Students in the Springettsbury Township Citizen’s Police Academy toured the York County 911 Center on Tuesday. Michael Keiter, left, a supervisor at
Students in the Springettsbury Township Citizen's Police Academy toured the York County 911 Center on Tuesday. Michael Keiter, left, a supervisor at the center, led students through the facility, including the mobile police communications center. (BIL BOWDEN PHOTO)

The roles have reversed for a former first-grade teacher and a current Springettsbury Township Police detective.

More than 25 years ago, Mary Love taught Detective Chris Ford at a Waynesboro school. On Tuesday, as on many previous Tuesdays, Love was one of Ford's "students" in the department's citizen police academy.

"I'm awed to tell you the truth. I'm so proud of him," Love said. "It's almost like coming full circle for me to learn from him."

Love, a Spring Garden Township resident, and others in the academy toured the York County 911 Communications Center at the county's Office of Emergency Management facility in Springettsbury Township on Tuesday as part of the academy that started in January.

The academy: The 10-week academy, which ends in late March, is chance to show the 13 people who are taking part what it's like to be a police officer in the department.

So far they've learned about drug investigations and traffic enforcement and toured the county's forensic lab in York City.

But the academy also serves as a way for officers to get to know the people they serve.

"We want to improve the relationships between us and the citizens," Ford said at the first class in January.

On tour: During the tour of the 911 center, attendees got to see how police, fire and medical personnel get to where they need to be after someone calls 911.

"Without them (dispatchers), we don't get to you," Ford said. "My hat's off to the dispatchers."

Attendees not only got a behind the scenes look at how call takers answer calls for help and how first responders are dispatched, they also got to see the county's haz-mat trucks that are housed in a garage at the complex, and they walked through the county's mobile command unit.

The massive RV, which was retrofitted with a bank of computers and other essential communications tools, is used on the scene of incidents and is also put into service to handle emergency communications during the York Fair, said Mike Keiter, a lead shift supervisor at the 911 center.

"If there's a major event in the county, we can send it out," he said, adding it sees service four to five times a month.

Where it all happens: Inside the large room with a high ceiling and acoustic panels on the walls that is the heart of the 911 center, call takers worked hand-in-hand with dispatchers to route first responders to where they are needed. The lives of the first responders are undoubtably stressful at times, but Keiter, who has worked for the county for more than 30 years, said operators deal with their own on-the-job stress.

About 50 percent of operators leave their job within a year of being hired, he said.

"If it's not the stress that gets you, it's the shift or the overtime," Keiter said.

Academy participant Mary Chapman of Springettsbury Township said she was impressed with how the center operates and the people who work there.

"I knew they were here and I know how important it is, but I didn't know what it is that they (dispatchers) exactly do," she said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.