Police Dispatcher Job Description
A Police Dispatcher answers emergency and non-emergency phone calls and coordinates the response of law enforcement officers to crime and accident scenes. They use two-way radio systems to transmit details to officers and contact other emergency personnel, such as fire fighters and paramedics, to respond to calls as needed. Police Dispatchers provide assistance to officers by answering queries about things like drivers license or warrant information. They also log all incoming calls during their shift.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs for Police Dispatchers and other emergency dispatchers is expected to decline 3 percent through 2024, due in large part to the increased use of consolidated 911 centers. Budget cuts at the local and state levels could also negatively impact the employment of Police Dispatchers.
Police Dispatcher Duties and Responsibilities
Police Dispatchers typically perform various tasks to ensure a prompt response to calls for service. We have reviewed several job listings and found the following among the core Police Dispatcher duties and responsibilities.
The main job of a Police Dispatcher is to handle initial calls for emergency and non-emergency situations. Police Dispatchers must assess the nature of each call and determine the proper personnel for response. They will log such information as caller’s name, location, parties involved, nature of the call and any other pertinent details they will need to relay to law enforcement officers and other responders.
Coordinate Law Enforcement and Other Personnel
Once they have logged a call, Police Dispatchers will use a two-way radio system to relay all information to law enforcement officers who will be responding to the scene. Police Dispatchers will also determine if other responders are required, such as medical responders, fire fighters or tow trucks, and dispatch these services as needed.
Police Dispatchers maintain communications with law enforcement officers who respond to a call. They will provide additional information as requested by an officer, such as validating a driver’s license or researching possible outstanding warrant information. Police Dispatchers might also answer queries from the public regarding non-emergency situations.
Police Dispatcher Skills
Police Dispatchers are expected to possess strong written and verbal communication skills, as much of their time is spent speaking with law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and the public. They must be detail-oriented to ensure they are relaying the proper information to officers as they dispatch calls. In addition, Police Dispatchers should be able to exercise strong problem-solving and customer service skills and have the ability to work well in stressful situations. In addition to these general skills, a Police Dispatcher could be expected by potential employers to possess the following skills.
Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Police Dispatchers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Police Dispatcher, focus on the following.
- Understanding police and dispatch codes and procedures
- Coordinating various personnel for emergency response purposes
- Operating radio and communications systems
- Handling stressful situations and calming distressed callers
- Knowing local laws and ordnances as well as geographical areas
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Police Dispatcher toolbox and broaden your career options.
- Type at least 35 words per minute
- Knowledge of Microsoft Office applications
Police Dispatcher Resources
It is beneficial to research additional information if you are considering a career as a Police Dispatcher that can give you insight into the challenges and responsibilities of this position. Below, we have provided links to online and print resources about this career.
On the Web
911 Dispatcher Blog – A blog recounting real-life, personal stories about being a 911 and Police Dispatcher.
9-1-1 Magazine – An online publication offering articles and features about trends, technological updates and real-life stories about 911 and police dispatching.
Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) – The largest and oldest organization of its kind, APCO offers professional development and training opportunities for Police Dispatchers and related professions. APCO hosts conferences, summits, online courses and certification.
National Emergency Number Association (NENA) – An organization providing training and certification programs for Police Dispatchers and 911 operators with webinars, live courses and study groups in addition to forums and conferences.
Under the Headset: Surviving Dispatcher Stress – Written by a 27-year veteran in the field, this book explores the effects of stress on dispatchers and how they can cope with it.
Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat – A personal account of the day-to-day challenges and successes of being an emergency dispatcher.