O’Brien earns Rotary’s ‘top deputy’ award

Published 4:33 am Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dispatcher Clay O’Brien was announced as the “Washington Parish Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year” by the Bogalusa Rotary Club during the club’s Tuesday meeting.

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said that O’Brien was deserving of the honor, which was chosen based on a vote of fellow sheriff’s deputies.

“Our dispatchers are overlooked a lot,” Seal said. “But that’s really where it all starts. I can truly say that in my seven years as sheriff, I have never had any issues with Clay. He’s a hard worker.”

Seal said that O’Brien and other dispatchers are the first wave of response to any public safety emergency. He noted that 911 calls take precedence, and sometimes a dispatcher may have to put another call on hold to respond to an especially crucial emergency.

“I know that sometimes we might get complaints about how we respond to calls, but we’re doing the best we can,” he said.

Seal pointed out that O’Brien had to take special classes to earn his certification for working in dispatch. He also said that O’Brien once worked 28 straight days without a full day off.

“That just shows the commitment that he has,” Seal said. “It’s like they say about the chicken, the cow and the pig. The chicken gives the eggs, the cow gives the milk, but the pig — he commits everything he’s got.”

O’Brien thanked the Rotary Club, and club president Wendy Williams presented him with a plaque during a special ceremony.

“I just appreciate you for recognizing me today,” he said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to do a job I love. We all work together to make it happen. I appreciate this award, and it’s an honor to serve this parish.”

O’Brien explained that technology, especially global positioning systems (GPS) in cell phones, have allowed dispatch to greatly improve its services. He said that he had recently received a desperate call from a parish citizen who “wanted to end it all,” but did not leave an address or any other information before hanging up.

O’Brien was able to use tracking on the citizen’s cell phone, and helped to pinpoint the citizen’s location so that deputies were able to respond to the call of distress.

He said that the system is so precise, that it can provide a location within a 100-yard radius of where the phone call was placed.