No matter how difficult her job can be, Kat Schmalz says it’s worth it.
“I love to help people. I love to try and make people’s days better,” said the St. Louis County 911 dispatcher.
She joined the department this summer, after doing the same job in Indiana for several years. Then, about two weeks ago, tragedy struck when Officer Blake Snyder was killed responding to a call in south St. Louis County.
“That was 45 minutes from the end of my shift, in my ear,” Schmalz said. “And you know, I sent them on that call.”
Like other county employees and law enforcement, dispatchers have struggled with Officer Snyder’s death.
Schmalz wanted to participate in honoring his memory.
At the beginning and end of each shift, officers check in with dispatchers — like a roll call. When an officer is killed in the line of duty, it is custom to read a “last call” by radio marking their end of service.
Schmalz volunteered to do it.
“You always have a running tally in your head of where everyone is, and I sent everyone home that day but him,” she said, fighting back tears.
“It was important to me, because I wanted to send him home. It wasn’t the home I wanted to send him to, but I sent him home.”
Schmalz wasn’t alone.
Amy Schmidt has worked as a county dispatcher for nearly a decade.
“I’ve been dispatching to the officers for nine years, so it’s something I wanted to do for the family and for them.”
She knew it would be a tough assignment. For most of the dispatchers, herself included, this was the first officer killed on duty during their time at the communication center. They decided it was best to have two dispatchers read the call, supporting each other.
Schmidt said she practiced the paragraph several before reading it live, knowing it would be one of the most difficult calls of her career.
“I just kept my eyes on the paper, my face down and my eyes on the paper and kept reading,” she said, remembering a deeply emotional moment.
Both women say they were proud to be part of the last radio call.
“I’m humbled that they allowed me to do it, Schmalz said. “And I’m very honored.”