You just have to be ready for anything
Behind the Badge – Jane Bevan-Stewart
When Jane Bevan-Stewart’s phone rings she has no idea what to expect, but she knows what is expected of her.
“You never know what that next call is going to be,” says the Guelph Police Service communicator. “It could be anything from a noise complaint to a homicide, so you just have to be ready for anything.”
Bevan-Stewart has been working as a police communicator for a decade, the last three years with Guelph Police. As a communicator she answers 911 and non-emergency calls for police, fire and ambulance, and also dispatches local police officers.
After careers in accounting and personal training, a conversation with a friend put policing on her radar. She applied to be a police officer, but a chance meeting with a Guelph Police Service officer who worked in the communications centre caused her focus to shift.
“I wanted to serve the community and I like being that first point of contact for someone who needs help,” she says. “I want to be that person who can help someone when they’re having a terrible day.”
Bevan-Stewart was born in Guelph, though those who get her on the phone would never guess it. Shortly after she was born, her parents returned to their native England and she spent the first two decades of her life there. Her father returned to Guelph and she spent many summers here as a child.
When she was 20, she moved back to her birthplace. At the time, she was working in accounting in England but didn’t see a future in it, so she heeded a friend’s suggestion to return to Canada. “I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay, but 30 years later I’m still here,” she adds with a laugh.
After her son was born in 2000, Bevan-Stewart stayed home with him until he started school. She then landed a job as a personal trainer which allowed her to work around her young son’s schedule.
Her background in accounting and personal training has served her well. Both fields require calm precision and a service-oriented mindset.
“My friends all say I’m calm in times of crisis, which is what I want to be for callers.”
Bevan-Stewart says the public generally does not understand what police communicators do. “A lot of people think we just answer the phone, but the job is so much more than that.”
Communicators must assess what is going on and the appropriate type and level of response. In crisis situations they must use their training to de-escalate callers and others on scene while gathering crucial information to ensure responding officers are aware what they’re heading into.
“It’s a difficult job but it’s very rewarding,” Bevan-Stewart says. “What I hope for people is that they’re never in a position where they need to call 911, but if they do they’re going to be well looked-after.”