The communications center of the Webster City Police Department operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The communications center is staffed by three full time civilian dispatchers who cover dispatching Monday through Friday, twenty-four hours per day. The weekend is covered by seven part time dispatchers who cover Saturday and Sundays. The part time dispatchers also provide coverage for the three full time dispatchers when they take leave time such as vacation or other leave time. The arrangement works well and keeps overtime at a minimum. Many of the part time dispatchers work other jobs during the work week, thus bringing a variety of experience and expertise to the department.
The dispatchers are usually the public’s first contact. It is the dispatcher’s responsibility to take the information whether by radio, phone or in person. The dispatcher then disseminates the information to the officers on duty. The dispatchers continue to greet and assist the public at the public assistance window which is accessible twenty four hours a day, every day. Assistance at the window includes giving directions, taking initial information for calls for service or incident information, taking any applicable impound fees, report requests, parking ticket fines, bicycle registrations, fingerprint fees, vehicle unlock fees, after hours utility disconnects or any other pertinent information. Dispatchers page out city departments when needed after regular business hours.
This past July, the Iowa Judicial Branch implemented e-filing of all court documents to the Hamilton County Clerk of Court. Officers have all court documents notarized and then the full time dispatchers e-file the documents to the Hamilton County Clerk of Court. This includes traffic citations, arrest forms, domestic abuse victim forms, and unpaid parking tickets. Full time dispatchers are responsible for other specific data entry duties that include entering data into our law enforcement software such as parking tickets, traffic citations, written warnings, court dispositions, bicycle registrations, vehicle unlocks, keeping the dog impound book current and other miscellaneous data entries. They also perform validations of police records for the state, do secondary review of entries, send accidents into the Iowa Department of Transportation, and send reports to insurance companies. All dispatchers both full time and part time enter missing persons and stolen property into the Iowa/NCIC system. They also are responsible for confirming entries and cancelling them when appropriate. A total of 18,168 calls for service were taken by the dispatchers and dispatched by the communication center.
The Administrative Assistant serves as the Communications Supervisor who creates the schedules, coordinates training including ensuring all certifications are kept current and oversees the operations and personnel of the communication center. She also serves as custodian of the department’s records. She reviews all officers’ reports, disseminating them to the proper agencies, and oversees the accuracy and integrity of all records. She also serves as the terminal administrative coordinator for the IA/NCIC system and is the system administrator for the law enforcement software used by the department. She also remains an active part of the Hamilton County Quality Assurance board for Emergency Medical Dispatch calls and attends monthly QA meetings. This year she successfully completed the RPL, Registered Public Leader course through APCO, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials. This program was a comprehensive 12 month online program. Upon successful completion of the program, recipients receive a certificate of acceptance into the APCO Institute Registry of Public-Safety Leaders.
All part time and full time dispatchers keep their Iowa/NCIC certifications current as required by the State of Iowa. They participate in Telecommunicator training throughout the year to fulfill training requirements set by the Iowa Department of Public Safety. They also have all been trained in the Initial Incident Command; and attend other training as it becomes available. All dispatchers also serve as notary publics for the purpose of notarizing officer’s citations and complaint forms.
All officers are also IA/NCIC certified with access to query the system and dispatch during the dispatchers’ breaks or if needed to dispatch. The Administrative Assistant also ensures they keep current on their certifications.
The communications center contains many monitors which the dispatchers monitor during their respective shifts. They monitor the exterior of the municipal building, as well as the hallway and doorways, and the garage. They also monitor a dedicated fax line, four incoming administrative phone lines as well as a 911 phone for 911 police enforcement calls transferred from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department. The communication center also monitors all Tips Soft Tips for Hamilton County and disseminates the tips to the proper agency.
Internet access has become a necessity in the communications center. The internet is used as a tool to monitor weather, get reverse phone numbers, obtain information from the Hamilton County Assessor’s to aid officers in their investigations, monitor Tips Soft, e-file court documents, communicate effectively with off duty officers, other law enforcement and outside agencies.
Dispatchers also keep current on all city required training such as blood borne pathogens, right to know, first aid, CPR and any other helpful training.