- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The instant Sioux City police Officer Kevin McCormick radioed in that he had been shot in the head, Woodbury County dispatcher Staci Uhl’s training kicked in.

As an injured McCormick relayed a suspect and vehicle description from a West Fourth Street alley, Uhl directed an ambulance to the scene and began juggling the wave of police heading to McCormick’s location.

“It’s her job to know where every officer is at every minute,” McCormick told the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/R7l3Ai). “The numbers just continued to increase until we had 200-plus officers from the tri-state area flooding the streets.”

The shooting of McCormick a year ago last Tuesday - the first involving Sioux City police since 1982 - touched off a national manhunt for suspect Jamal Dean.

McCormick, who was wounded when Dean jumped out of a silver sedan and began firing a rifle into McCormick’s squad car during a routine traffic stop, arrived at Mercy Medical Center within 15 minutes of the shooting.

But Uhl’s job had just begun.

“It’s pretty impressive,” said McCormick, who somehow escaped serious injury. The wound on his forehead required six stitches and he was quickly back on the job, missing days, not weeks.

“I was in the hospital and she was still in the thick of it and stuck with it for hours.”

The Sioux City police officer isn’t the only one who was impressed by Uhl’s actions that day.

She was named the Iowa’s 2014 Telecommunicator of the Year on April 9 by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

Woodbury County Communications Operations Supervisor Wendi Hess nominated Uhl for the award. In her recommendation letter, she cited Uhl’s ability to maintain composure under duress.

“She heard his call for help,” Hess said. “And she could keep track of the flurry that immediately ensued once McCormick called in that he had been shot.”

Criteria for the award include “actions which reflect service above and beyond the call of duty in a daily routine” and “commendable handling and control during an emergency situation.”

As far as McCormick is concerned, that accurately describes Uhl. Her 22½ years of experience also likely played a big role, he said.

“She was awesome about keeping her cool,” he said.

When Uhl heard she had been nominated, she was both shocked and honored. But she maintains that credit for the success of that day belongs not to her as an individual, but to the law enforcement and communications center team.

“It was an effort of everybody working in the comm center,” she said. “Everybody picked up when others were too busy, and we were all working together.”

Five days after the shooting, Dean, 22, was captured near Riviera, Texas, about 105 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. In August, Dean pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A year after the fact, Uhl said she still thinks about how it changed her outlook on her profession.

“I think a lot of us still think about it, and I think everybody is just glad it had the ending it did,” she said. “And I think it especially opened our eyes to the stuff that can really happen.”

McCormick said Uhl and other dispatchers are often the unsung heroes of the law enforcement community.

He’s always been aware of the integral part dispatchers play in keeping police officers safe, he said, and that outlook continues to this day.

“I’ve always taken opportunities throughout my shift to let them know that I appreciate what they do,” he said. “They’re our lifeline.”

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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