Niles Police Department dispatcher honored for her role in fighting crime

Published 10:18 am Friday, April 19, 2019

ST. JOSEPH — Early this year, Nikki Metz, a Niles Police Department dispatcher, received a message from a neighboring law enforcement agency about a suspect using fraudulent money. Metz began digging through social media profiles in search of a lead on their identity.

Thanks to her efforts, a suspect who police said they believe is part of a local ring of crime across Indiana and Michigan was taken into custody, and the Secret Services are now involved in the case.

Metz was recognized as Dispatcher of the Year for her work on the incident. She was presented the award Thursday during a commissioner meeting at the Berrien County Administration Office in St. Joseph.

Metz was one of 13 dispatchers nominated for the honor by law enforcement. The award ceremony coincides with National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which runs April 14 to 20.

Jack Fisher, of the 911 Advisory Committee, commended Metz for going above and beyond in her duties.

“Without this dispatcher’s diligence and extra effort,” Fisher said, “the officers would have not been able to help police departments solve multiple felony counterfeit cases.”

Metz said she was glad the ceremony shined a spotlight on what local dispatchers do to help their community. 

“Dispatchers are often the overlooked, unsung heroes and it’s great that we have a week where people reach out and appreciate us,” Metz said.

Metz has served as a dispatcher for 11 years. She said her mother and grandmother were both dispatchers, inspiring her to follow the same career path.

“It kind of runs in our family,” Metz said. “But [also] I like helping people.”

Her work on the case that led to her nomination started when Metz received pictures and videos from authorities showing the suspect. Metz felt that the person pictured looked familiar and began digging to find out who they were.

“It took us a couple of hours, but we were able to locate them,” Metz said. “I’m always helping out on my shift. We are really close-knit.”

Niles Police Department Chief Jim Millin said Metz’s work demonstrates how integral dispatchers are in solving crimes.

“It starts with them and what information they are able to glean and get to the officer,” Millin said. “A successful incident, a lot of the times, starts with them.”

Niles dispatcher Amanda Kowalk’s efforts were also proof of this point. Kowalk was among those nominated for the honor. Kowalk received the nomination for helping police to apprehend suspects involved in a string of robberies that started in Indiana and ended in Michigan.

“She stayed calm and gathered accurate information about the vehicle and suspects’ description, making it possible to make an arrest of the suspects,” Fisher said.

Other dispatchers nominated outside of Niles included Christina Grabowski, Sarah Blurton, Serina Elder, Susan Gillespie, Kristina Burks, Cindy Napier, Christy Casto, Curtis Howard, Ryan Lucker, Doris Horton and Bobbie Evans.

Millin said he frequently hears from dispatcher applicants that they have answered phones as part of their previous job, but Millin said a good dispatcher does a lot more than answer the phone when it rings.

“This is so much more than answering a phone,” Millin said. “It’s what you do with the call after that.”