On the Front Lines: Candy Roden serves from the heart
Photos by Eric Schultz and Contributed
For Candy Roden, serving her community comes from the heart. A wife and mother of three, Roden has worked as a dispatcher since 2013 and has a family legacy of working in civil service.
The daughter and sister of police officers, who also married into a family of law enforcement, Roden says she has always been indirectly connected to their world. She stepped into that world when she became a dispatcher at the recommendation of a friend, after having spent a few years being a mother to her children before re-entering the workforce in 2013.
After spending a couple of years at Marshall County dispatch, Roden applied and was hired at Morgan County 911 to work closer to home. Despite the high–pressure nature of the job, Roden said she is right where she needs to be.
“It’s a lot. You have to compartmentalize everything, and you have to be able to let it go. You have to let it go because the next call might be someone calling because their grandpa is having a heart attack, and they need the same level of help I just gave to the lady trying to do CPR,” Roden said. “It’s hard in a way, but it makes it easy if you can detach from it, and I am really good at that.”
In the course of her career, several incidents have reaffirmed that she was where she needed to be. In one instance, a welfare check was called from someone out of the area. She said the woman was concerned about her sister due to some texts she had sent, and Roden was able to send an officer for a wellness check. Roden informed the officer about the texts, and after speaking with the woman, the officer called for medical assistance when she began to show signs of something being wrong.
“The sister sent a thing to our director that said that she appreciated us so much because the husband was at work, and if we hadn’t responded, by the time anyone found her, she would have been dead,” Roden said. “When my director forwarded me that email – that is why we do it. There’s all the crappy days we have and the sucky days, and then you think about that lady who is alive and just needed some help.”
Roden said for her, it’s that personal approach to each call that can make all the difference.
“My personal approach is that I try to find out their name. Usually if you can get someone to tell you their name, there is something about just saying it. It just puts you on a more personal level. If you are just screaming your head off, and I can say your name, it’s just that little bit of connection,” Roden said.
Roden said it’s also important to treat every call like a “big call.” She said she is often dealing with people in a low spot in their lives, and she uses some of what she’s learned from being a mother to help her.
“For a lot of people, it’s the worst thing they have ever had happen. It’s weird, but lots of times you have to be firm with them and almost use your mama voice. Lots of times they are just screaming, and I can’t send help if I don’t know where you’re at. At least let me get the address out of them. Even if I don’t know what’s going on, I can send someone to figure out what’s going on,” Roden said.
In addition to her work with Morgan County 911, Roden has also made an impact in the community on a state level. When her son with autism reached driving age, Roden began working with Sen. Arthur Orr to create the Alabama Autism Identification Card. She said many of the behaviors exhibited by individuals with autism might appear suspicious to law enforcement, and she wanted a way to help make it easier for both parties.
“My concern was that if he ever got pulled over, they are going to think ‘Why is he acting the way that he is?’ and pull him out the car, and then it’s a whole other game,” Roden said. “I am very pro law enforcement, so it wasn’t like ‘Oh, the bad cops are going to hurt my sweet son,’ it was just both sides of it. My brother was still an officer at the time, and I didn’t want him going up and putting hands on someone that he didn’t have to because he didn’t know.”
After speaking with the Alabama Autism Society and reaching out to Orr, Roden said she was able to work with him to get the card created. In addition, she began working with Dustin Chandler, a former law enforcement officer and father to a child with autism, to begin offering training to law enforcement and first responders for when they are interacting with an individual with autism.
Roden said her family is her motivation behind everything she does. “You are kind of raised for it. I am just drawn to it for some reason. I am very family–driven to serve.”