How NYBy John McCormick | Posted 2002-09-09 Email Print
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Online exclusive: New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Charles Dowd, the commanding officer of the NYPD's communication division, is very proud of his operation and the more than 1,000 civilian and sworn personnel in his charge. And while th
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How NY's Dispatch System Works
Calls come into the city's Brooklyn communications center, where 911 operators take the information and feed it into terminals that are hooked up to a mainframe in police headquarters in downtown Manhattan. The mainframe takes the address information, corresponds the address to one of the department's 76 precincts, and then sends the information to the terminal of the precinct's police dispatcher. All the dispatchers are housed in the Brooklyn center, which each dispatcher handling, on average, two precincts. The dispatcher sits in front of a split screen, with one side showing jobs needing to be assigned and the other showing jobs that are being handled and the unit handling each assignment. Calls go out over precinct-specific frequencies.
The radio system, however, is congested. And patrol officers say that on some—albeit rare—occasions, they wait up to five minutes to break in with a request for information, such as a plate check, or to notify a dispatcher that they've finished one job and are ready for another assignment.
"Five minutes doesn't sound like a lot," Dowd says, "but if it's happening with increased frequency, obviously you're not getting as much out of your resources as you could." Cops are delayed in returning to patrols or responding to other calls.
Dowd, however, says that over the past few years, the problem has been alleviated as the department reduced the number of precincts handled by individual dispatchers—some had been responsible for three or even four precincts—and installed, in the 1990s, mobile data terminals (MDT) in some patrol cars that enable officers to query the department's want-and-warrant system and New York's State's motor vehicle database. However, only about half of the departments 4,300 patrol vehicles have MDTs.
The goals of the new computer-aided dispatch system, according to Dowd, are to not only free up the airwaves but to better communicate information with officers on the street.