Lisa Prouty doesn’t like to be in the limelight, but for 28 years she has been the go-to person for people in distress.
And she always has taken the call.
Prouty, a Lewiston Police Department dispatch supervisor, retired this week after a career that spanned almost three decades and was marked by a technological revolution of sorts.
When she first started the job in August 1986, radio transmissions were hand-written on a card and time-stamped. Dispatchers manually answered the telephone. Prouty and her colleagues have six computer screens now, two keyboards and a cordless receiver to utilize through the graveyard shift in the department’s four-person epicenter.
Only the calls haven’t changed.
“Parking problems and barking dogs,” she said. That is what ticks people off the most.
Helping people is at the heart of police dispatch – getting patrol officers, fire and emergency crews to the scene of crimes, catastrophes or collisions as efficiently as possible; calming alarmed callers or talking them down.
Sometimes it’s the little things.
“I like reuniting people with their pets,” Prouty said, which entails hooking up people who have lost their dog or cat with callers who reported finding an animal.
Helping the elderly with tasks taken for granted by others is also on her list of priorities. In one instance, an old woman’s smoke detector shrieked and she couldn’t reach it to shut it off.
“We sent someone over,” she said.
When she joined the department, she underwent six weeks of in-house training. These days the training program is 16 weeks and employs three trainers. She had good mentors, she said; one corporal in particular walked her through her first suicide call.
Prouty has learned in almost three decades the art of resolving, mediating, calming and reassuring, of dulling the sharp corners of stress, anger or despair.
“We’re the first responders,” she said. “Even though we’re not on scene, we’re there in voice.”
Dispatching for the night shift has its own rewards, she said. Late night calls are often more urgent, cutting to the core of what dispatch is all about.
“You’re working with the public in their time of need,” she said.
Prouty has done her job well, earning prestigious recognition for her supervisory role in 2013 from the Association of Public Communications Officials International, dispatching’s national trade organization.
What will she do when she retires?
“Sleep for a couple of weeks,” Prouty said.
Then it’s off to meeting with family and knocking off the many household items from a to-do list she has mostly added to over the years.
Deputy Chief Roger Lanier said the department will miss Prouty’s work ethic and insights, and he will miss stopping in to see her in the morning before she gets off shift.
“She’s always rock solid, always steady, always has an encouraging word and she’s a great mentor, besides being a real good person,” Lanier said.