seen some successes. One boy had seven referrals – similar to demerits – before he went into the program.
“After he was involved in the program – zero,” said Meints. “It’s just somebody there to talk too, bounce things off of. … It just shows them that you can still have a good time, enjoy life, goof off, but you can also be responsible and not get in trouble.”