Barton Community College graduate Dena Popp is the supervisor for the Barton County 911 Dispatch team, a reserve sergeant for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office and also works as a volunteer emergency medical technician in Ellinwood – and she can’t imagine doing anything else.
Popp’s interest in law enforcement and emergency services stemmed from days of her youth spent helping her dad, who worked for a towing service and remembered being on scenes of accidents as well as the constant talk on the radio scanner in their home.
“It was very interesting hearing the radio chatter,” she said. “So, that’s why I got into dispatch and it just became more intriguing.”
Popp worked backward toward her education. She began her dispatch career in the mid-90s before she received her degree, and continued to work there for several years before making a change.
“Through my job as a dispatcher I started getting to know the officers, and they encouraged me to come out and ride with them and try it,” she said. “I started liking it more and more and decided I wanted to be on patrol.”
Popp chased after her goal and graduated from the training academy and served as a patrolling officer for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office for four years until she had her daughter in 2003 and returned to dispatch. However, she remained a Barton County Sheriff’s reserve deputy and was promoted to reserve sergeant in 2009.
Popp’s decision to attend Barton stemmed from her personal desire to be the best she could be at her job. She endorses the training she received from the perspective of someone who already has extensive experience in the field of law enforcement.
“I really enjoyed my training at Barton,” she said. “So much of what we learned was very hands-on and was taught to us by experienced instructors that have been in the field themselves for many years.”
Popp said the program stresses realism.
“They tried to make it as real-life as possible, and make you feel comfortable that you have gotten the proper training, and I felt like I got all of that at Barton,” she said.
In 2012 Popp also earned her EMT certificate from Barton and said hands-on, realistic applications were a point of emphasis for that program as well.
“It was a great program and the instructors made sure that you were properly trained,” she said. “I went to evening classes and that made it a lot easier since I was working another job and being a reserve officer.”
Popp said the fields of law enforcement and emergency services are both great careers.
“I’d encourage anybody that is interested in these careers to follow their heart,” she said. “Helping people is very rewarding and Barton can give you what you need to succeed.”