Cleburne Police Department Lt. Shane Wickson was valedictorian of the Aug. 2 graduating class of Class #008 of the Regional Telecommunicator Academy. Wickson was one of 20 graduating students. The academy is operated by the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, also known as NCT9-1-1, in Arlington.
“These recruits are the first graduating class after the signing of House Bill 1090, which reclassifies Texas 911 telecommunicators as first responders,” NCT9-1-1 Communications Coordinator Amelia Mueller said. “NCT9-1-1 hosts the only telecommunicator academy in the state.”
HB 1090 made Texas the first state to reclassify telecommunicators as first responders alongside police officers, firefighters and EMTs. Before that they were classified as secretaries.
“From citizens requesting emergency services to field units needing manpower, equipment or deployment resources during disasters, 911 telecommunicators are true first responders,” NCT9-1-1 Operations Manager Sherry Decker said. “HB 1090 will finally give them that recognition.”
The students completed a 4-week program covering equipment use, state mandates and regulations, handling of emergency communication situations and more.
“Texas is the only state that requires telecommunicators to be licensed, which holds them to the same standards as peace officers and jailers.
The 20 graduates hailed from 12 law enforcement agencies and fire marshal offices throughout North Texas and Texarkana.
“I’ve been in this industry for 22 years,” NCT9-1-1 Training Coordinator Lysa Baker said. “And these recruits have blown me away. It’s my job to not only teach them legal standards and best practices but to give them the resilience they’ll need to thrive. The recruits entering this industry make me excited about the future of 9-1-1.”
Cleburne Police Chief Rob Severance said he and the department are proud of Wickson’s accomplishment.
“Completion of this academy will help Lt. Wickson have a better understanding of the operations in our 911 center that he manages following our recent reorganization,” Severance said.
Wickson said he was the sole police officer in the class.
“The only current licensed officer,” Wickson said. “There was a retired Dallas officer. He said he got bored, still wanted to serve so he decided to come back on the telecommunication side of things.”
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King calls dispatch the toughest job in law enforcement. Wickson agrees.
“I thought I had a good idea of what they deal with before,” Wickson said. “But after getting a detailed view of what they do, I told my classmates I made the right choice of being on the other side of the radio and I have more respect for them and the skills they need and the work they do than ever before now.”
Severance suggested he take the class, Wickson said, to gain a better understanding of the work and challenges telecommunicators face.
Wickson described the training as first class, and fun given that it included real-time pursuit exercises and reams of pertinent information.
“Fun and practical is how I’d describe it,” Wickson said. “I came away with a better understanding of the whole picture, communications center, cops on the street, the department and how that all works together.”
Wickson said his 15 years on the job afforded him an advantage over some of the other students.
“But they were impressive,” Wickson said. “The class average was 96 so it was an intelligent group of really hard working people. They liked having a cop in their too because they could ask me about stuff on the other side of the radio.
“But the training was top notch. It’s certainly a program I’d recommend other cops go through to get that cross pollination of training and understanding.”