LAYTON -- Behind the scenes of the investigation into the disappearance of 4-year-old Ethan Stacy in May 2010 were several public safety communication officials dealing with a wide variety of calls from the public.
Some of the callers were concerned citizens who wanted to know what they could do to help look for the missing boy. Others wanted to complain that the police were not doing a good job in the investigation. There were even some self- proclaimed psychics who wanted to tell the police exactly what had happened.
Layton dispatchers took all of the calls professionally and were a huge asset to the investigation.
Because of their hard work, Layton Police Communications will be honored today in the Incident of the Year category for a small agency at the Utah Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Hall of Fame Awards Banquet.
"An incident like this brings a lot of cohesion to the dispatchers," said Karl Kuehn, Layton communications manager. "It really brought us together."
Layton Police Communications will also receive a unit citation for working through the investigations of Ethan Stacy's death, the deaths of 4-year-old Rebecca Toone and her 15-month-old sister, Rachel, in February 2010, and the killing of 7-year-old Jean Warhola and her brother, 8-year-old James, in September 2010.
"Five deaths of children within less than a year takes a toll on the community," Kuehn said.
Ethan Stacy's gained the most attention because of the twists involved in the case.
Just before midnight May 10, 2010, Stephanie Sloop called Layton police, saying her son, Ethan, had wandered off from their apartment.
Throughout the night and the next day, the community searched for Ethan and police interviewed Stephanie Sloop and her new husband, Nathanael.
That was when dispatchers had to field the numerous calls as well as coordinate with police investigators.
"As things started to unfold, people had thoughts in the back of their minds that something was not right, but they had to pay attention to the calls that come in because we have to gather information," Kuehn said.
"Even a small call can be important."
Stephanie Sloop eventually told police that her son had died and revealed where he was buried. Police arrested the Sloops and have charged them with several first-degree felonies surrounding Ethan's death.
The case is still making its way through the court.
Kuehn spent most of his time during the investigation at the mobile command post near the Layton Meadow Apartments at 540 W. 1425 North, where the Sloops lived.
A few dispatchers also were there, acting as scribes to gather information and create a timeline. The rest were away from the scene at the dispatch center.
"It's very challenging for the dispatchers to not have an understanding of what's going on in the field," Kuehn said. "They have to put together pictures in their minds."
Layton police appreciated the professionalism of the communications staff.
"It was impressive to see how the dispatchers kept themselves composed -- handling their emotions -- and push forward," said Lt. Garret Atkin.
"We are obviously proud of our dispatchers, and we are extremely lucky in Layton to have our own dispatch center, which does great in helping officers and providing quality service to residents of Layton."
Kuehn said that after any emotional incident like the Ethan Stacy case, there is one thing that makes dispatchers feel better: knowing that the people who were responsible for the crime were caught.
"It's good for us to have closure, because some cases don't have closure," Kuehn said. "Even with a bad ending, with Ethan not with us, we were able to have closure."