A police dispatcher is responsible for answering emergency and non-emergency phone calls at a police station. He or she records information from callers and directs police officers to crime and accident scenes. A dispatcher also assists people who come into the police station with information about criminals, threats, and suspicious activity. By gathering the details of a situation, the dispatcher ensures that emergency responders are fully prepared to deal with the incident at hand. A calm, logical demeanor and excellent communication skills are needed in order to perform the job effectively.
When a call for police assistance comes in, the dispatcher answers the phone and attempts to gather as much information as possible from the caller. He or she obtains the address of the incident and asks about what happened. The police dispatcher determines the urgency of the call and contacts the appropriate responders via telephone or radio. He or she usually tries to stay on the line with the caller while police make their way to the accident or crime scene. By using clear, calm language, the dispatcher tries to reassure the caller and help him or her get through the situation.
During the call, the police dispatcher transcribes information into a computer system so that official reports can be made. Typing skills and computer proficiency are important to ensure data is entered as quickly and accurately as possible. In addition, a police dispatcher must be familiar with the layout of the city and the routes of patrolling officers so responders can efficiently find their way to their destinations.
Police dispatchers assume additional duties when not answering calls. They usually work at the front desks of police stations, typing official statements, keeping general office records, and helping people file complaints or criminal charges. Many dispatchers are also responsible for logging and retrieving information about prisoners, such as their past charges, mug shots, and fingerprint records.
A high school diploma is usually the minimum requirement to become a police dispatcher. Most employers require applicants to pass drug and background checks to ensure they are responsible and able to perform the important duties of the job. A new police dispatcher receives hands-on training from experienced professionals to learn how to use the phone and computer systems correctly. An individual who excels in his or her work may be able to obtain a supervisory position at a police department or emergency response center.