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'Trying to coordinate chaos' after officer shot

C-COM dispatcher receives national honor for service -


C-COM lead dispatcher Kory Oman started his shift Nov. 3, 2013, as “a normal Sunday afternoon,” but the sunny day soon turned into the nightmare that led to the first shooting of a Clackamas County officer in more than a decade.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - C-COM lead dispatcher Kory Oman usually feels right at home in front of four computer screens and four radios to help coordinate police and fire units in Clackamas County.At 1:04 p.m., Oman started getting 911 calls about a large house fire about a mile from the Oregon City police station. When Oman relayed the messages from his team of dispatchers on duty, Reserve Officer Rob Libke interrupted his lunch at the police station with Officer Sean Ellis to respond to the call.

Red flags went up for Oman when his team started getting calls about the man who eventually killed Libke. (Libke’s name was added to an official memorial in Salem last month.) Although Oman initially treated the report as a fairly standard house fire, which calls for Clackamas Fire District No. 1 trucks and police backup to clear the scene, he soon recognized the severity of the situation.

By 1:06 p.m., while Libke and Ellis were still en route to 841 Linn Ave., Oman reported that an elderly man armed with a handgun was at the scene of the fire that he had intentionally set. So when Jared Turpin converged on the scene with other OCPD officers, Oman already had provided them with a description of the suspect, 88-year-old Lawrence Cambra, who had gray, singed hair, was wearing a white T-shirt, and had walked to a neighbor’s house.

“I asked for more units because it looked strange and suspicious,” Oman said. “It was just moments after that that my officer-down call went out, a Code zero that will bring in all available units within the county to help their fellow officer in need.”

Selected from 41 candidates nominated across the country, Oman recently was awarded Telecommunicator of the Year by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials for his service “above and beyond the call of duty,” said APCO President Gigi Smith. APCO’s Annual Conference & Expo taking place Aug. 3-6 in New Orleans will recognize Oman for demonstrating excellent dispatching skills, along with coordination of the rest of the dispatch team working the day of the shooting, to ensure all available resources arrived at the scene. APCO International is the world’s oldest and largest organization representing professionals in public-safety communications and supports the largest membership of any U.S. public-safety association.

“In my mind, I did the job, and I didn’t do anything extraordinary, and that award speaks to the team effort of everyone at C-COM,” Oman said. “Oregon City police officers did a tremendous job making sure that no one else was hurt. He (Libke) was a hero that day, saving the lives of the people in that house and probably more people in that neighborhood, and he and the other responding officers were the real heroes.”

Oman and his team train to help all members of the public during the “darkest most chaotic moments in one’s life,” but he said the shooting of an officer on his watch was the blackest moment of his own life, along with coming on duty to help respond to 2012’s Clackamas Town Center shooting.

“That was probably one of the worst calls that a dispatcher could receive in their career,” Oman said. “I’m really just trying to coordinate chaos until the incident commanders can get a hold of the situation.”

Throughout his six years at C-COM, and 16 years total in the profession, (previously working in Wisconsin, in Pullman, Wash., and for Santa Fe Fire), Oman has always felt dispatchers have similar values to police officers and other first responders.

“We feel we’re part of their family, and that’s why we’re always checking on them,” Oman said. “I’m sure we’re pretty annoying to them, but that’s because we feel responsible for their safety, so officer-down calls are really devastating.”

Although Oman won the top award in the country, each nominee for APCO awards is evaluated on how they perform as a team player, their demonstrated knowledge and skills of the job, interaction with citizens and user agencies (police, fire and medical responders), overall work performance for the year, customer service and any other exceptional work performed in the center.

Oman’s work at C-COM includes leading a team of 911 dispatchers and serving as a trainer for new employees. For the past three and a half years, he also has taken a lead role in the search and implementation of a new Computer Aided Dispatch system for C-COM. A joint project with Lake Oswego Communications and Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency, Oman has been working with staff to ensure that the system could more easily be fixed to more efficiently process calls and provide some new features.

“It’s very stressful to go to any new system, especially for this type of system, so I want to make it as smooth as possible,” he said.



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