Dispatchers critical to force, VCU Police Capt. says

Erica Terrini

News Editor

Last week during National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, the VCU Police Department recognized the contributions of their dispatchers to the police force: In 2009, dispatchers received 225,134 phone calls, which is an increase of 34 percent from 2008, according to the Emergency Communications 2009 Report.

Rachel Ross, the manager of the Emergency Communication Center for the VCU Police, said dispatchers will receive 700-900 calls per day, but a majority of those calls are for the department’s Security Escort Service.

“The overall objective is to keep the community safe and our officers safe,” Ross said. “We have three shifts and so we’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A lot of (dispatchers) do a lot of overtime; some of them have families and things like that. It’s a difficult job and it’s not for everyone.”

Ross said the job could be a lot to handle. She said she and her emergency communications staff dispatch VCU security and police officers to respond to calls, but also communicate with the Richmond Police Department depending on where the call was made.

“(The incident) could be on a Richmond city street or it could be in a dorm,” Ross said. “It just depends on where it’s at and we handle everything in the area because we’re geographically located.”

Ross said their service area contributes to the volume of calls they receive.

Capt. Grant Warren of VCU Police said some calls do have to be turned over to the Richmond Police, but if it is a matter of safety, VCU Police will try to send an officer to the scene regardless.

According to Ross and Warren, the estimate response time for emergencies averages around less than five minutes and the general service response time is about eight minutes.

“It’s really a task to become a certified dispatcher … It is such an important job,” Warren said. “They’re handling emergencies; they’re handling people in crisis. You’ve got to know where to go for the information.”

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