State police dispatcher to retire rather than relocate
Montville - When Troop E dispatchers move to Tolland later this month as part of the state's plan to consolidate emergency services, one long-time dispatcher won't be making the move.
Judi Gouin, who has been answering emergency calls the same way for 19 years - "State police in Montville, Dispatcher Gouin" - says bluntly that she's not interested in the long commute, and "honestly, I'm burnt out."
Gouin, a widow with a petite frame and raspy laugh, said she got into dispatching because she likes to help people.
There is never a dull moment, she says. From the moment her shift starts, she deals with people in the lobby turning themselves in and calls reporting break-ins, disabled vehicles, car accidents or erratic drivers. Dispatchers also must keep track of the troopers on patrol.
"I like getting jerks off the road," said Gouin, who is from Putnam. "We get numerous calls about erratic operation and when we put the 'bolo' (Be On the Lookout) out, believe it or not 98, 99 percent of the time we'll stop them. It turns out they're driving under suspension, no insurance, drug related or they're wanted. It's a good feeling to know that we got someone off the road who shouldn't be there in the first place."
Certainly, there have been difficult calls, too, such as the one she handled from Voluntown in 1998. A frantic woman was on the line telling Gouin that her husband had brutally assaulted her. The woman had fled to her neighbor's house just as her husband had set their house on fire.
Gouin said she had to keep the woman calm, but at the same time gather important information to relay to responding troopers.
"I had to make sure she was ... not in harm's way," Gouin said. "I had to find out if there were guns in the house. I had to find out where the husband was at. We are trained to deal with these high-stress situations. It was a good feeling to know that she was kept safe and we got him in custody."
She also helped a man start CPR on his father-in-law after the older man collapsed while riding in a van. Gouin's instructions helped the man survive.
Gouin said dispatchers also are mediators and counselors. She gets calls from elderly people who really just want to vent about their neighbors but don't require police attention.
"They just want someone to listen to them," she said.
Dispatchers also must deal with unusual calls. She has lost track of how many calls the troop gets from people who want to report that a skunk - even one that is not acting strangely - is in their yard.
"They want us to come and kill it," she said. "You got to wonder if they understand the difference between an emergency and nonemergency."
She said the call volume at the troop increased dramatically once the two casinos opened.
Dispatchers at Troop E are scheduled to move Nov. 18 to Troop C in Tolland, where they will join dispatchers from troops D and K. Gouin instead will retire one year short her 60th birthday and one year short of 20 years on the job. Her last day is Nov. 15, but she won't officially be retired until Dec. 1.
"I'm not sure how it's going to work," she said. "I know there won't be that one-on-one contact with the troopers that we have now. We do a lot of work with the troopers, and I like that. I like the closeness we have with them."
Troop E is not closing. It will remain fully staffed, but 911 calls will be rerouted automatically to Tolland. If someone goes to the barracks and finds no one there, a blue box outside will connect visitors to the dispatch center.
Master Sgt. James Gilman said the troop is adding extra patrols and an administrative trooper to handle some of the tasks previously performed by the dispatchers.
"It's one of those unknowns," he said. "We are preparing, but we haven't done it yet. We're going to make it work."
At least once a month during the colder months, Gouin would make a home-cooked meal for her colleagues.
"Because of the fast pace at Troop E, it's nice to sit down and break some bread together and just catch up," Gilman said. "I know those meals mean a lot to them."
Gilman said Gouin works hard and knows the area and the operations of the troop extremely well.
"I came in as a rookie," Gilman said. "We worked holidays together, traumatic experiences together. We have built a bond. We go through things that most people don't experience."
Gouin said she is looking at other opportunities to fill her time, including spending more time with her two daughters and grandchildren.
She may get a part-time dispatching job or may volunteer at the Day Kimball Hospital in her hometown.
"I'm not going to regret it," Gouin said of retiring. "It's been a good 19 years. I've enjoyed it a lot."
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