Editor’s Note: The Norway Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy offers the public an opportunity to learn about law enforcement and what it does from those who do it. It began in April and each week we will feature a class from the eight-week academy.

Week 3 – Jail and dispatch center tour – CO Cpl. Amanda Lantagne and dispatcher Teresa Grenier

After being told to carpool, drivers assigned and a mad dash to clean out cars, the class split into two groups to tour the Oxford County Jail and Oxford County Regional Communications Center (OCRCC).

At OCRCC everyone had to sign in and were then buzzed through the security door. Dispatcher Teresa Grenier welcomed the group and led them into a conference room. The room was still set up for the open house dispatch had held the previous week.

OCRRC dispatcher Teresa Grenier explains the intricacies of the 911 call center and the balancing act dispatchers perform every shift. Advertiser Democrat photo by A.M. Sheehan

She discussed the various “extras” that the dispatchers do aside from their full time job of answering 911 calls and dispatching fire, rescue and law enforcement.

The Telecommunications Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) [Team] sends dispatchers to others areas where help is needed. It is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protocol to send aid when disaster strikes. Dispatcher Candice Jack organizes this.

OCRCC is also one of five agencies in Maine that participates in the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children network. Dispatcher Tamara Bisbee coordinates this.

Dispatcher Nicole Newton is responsible for OCRCC’s work with Wandering People which offers a registry of elderly and disabled individuals who might lose their way.

Dispatchers Camie Sprague and Tammy Maurer handle coordination with ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) which is active shooter response.

And finally, there’s Ready Fox, run by Grenier, which visits the schools to teach children how to call 911.

Grenier then took the group into the dispatch command center where three dispatchers were busy answering calls and sending the appropriate response. She showed the multiple computer screens each dispatcher has to monitor, explained how Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) works, why they ask the questions they ask when they answer a 911 call and how each questions is imperative in order to send the right response.

One of the single most important and the very first question, the dispatcher asks is the address of the emergency. As soon as that and the nature of the emergency is answered, they are sending help.

The remainder of the questions let responders know what to expect, let dispatchers respond with instructions of care – such as how to do CPR – and for medical calls, work their way through ProQA (a book of medical questions and answers) which uses each answer from the caller to direct the dispatcher to the next question and appropriate response. Consequently by the time help arrives it knows exactly what to expect and how to help immediately without wasting precious minutes assessing the situation.

Across the way from the OCRCC is the county jail. The class trudges up the stairs and is greeted by a corrections officer and taken through a heavy steel door that clangs shut behind them, locking them in. Into the jail office where they are greeted by another corrections officer – Cpl. Amanda Lantagne – who begins the tour by explaining the computer screens that they monitor when not down in the booking room welcoming a new resident.

She notes the jail has all levels of security for all levels of prisoners. She leads the way to a maximum security block which differs from the others by the type of locks. Medium and minimum are, for the most part, similar as are male and female blocks. She shows the group the laundry, library and kitchen – from when the jail was a full service jail. It is now only a 72-hour holding facility and prisoners must be transported to Twin Bridges in Wiscasset every day and often more than once during a day if they have to be brought back of Oxford for court.

Corrections Officer Cpl. Amanda Lantagne show participants the maximum security dorm of the Oxford County Jail. Advertiser Democrat photo by A.M. Sheehan

In the booking room, she points out the digital fingerprint machine, where a prisoner’s medications are kept, and explains the booking and bail process. She patiently answers questions showing her sense of humor. The tour finishes in the sally port where law enforcement can drive in, shut the overhead door, and securely remove a prisoner from the cruiser.

The group follows her back down another hallway to find itself at the beginning in what curiously has been a circular tour. Exiting, the steel door once again clanging behind the group, this time locking them out.

Editor’s Note: The next Citizens Police Academy will begin Tuesday, September 24.

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