Ten full time civilian dispatchers and a communications supervisor staff the communications unit of the Farmington Police Department. Most emergencies, whether security, fire, safety or health related, originate from calls received via either one of the emergency 911 phone lines and administrative lines or via the TDD (telephone device for the deaf). The Communications Unit handles all phone, radio, and referral calls for service for the towns of Farmington and Burlington and all police related calls within the town of Farmington.
Emergency calls (911) and non-emergency calls (675-2400) are then prioritized. Calls of an immediate, life threatening nature receive the highest priority. Officers are dispatched to the highest priority calls before they are sent to other calls. All calls that are received and placed from the communications unit are recorded.
The communications unit is operational and staffed 24 hours a day and acts as liaison to the public for anything from directions, lost and found items to safety advice. Our phone systems also permit direct access to local resources such as surrounding police agencies, paramedics and tow companies.
We also have a regional radio monitoring system, which allows us to receive other calls within our area for the purpose of providing mutual aid. Dispatchers maintain constant radio contact with the officers in the field.
The Communications Unit has equipment to help handle the calls for service. NexGen Law Enforcement Administration System helps the dispatchers handle the record keeping and dispatching the appropriate units for calls. This system provides us with detailed reports to assist in workload analysis that ultimately will result in better management of resources. Motorola’s CENTRACOM Elite Dispatch radio system allows the dispatchers to notify the EMS and Fire Department personal of calls and keep them in constant contact with officers on the road. In addition to this radio system and CAD (computer aided dispatch) system, the Police Department is using Mobile Data Computers in all marked patrol units to expedite police services for all areas of the town. These computers will insure officers of having the latest information available from federal, state, and local data banks as well access to the latest updated call information on calls for service from the public.
What Happens When You Call?
For many people, their first and sometimes only contact with the police department is a telephone call answered by a dispatcher, which means that the department's entire reputation may well rest on the person in that job. Some have suggested that the telephone call for police service is the single most critical point in the entire criminal justice system. It is the dispatcher who typically has the first contact with the citizen, and the decisions that they make can dictate the entire department's response. The dispatcher's job is to listen to the information offered by the caller, ask appropriate questions to discover the true nature of the call, assess the information quickly,and then make a decision about how to field the call. Researchers have compared the occupational stress of the dispatcher to the stress suffered by air traffic controllers. Within the pressure imposed by time, dispatchers must make critical decisions, direct the activities of several police units, receive and assimilate a variety of information, and then communicate effectively with police officers and citizens.