The actions of Nita Franklin, a police telecommunicator at Kentucky State Police Post 4 in Elizabethtown, played a critical role in ensuring the safety of a 10-year-old Meade County child in January of 2015. The incident illustrates the impact telecommunicators can have in the performance of their daily duties.
April 12-18 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a time set aside to recognize the more than 200,000 individuals throughout the U.S. who play critical roles in the delivery of public safety services. Often called the "heroes behind the headsets," these men and women provide a lifeline to both citizens in need and officers in the field. They serve as an unseen, but vital link in keeping law enforcement officers and the public safe at all times of the day or night.
The Kentucky State Police employs 191 telecommunicators at 16 sites throughout the state. In 2014, they answered a total of 551,500 requests for assistance. The following incident illustrates the impact these dispatchers can have in the performance of their daily duties.
On January 9, 2015, Nita Franklin, a police telecommunicator at Kentucky State Police Post 4 in Elizabethtown, answered a call from a male subject regarding a custodial interference complaint. He explained that the biological, but non-custodial mother of his 10-year-old daughter had failed to return the child from a visitation with her in Texas. This resulted in a warrant being issued for the mother by the Meade County Attorney's Office.
"The father told me he had received a message from the child's mother that she would not come back to a state where she would be arrested and she was headed for the border," said Franklin.
Franklin immediately accessed FBI National Crime Information Center resources and discovered that while the mother had already been entered into the database as wanted, the child was not listed as missing. She took it upon herself to straighten out the situation and entered the child as "missing endangered" due to the mother's past history of mental and physical abuse.
Her next move played a critical role in bringing the situation to a positive conclusion. "I obtained the mother's cell phone number and requested a "ping" on her phone," she said.
When this process located the mother in Marshall, Texas, Franklin contacted local authorities and provided them with a description of the vehicle, suspect and child.
"Subsequent pings, which were coming in at about 15-minute intervals, tracked the vehicle travelling south through the Texas counties of Harrison, Panola and Shelby, heading toward the Mexican border," Franklin recalls. "I was contacting authorities in those jurisdictions while continuing to monitor the pings."
To her relief, it wasn't long before she received a call from the Shelby Co. (Texas) Sheriff's Office advising that the vehicle in question had been stopped and the occupants detained. (The mother was taken into custody and the child was eventually returned safely to her father.)
Franklin remembers that the most challenging part of the incident involved her unfamiliarity with the geography. "While trying to stay ahead of the vehicle between ping notifications, I was on line researching maps and contact numbers for agencies in Texas as I was unfamiliar with the area," she said.
"The ping information just listed the GPS coordinates and showed a small map of the location," she adds. "Finding the appropriate agency to contact took time and kept me busy so I really didn't think about the stress until it was over. It was a rewarding feeling when we received the call that the vehicle had been stopped."
"Due to Nita's persistence and desire to go above and beyond her job duties and responsibilities, the child in this case is currently safe and with her biological father," notes Capt. David Millay, commander of KSP Post 4. "Had the suspect made it across the border, the child's life could have turned out much different."
Franklin is a 14-year veteran of the Kentucky State Police. Prior to her service with KSP, she worked at the Grayson County Dispatch Center for six years. She started dispatching as a part time job while going to college.
"I really enjoyed the job and being able to help people, so when a full time position became available, I took it," she says. "To be a good telecommunicator, you have to be able to multi-task and make decisions quickly while remaining calm. If you remain calm, you are less likely to make a mistake."
"In a lot of ways, you have to think like a trooper, what they want to know, be nosy, be investigative when questioning callers and pay attention for things that may not sound right."
"Telecommunicators are the life line for our troopers every day," says Capt. Millay, "and Nita has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Kentucky State Police." In nominating her for a KSP Police Telecommunications Support Award, which she received in October of 2014, he praised her work performance highly stating, "In my 20 years with the agency, I have met very few people who possess the demeanor she maintains under normal and event-driven stressful situations."