The Communications Specialist is the first person that citizens speak with when they dial 9-1-1 to report an emergency, to report crimes, or to simply ask questions via the non-emergency telephone lines. Communications Specialists are required to keep their calm and quickly dispatch officers to where they are needed. On average, from the time the dispatcher answers a telephone call for emergency service until the time the first officer arrives on the scene, between three and four minutes has elapsed. Communications Specialists have the daunting tasks of:
- Monitoring two computer screens - one that displays the status of all officers on duty and the other for typing information into a computer as it is received from the public or officers on the street.
- Answering two 9-1-1 telephone lines, three non-emergency telephone lines, and three internal telephone lines.
- Monitoring and responding to radio traffic from anywhere from four to seven road patrol officers, or as many as twenty officers during special events.
- Monitoring and responding to detectives conducting surveillance on a separate radio channel.
- Monitoring surrounding police agencies radio traffic on a police scanning radio.
- Monitoring the Washington Township Fire Department radio frequency for information concerning medic or fire calls.
- Processing criminal history checks for police officers via the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer system, sending teletypes confirming warrants or the recovery of stolen vehicles, or alerting officers to teletypes from other agencies.
- Attending to citizens who stop by the Dispatch Office requesting information or requiring police assistance.
All Communications Specialists are cross-trained to handle both communications and records. Many of the reports previously placed on paper are now stored in the computer eliminating wasted time and effort and making our record retrieval system more efficient. Still, several thousand offense reports and hundreds of accident reports were processed by these skilled information specialists. A Uniform Crime Report, which the FBI uses to track crime trends across the country, is generated monthly. The information used to create these reports is gleaned from the offense reports generated by police officers assigned to conduct criminal investigations. Criminal history checks are another important function of the Records unit.
Annually, Communications Specialists run hundreds of criminal history checks utilizing either the NCIC or local arrest records. Digital mugshot imaging equipment is used to store computer generated photos in the Criminal Justice Information System.