Thursday, May 29, 2008

Glendale's 911 Center

Last night I attended the second class in the Glendale Police Department's 12 week Citizen's Academy. There are 30 people in the class, and every Wednesday we will learn about a different aspect of the police department and police work in Glendale. The first week was devoted to general orientation and a tour of police headquarters.

This week focused on Communications, and featured an extended question and answer session with Glendale's Police Chief Randy Adams and a presentation by the Communications supervisor on life as a 911 and radio dispatcher.

Here are some things I learned:
  • Caruso Affiliated gets a monthly bill for the additional police services necessary to secure the Americana and control traffic in the area
  • Glendale PD has 271 officers
  • compared to the ethnic make up of Glendale, Armenians are underrepresented within the police department, although the department is actively trying to recruit additional Armenians
  • Glendale has fewer officers per citizen than Burbank and Pasadena, yet has a far lower crime rate than either city
  • The Americana has been getting 400-500,000(!) visitors on weekends. Remember that Glendale's entire population is only 200,000.
  • Glendale's 911 center was overwhelmed with 250 calls from scared residents immediately after the infamous 11:15pm Americana fireworks display
  • The busiest time for 911 is 3pm
  • if you are on a cell phone, you are probably better off calling Glendale PD's 7 digit number rather than 911. That number is: 818-548-4840. You should put that number in your phone now rather than when you really need it.
We listened to several actual 911 calls to hear how the dispatcher responded. I was surprised to find myself getting tense and sweaty just listening to the calls. One radio call showed how cool the dispatchers had to be under severe stress- an officer was holding two suspects at gunpoint and calling for backup. We heard the dispatcher radio to several nearby units. A nearby unit responded, and you could hear his siren in the background. A minute later, that officer was t-boned in an intersection and seriously hurt. So he was calling the dispatcher for help while in obvious pain, and trying to describe the vehicle which hit him and ran, and in the meantime the other officer is still calling for backup as he is still holding two guys at gunpoint, and the dispatcher was juggling back and forth between them, dispatching some units to assist the injured officer, and others to the other situation. Intense!

Here is Glendale's 911 call center on the fourth floor of the police building. Note City Hall in the background. The people on this shift like the room dark.

Their computers are linked up to various databases, information about which units are on patrol and their status, as well as a map of the city. Some patrol cars have GPS, and their exact location shows up on the map.

If you're cool as a cucumber, can multitask and don't have any felonies, they're hiring dispatchers.

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