By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – Chances are if you have stopped in or called the Northborough Police Department for any reason, you have spoken with William Toomey. But as of Dec. 17, Toomey’s long career with the department – an astonishing 47 years – came to an end as he retired from his position of supervisor of communications and records and E-911 PSAP director.
Born and raised in Northborough, Toomey was just 18 years old when he joined the town’s fire department as a part-time dispatcher.
“That’s when the fire department was on Church Street,” he said. “There was one red phone, a blue one and a black one. If the blue (police) had four rings that meant no one was at the police station so we picked it up.”
In 1969, a central dispatch was set up at the police and fire station where all calls were handled for both departments. The department also added EMS dispatch responsibilities a few years ago as well.
Toomey has served as a special police reserve officer and was promoted to his supervisor position in 1985.
Although Northborough itself has changed a lot since he started in the department, it is the advances in technology that have really impacted the way he does his job. That includes the way people contact the station, he said.
“Before people might see something and call when they got home,” he said. “Then for a while CB radios were big. Now of course everyone has a cell phone.”
As dispatchers are the first contact a person has when they call the station, Toomey said he and his staff treat every call in a courteous and respectful manner.
“[Callers] are sharing information with us and it’s our job to get that information quickly and correctly so that help can be sent if needed,” he said.
Although sometimes, he admitted, the calls are of such a nature that even the police cannot help.
“Like during the hurricane a few years ago someone called to say their cable was out!” he laughed. “We also get a lot of calls wanting to know if school is cancelled. People think the police should know everything and we do try to know as much as possible.”
As supervisor of communications, Toomey also had a myriad of other responsibilities, including all overseeing and implementing technology needs for the station and police cruisers. He also oversaw all booking photos, fingerprinting and gun permitting.
Although there might be two dispatchers on at a time, most often there is only one, he noted. That person is responsible for answering phones, contacting police officers out on the road, monitoring activities at the station via cameras set up throughout the building including the cells and greeting those who come to the lobby window.
Whenever a new officer starts, Toomey said he liked to have them work with dispatch for a bit.
“It’s important for them to be aware of what happens on both sides of the microphone,” he added.
Although he has retired from the Northborough Police Department, he will continue working at his part-time job at Cabella’s, a store in Berlin that specializes in hunting, fishing and outdoor gear. Toomey works in the firearms department.
“It’s ironic in a way,” he admitted. “But I really enjoy it there.”
He also hopes to take a few trips with his wife of 43 years, Virginia. The couple have lived in Berlin since 1973 and raised three children there.
Not one comfortable being in the limelight, Toomey requested the department not hold a formal retirement party, but rather instead a casual open house on the last day he was on the job.
“It’s an emotional time for sure,” he said of his decision to leave the department after nearly a half a century. “But it’s the right time.”