‘A Quick 20 Years’ for Jeff Schaney in Public Safety Communications
“It’s been a quick 20 years,” Jeff Schaney, an assistant supervisor of the Fairfax County (Va.) Department of Public Safety Communications, says, acknowledging his 20th year of public service. He possesses a multitude of skill sets that he obtained throughout his career in the public safety sector, in which he has worked as a calltaker, police dispatcher, fire dispatcher and teletype operator. “I had to keep up my skills sets,” he says.
Of all his roles, he enjoyed the police side the most. The fact that his brother is a police officer with the Fairfax County Police Department and both his parents were employed by the U.S. Secret Service—his father was a uniformed agent who served with five presidents, and his mother was an analyst—sparked his keen interest in the law enforcement arena. Schaney is three years older than his brother, and he always looked up to his father. “We were the first of the first responders. I just seemed to have a better understanding of what they did. I took pride as long as nothing happened to our officers while I was dispatching. You’re your own dispatcher responsible for 40–80 officers. It’s a big responsibility,” Schaney says.
He is drawn to the field particularly due to the fact that he is always, in some way, helping people. “I really enjoy helping people. We have to try to remain professional and calm and bring them back to an area we can help them,” Schaney says.
He is also attracted to the nature and diversity of the job. “No two calls are ever the same,” he says. Although the calls may be consistently back to back, he finds that the “fun” part of the job. “It’s not mundane,” Schaney says.
Schaney recalls a time at the beginning of his career when he once helped deliver two different children on the side of the road. He developed particularly good rapport with one man and asked if he had yet chosen a name for the child and jokingly suggested the name, Jeff.
He also remembers a time when he provided instructions for CPR and the Heimlich maneuver over the radio. “We did everything we could do,” Schaney says.
When Schaney was initially 13 months on his job, he received a call from a hysterical woman. She had gone to court for some tickets she had received and was facing possible jail time. She was threatening to kill herself, and Schaney spent approximately four to five hours on the phone with her. The woman was also threatening to kill a cop. Schaney told her to walk outside and put the gun down. Instead, she raised the gun and directed it at one of the officers. As a result, the officers shot her, and she died. Prior to this occurring, Schaney was preparing to go to the scene. “That made me want to do more to help people,” Schaney says. Though all officers involved were cleared, this incident that took place early in his career remains a vivid memory for Schaney.
Many skills are required to handle diverse situations that frequently are demanding, crisis-oriented and highly stressful. Schaney says he must possess patience and be a good listener, as well as be able to take control of the call. In addition, he realizes he must be empathetic to a degree but also be assertive when required.
He acknowledges the job can be frustrating and illustrates that by pointing out that people will call 9-1-1 for the weather or for the time. “You have to tell them it’s not a life or death emergency. It’s a delicate balance,” he says
Schaney believes it is important to have “wellness breaks” for time to engage in physical fitness have time for mentors and peer support during a shift. He has friends within his department, and he also cultivates friendships in other areas outside his work realm.
Currently, Schaney is one of a group of five supervisors—a lead supervisor and four assistants. He is one of the fours assistants, and he supervises nine on his team. He also does a lot of administrative work. “I don’t dispatch as much anymore. I do miss that. I miss some of the hands-on role,” Schaney says.
In his supervisory role, he mentors people and teaches them the crucial functions and critical elements of the job.
Schaney, 45, is married with four children; three daughters ages, 14, 10 and 3; a son, age 8. “Kids keep me young,” Schaney says. His wife is a third grade school teacher. In his spare time, Schaney enjoys golfing and running.
An accomplished professional, Schaney has earned several awards from his department. He received the 2010 Supervisor of the Year Award, the 2009 Outstanding Performance Award as well as three Citation Awards commending him for his supervisory performance during critical incidents—all of which were issued by the Fairfax County Virginia Department of Public Safety.
Schaney acknowledges his wife, who has been very supportive of his profession. “She’s my rock. She’s a de-stressor. She’s my sounding board sometimes,” he says.
Schaney has made a notable impact in the public safety sector. His experience, skill set, dedication and passion for doing what he loves to do, illustrate a proven professional in the field. “I thoroughly enjoy my job,” Schaney says. Would he do it all over again? “Absolutely!”
About the Author
Karen L. Bune serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Marymount University in Arlington, Va., where she teaches victimology. She is a consultant for the Training and Technical Assistance Center for the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. She is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on victim issues. Bune is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and Domestic Violence, and she is a Fellow of The Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and the National Center for Crisis Management. She is a 2009 inductee in the Wakefield High School (Arlington, Va.) Hall of Fame. She received the “Chief’s Award 2009” from the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Chief. She received a 2011 Recognition of Service Certificate from Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. She received a 2011 Official Citation from The Maryland General Assembly congratulating her for extraordinary public service on behalf of domestic violence victims in Prince George’s County and the cause of justice throughout Maryland. She received the 2011 American University Alumni Recognition Award. Ms. Bune appears in the 2012 editions of Marquis’ “Who’s Who in the World, and Marquis’ Who’s Who of American Women.