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article / January 16, 2022

5 reasons dispatchers need real-time situational awareness

The importance of situational awareness is drilled into officers from the very first day of police academy. But what about situational awareness for dispatchers? Knowing what’s going on out in the field can help them do their jobs more efficiently — and keep officers safer, too. Here are five reasons dispatchers need access to real-time information.

1. Officers Aren't Always in Their Cars

When deciding which unit to deploy to a call for service, dispatchers rely on automatic vehicle location (AVL) data through their CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system or by blind calling for a unit to respond. But being able to see where officers are, even when they’re not in their vehicles, would be much more efficient.

“Community policing models encourage officers to get out of their cars and into the community — to interact with the public,” says Jason Tillman, director of product marketing for Axon Respond. “That means they could be on foot, on a bike, in a building, etc. They’re not always in their cars.”

Axon Body 3 and Axon Respond make it possible to see where officers are, independent of their cars. When a body-worn camera (BWC) is activated, GPS inside the camera transmits the officer’s exact location to dispatch. In addition to knowing who the closest officer to a call might be, it makes keeping track of officers in risky situations easier.

“Take, for instance, an officer in a foot pursuit,” Tillman says. “Instead of expecting him or her to air location updates when there are other things going on, dispatch can get updates to a responding officer’s location using the GPS information.”

2. Radio Communication Isn't Always Possible

Whether an officer is trying to stay quiet for tactical purposes, can’t hear the radio because of noise or can’t get out a transmission because they’re hands-on with a subject, radio traffic isn’t always possible.

“Just think of all the time that’s spent trying to get a hold of an officer who may be in trouble,” Tillman says. “You call them on the radio. You CAD message them. You may be dialing their cell phone. You’re asking other officers if they’ve seen Ofc. Thompson. That’s a lot of wasted time when someone is in trouble.”

With Axon Respond, authorized supervisors can view a livestream of an officer’s previously activated BWC. That allows them to determine if and what type of help may be needed on a scene.

3. You Have a Duty to Protect the Public

In the above scenario, let’s say Ofc. Thompson hadn’t responded to his radio because his earpiece came unplugged or he was in a loud environment. Without being able to confirm his safety, a dispatcher may have called for other officers to respond to his location Code 3, which could potentially endanger the public, particularly in high-traffic areas.

Having the ability to check Ofc. Thompson’s GPS location to see he’s standing just outside a loud nightclub or being able to have a supervisor confirm he’s OK by livestreaming his BWC, you can call off the high-speed response.

4. You Can't Wait for a Callout

Imagine you have officers on scene with a suicidal subject. Your officers are trained in basic crisis response, but the situation is escalating and fast. Rather than having to wait for a member of a crisis response team to arrive, you could instead grant the person access to the officer’s Body 3 livestream and have them advise the officer on what to say or do to de-escalate the situation. In fact, the Fredericton Police Department in Canada has implemented this technology to support officers dealing with mental health crises. This could be particularly useful in rural jurisdictions and small departments where resources are tight.

5. It Could Save a Life

Seconds matter when it comes to officer safety. That’s why Axon has introduced notifications. Through Axon Respond and Axon Signal, dispatchers can be alerted to such situations as an officer drawing his TASER 7 weapon or an officer turning on her vehicle’s lightbar.

By automating notifications in these instances and others, dispatchers can get help to an officer in danger without hesitation — the ultimate goal of dispatcher situational awareness.

Get Real-Time Tech

Axon Respond for Devices provides dispatchers real-time information as a scene unfolds. Contact Axon to learn how you can implement real-time technology at your PSAP.