Dispatcher retires after 33 years of service

Photos by Tom Rivers: Bill Oliver works his last day in the office as a public safety dispatcher today.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2019 at 4:01 pm

Bill Oliver praised for being ‘level-headed’ in demanding job

ALBION – Bill Oliver was commended by his co-workers today on his last day of work as an Orleans County public safety dispatcher.

Oliver has worked as a dispatcher for 28 years, following five years as an Albion police officer. Oliver made the switch to dispatch after having a brain tumor removed in his late 20s. Three weeks after brain surgery, he took the exam to be a dispatcher and passed.

He has earned the respect of his co-workers and the first responders in the community. Many stopped by the Sheriff’s Office today to thank him for his professionalism in dispatch.

“He is very level-headed, very calm and patient with people,” said Allen Turner, 9-1-1 communication director for Orleans County.

Oliver, 63, of Medina said he has enjoyed working with the dispatchers, firefighters, police officers and other community members.

He fielded numerous calls for people reporting fires, crimes and lost pets. Others would call wondering about the start times for community events, or seeking random information.

Increasingly, in recent years, Oliver said he would get more calls for people in a mental health crisis. He was able to talk one person down from wanting to commit suicide, and connected that person to help.

One particularly memorable call for Oliver was on Sept. 4, 2001, when Medina Lt. Michael Russell was shot on duty at Rosenkrans Pharmacy. Oliver was the dispatcher on duty, who directed first responders to the scene.

When he started as a dispatcher, there weren’t computers in the office or cell phone calls coming in to dispatch.

The 9-1-1 center was also at the jail. It moved about 20 years ago to the Public Safety Building on Route 31. The technology today is far more advanced, and dispatchers can quickly send detailed information to law enforcement officers in the field, Oliver said.

“The job has become more specialized,” said Undersheriff Chris Bourke, who worked in dispatch near the start of his career.

The incoming calls run the gamut, Bourke said.

“You never know what that call will be,” he said.

The dispatchers deserve appreciation from the community for their important work.

“They’re the bridge between victims and the first responders,” Bourke said. “They feel the same stresses as law enforcement officers because they have people’s lives in their hands. We wouldn’t be able to do our jobs without the public safety dispatchers.”

Bill Oliver is pictured with some of his colleagues in the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, including, from left: Sgt. Don Draper, Undersheriff Chris Bourke, 9-1-1 Communications Director Allen Turner, Oliver, and Chief Deputy Michael Mele.

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