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GRPD dispatcher hangs up headset after 25 years on the job

Mike Dekam
Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 25, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A member of the Grand Rapids Police Department took his last call for help Wednesday.

After 25 years, a dispatcher with the department sat down to talk with FOX 17 about the things he's seen over the years.

When Mike Dekam started out at the department, reports were typed on an electric typewriter. When Y2K was a thing, he spent New Year's Eve from 1999-2000 in a mobile dispatch unit at the top of Belknap Lookout preparing for if the grid collapsed. He's glad that didn't happen, and he's hoping to share some of the things he's learned.

“It’s comforting to know I help them,” Dekam said. "Not all outcomes are favorable. We had some very sad outcomes."

Don't call him a hero. Mike says he's just the calm voice on the other end of 911 calls.

“Not very many people stay in this job very long, because of the stress,” Dekam said.

Mike says there are some calls he'll never forget.

“Those addresses are forever etched in my mind,” Dekam said, addresses of homes on residential streets, streets Mike never heard of despite working dispatch for 15 years

He especially remembers a call that came in for 3232 Rickman Avenue NE. That home, where a man who went on a killing spree throughout Grand Rapids held his own family hostage. Dekam was the steady voice advising police from dispatch through a car chase throughout the city.

“He was ramming the police cruisers. Firing at the police cars. Police officers returning fire through the windshield of their own cruiser."

And Mike remembers the exact address where GRPD Officer Kozminski died in the line of duty. “1233 Emerald Northeast,” Mike said. “Your phone starts blowing up with the messages, so it's tough to deal with. He left behind this beautiful little girl."

“It just shows you, evil knows no boundaries. It’s not limited to just one neighborhood or one sector of society. It can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

Dekam says things have changed through the years. The opioid epidemic is far worse, he says, than any drug epidemic he's seen. At least two calls for overdoses come in every shift.

He says at the end of the day he's proud to be a calm voice on the other end of the line.

On his last day on the job, he got to meet someone from a memorable call: a 2008 explosion in Eastown, where everyone at dispatch was preparing for the worst. By some grace, everyone inside the building survived.

“This morning, I got introduced to a woman who was inside that building when it exploded,” Dekam said. "And she survived. And she’s given glory to God. But what a kind of a cool thing to happen on my last day: get to meet someone who was inside the building when it exploded."

Mike rarely meets the people he helps. But he says that's okay. He knows his job is an important one.

It's a job so important, he's not quitting. He's moving on to be a dispatcher at Grand Rapids Community College.

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