The life of a Police Dispatcher is non-stop action. They are constantly monitoring the location of on-duty police officers, fielding calls for service and sending law enforcement to the scene. Clearly, dispatchers are the hub of the operation.
Naomi Kent has served in that important role for 15 years – the past eight years at the Leawood Police Department and her first seven years at the Prairie Village Police Department.
Her interest in dispatching was piqued while working at WDAF-TV (FOX 4) where, among other duties, she would help staff the assignment desk for a few hours every evening.
“I was always fascinated listening to the scanners,” Kent recalls. “Hearing dispatchers guide their (videographer and talent) crews through calls was one of my favorite parts of the job.”
Kent started thinking about how she could take that interest into a career of service.
“I had a deep desire to be more involved in serving my community. I was always interested in law enforcement and had an appreciation for those who selflessly helped those in their community.”
Born and raised in the small northeast Kansas town of Sabetha, Kent said the “sense of community was remarkable” and she admired her parents for their role – her father was a schoolteacher and her mother was a nurse.
That upbringing and her experience at FOX 4 in Kansas City not only inspired Kent to become a police dispatcher, but to “go the extra mile” and serve those within law enforcement.
She is doing that in a variety of ways, starting with pioneering the Peer Support Program at Leawood in 2018. She proactively went through extensive training in crises intervention and grief management.
“I had seen numerous peer support programs implemented throughout the metro and I loved the idea of helping others,” Kent said. “So often, we are dealing with such extreme amounts of crisis and trauma that it doesn’t always leave us a lot of time to work on ourselves.”
“The peer support has been a huge help to our department. Employees have a safe space they can go to when they are struggling. We have helped several employees that are dealing with illness within their family, financial issues, personal crisis and stresses of the job. Law enforcement employees can carry a heavy burden and sometimes the mental toll weighs people down. It is important to help each other.”
Kent also took several courses to learn more about mental illness and awareness, then became a trainer in 2019 for Mindfulness and Meditation. She arranged for a meditation room at the Leawood Police Department for staff to use as “a safe and quiet space to decompress.”
“As a dispatcher we are used to constant noise – phones, radio, voices and sirens are all around us for hours every day. It is so important to shut your mind off and make time to reset and relax. If we take a few minutes to help ourselves, it improves our lives and the lives of others around us.”
Kent has a special heart for those just beginning their careers in law enforcement, so she uses her experience to serve as an instructor at the Johnson County Police Academy. She works with recruits to familiarize them with the relationship between dispatchers and officers.
“This is a profession that is unlike most careers, so when you are new to it, it seems very intimidating. My goal is to help the academy recruits feel settled and offer them some guidance on how to get through their first few years. I also encourage them to utilize peer support and mindfulness/meditation programs.”
Kent’s dedication to supporting, encouraging and providing tools for her peers in law enforcement to face the mental and emotional challenges of the profession has earned her the honor of being named a Blue KC Hometown Hero.
The partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals honors first responders who are advancing behavioral health conversations in our community. Kent is one of ten Hometown Heroes who will be honored throughout the 2021 season. She will be recognized at the Royals game on Friday, July 23.