Police dispatchers are emergency communications professionals who are called upon to ensure the successful transmission of information from callers in distress to responding police personnel.
Their work involves providing accurate and timely information to police officers and dispatching the appropriate personnel to incidents and emergencies through a two-way communications system within a city or municipal police department.
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Police dispatchers are found in locations without consolidated 911 operations that handle dispatches for all manner of emergency. In these locations, a 911 call taker receives the call and finds out the nature of the emergency. If the caller is in need of police assistance, they are then put in contact with a police dispatcher.
Police dispatchers must:
- Possess excellent oral and written communication skills
- Possess strong, interpersonal skills
- Understand the surrounding area’s geography
- Be able to accurately listen and record information
- Be able to maintain their composure during periods of intense stress or during emergencies
Police dispatchers must also answer non-emergency phone calls, which require recording the information and informing officers of the incident. Police dispatchers may even to provide emergency medical assistance to the caller over the phone while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. Additional administrative duties for police dispatchers often include typing official statements, assisting people who want to file complaints, and keeping general office records.
Safety and the Police Dispatcher
Police dispatchers are often seen as the lifeline of police officers, as their instructions and information give the police officers direction regarding how to proceed with the incident or emergency.
Police dispatchers must monitor, receive, and relay police alarms, intra-departmental calls, emergency calls, and dispatch police vehicles in the most efficient and productive manner. They must be able to remain calm and composed at all times, and they must be able to collect and relay as much information as possible to the responding police officers as to protect the safety and lives of both the general public and the police force.
Sound judgment and the ability prioritize phone calls and dispatch police officers accordingly are of the utmost importance, particularly in the event of a potentially life-threatening situation.
Information that is not clearly relayed to the officers in a timely fashion could result in injury or death to the police officers, the involved parties, or innocent bystanders; therefore, the ability to gather and relay as much information as possible as to allow the police officers to handle the situation accordingly is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial aspects of the police dispatcher job.
Job Duties of a Police Dispatcher
When police dispatchers receive a call, either from a central dispatching center or directly in areas without a central dispatching center, they must be able to glean as much information as possible before dispatching the appropriate police officers. The job description of a police dispatcher involves gathering relevant information, including:
- The exact location of the incident
- The nature of the call and the urgency of the call
- The parties involved in the incident, including their names, ages, build and appearance, and clothing
- If the incident is happening now, or if the caller is reporting an incident that happened prior to the call
- The presence of any weapons or firearms
- The presence of any injuries
Obtaining this information is often quite difficult, particularly if the caller is in distress or is unable to answer the dispatcher’s questions. If the caller cannot identify his or her whereabouts, police dispatchers must be able to trace the phone call to determine the location of the call, and they must immediately run a check on the involved parties to relay any pertinent information to the police officers, including prior arrests or convictions.
As the caller relays the information, police dispatchers transcribe the information into a computer system that records all of the data. As such, these professionals must have excellent typing and transcription skills as to enter the data as quickly and accurately as possible. Upon receiving information regarding the scene of the location, police dispatchers must then determine which officers are nearest the location.
Once police dispatchers receive a call and gather the necessary information from the caller, they determine the urgency of the call and contact the appropriate police officers via a two-way radio or telephone with the information to respond to the incident or emergency.
Police dispatchers, during an emergency situation, often stay on the line with the caller, relaying information or simply keeping the caller calm until the police arrive. Police dispatchers may relay important information to the caller during this time, such as telling them to unlock the door for police officers or to providing them with specific instructions on how to stay safe until help arrives.
Job Description of a Police Dispatcher
Like other emergency dispatching positions, the minimum requirement for police dispatcher jobs is usually a high school diploma and a clear criminal record. However, given the high degree of precision needed to perform this job, many police departments require at least a few years in a dispatching capacity as a minimum requirement for a police dispatcher position.
Police dispatcher jobs that do not require experience as a dispatcher, often still require a background in customer service or telephone work, particularly in areas involving resolving complaints or giving and receiving information. Other minimum requirements usually include basic computer skills, a minimum typing speed (usually about 30 WPM), and the ability to pass a background investigation.
A typical job description for a police dispatcher includes the following, essential job functions:
- Determining the significance of the call and assigning the appropriate level of police resources
- Collaborating with department supervisors to monitor and control the response of the police officers
- Operating a Computer Aided Dispatch System (CADS) and other computer terminals
- Monitoring the location and the status of all police officers on patrol
- Ensuring compliance of all operating procedures and FCC regulations
- Receiving and processing calls either directly or through an enhanced 911 system