Frequently the first, and sometimes the only, contact citizens may have with the City of Fairfax Police Department is the professional voice answering a call in the department’s Communications Center. Eight full-time and two part-time dispatchers, normally working in shifts of two, staff the center.
The many varied functions and responsibilities of the position require dispatchers to be skilled multi-taskers. Once hired after a thorough selection process, a new employee receives two weeks of initial training followed by a minimum of three months on-the-job and field training under the guidance of experienced personnel. To insure that their skills are maintained, dispatchers must be recertified every two years.
Dispatchers must possess and be able to rapidly draw upon a wealth of information, not only about the city, but also the many technical aspects of Police Department operations. In addition, they must master the ability to monitor and use a number of communications systems with which the center is equipped.
When receiving calls from the public, dispatchers must be able to quickly ascertain the nature of the call, what is being reported and what resources are required. If police response is needed, the information must be relayed quickly and accurately to officers in the field, keeping aware that officer safety is of paramount concern. Callers frequently are excited or under stress, requiring dispatchers to exert a calming influence in order to obtain the best possible information about a situation.
Besides calls seeking police assistance, the Communications Center receives many calls from individuals seeking general information and serves as the point of emergency contact for city government services.