Are Police Dispatchers Police Officers?

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steve888

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I listen to Fairfax County Police and Fire channels quite a bit and when dispatchers dispatch calls to the police out in the field, they often refer to "call takers" when they are talking with the police...as in, "the call taker heard a loug bang in the background before the line disconnected".

So, it sounds like there's a team of call takers fielding 911 calls that ultimately get moved up to the dispatchers who actually contact the police.

Question: are the dispatchers actual officers or are they dispatchers? I think they're dispatchers because they often use "sir" when speaking with the officers (and usually cops don't call each other "sir").

Anyway, enquiring scanner minds want to know!!
 

FFPM571

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Some larger agencies have Call takers do just that. They take the call, enter the information ,. Talk to the caller and then send the information to the right dispatcher. Police or fire, even EMS. Now days most dispatchers are not police officers. Some may be, those on light duty or retired officers.
 
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N2MWE

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Where I work part time, there are civilian dispatchers, as well as deputy sheriffs assigned to Communications. Most dispatch centers are civilians, but some departments still use police officers who might be on limited duty. Call takers are in dispatch centers where 911 is separate from the radio room, as in NYPD. In my dispatch center, we take the call as well as dispatch the deputy.
 

W6KRU

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The local department has dispatchers that handle the radio and call takers that handle the phones. The dispatcher will sometimes refer to the call taker as their partner. The dispatchers are not sworn officers.
 

gewecke

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In this area, we also use call takers who primarily do just that and then relay that info to "tc's" who are telecommunication specialists that transmit call info to officers and rescuers.
Most officers and responders frequently refer to others as "sir".

73,
n9zas
 

Thunderknight

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Large centers often divide the roles, with call takers answering 911 and entering the call into CAD, and then a radio dispatcher dispatching the call on the radio. In large centers they are mostly or all civilians, sometimes managed by sworn.
In small centers, both roles are often the same. In small centers they can be all civilians or a mix. In very small departments, it can be as few as 1-2 people serving as call taker, dispatcher and front desk clerk. Those are often either civ or sworn depending on department.
I have no info on Fairfax, but I would guess based on size they have dedicated call takers and dispatchers, and they are probably civilian.
The "sir" is probably just common lingo or historical, I wouldn't use that to assume it means civilian. It may be because the dept or center is so large they don't know the officers personally, so it's a more generic term.
 

b7spectra

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In the Metro Atlanta area, B98.5% of all dispatchers are civilian. Why pay a police officer salary when you can pay a civilian salary? Most officers would probably be bored to death if they had to work dispatch and take calls from the public!

There is, however, a police officer I know that moonlights as a dispatcher. He works both call taker and fire dispatch.
 

steve888

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Thanks For All the Replies!

I really appreciate all of the info you provided. Fairfax County has about 1.2 million residents and about 1,300 officers on the force so it sounds like there's one group of call takers who field all the fire and police calls and then they get funneled to a team of dispatchers who then contact the fire/police/EMS units out in the field.

That's kind of how I thought it worked but I just wanted to confirm. Thanks again for your replies!
 

scannerboy01

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In Alberta, RCMP control refers the the officers most often as their car number (ex. 3A112), portable radio number or their name (ex. Cst. Doe). When with officers are taking to officers from the same detachment, they use either first or last names.
 

Confuzzled

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I don't know of too many places that use sworn POs any more. Detroit used to, but I don't know if they still do.

It was odd to hear them direct or order units to do something. Most dispatchers won't or can't do that. It was almost as if DPD Radio Operators were in some kind of supervisory role over the field officers.

If a unit was on a traffic stop and a call came to the radio operator, you'd hear him TELL the unit to clear the stop and take the call. Sometimes once a situation was under control radio would call out two or three unit numbers to remain on scene and direct all other units to 'resume normal patrol'. Then they'd go through a roll call to make sure they were understood.

I've never heard any other department do that kind of thing.


Some of the suburban departments around there would use Cadets or trainees.
 
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commstar

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I would like to add that saying the 'calltaker heard the shot' adds the credibilty of actual fact versus reported fact.

A citizen may or may not be truthful, right or even just mistaken. No secret, often folks who want a cop 'now' add a fictitious firearm to the mix because it does get the police there faster.

Saying a calltaker heard the shot tells the cop that this might be real and not just a fairytale.

The other thing it does is remind the cop that the dispatcher is not hearing the call realtime- they are just reading what comes over CAD to them from the calltaker.

AS for the use of the word Sir. every department develops its own language. Perticualarly if there is real stress between the dispatcher and the cop, look for the way the word is said rather than just the word. I worked in one agency where the term 'check' used over the air meant 'f--- you'. Sir could just be that agency's practice and mean little but look to voice inflection and timing. in other words, they may be telling one another to 'f--- off' just not actually using those words.

Beyond that, I would venture a guess that is a mechanism to avoid the use of you/me/y'all and instill a baseline level of professionalism on the air. Perhaps even required by policy.

Regardless, when these folks bump into one another in the PD hallways there is no regimented sirs being exchanged.

Having been both a cop and a dispatcher, I would prefer a cop as a dispatcher but the fiscal realities put that out of reach.
 
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