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What is computer-aided dispatch software?

Learn about key features of CAD police software and how law enforcement agencies use it to allocate resources

For police officers and other first responders, every second counts, and there’s little room for miscommunication and redundancies. That’s why many law enforcement agencies use computer-aided dispatch software to triage emergency calls, allocate resources, and track incidents in real time.

Ready to take your knowledge to the next level? Read Police software: The ultimate guide.

What is computer-aided dispatch software(CAD)?

Computer-aided dispatch software for law enforcement is a platform that helps first responders receive calls, direct resources, and record incidents from the initial 911 call onward. Depending on the agency, police CAD software can:

  • Automatically route officer calls from the field and direct them to appropriate emergency centers or local police stations

  • Triage calls from the public and direct them to appropriate departments

  • Manage information about dispatched resources (vehicles, equipment, personnel)

  • Record all available data about the incident, starting with the first call

  • Provide tools for submitting information to authorized parties (attorneys, prosecutors, detectives, partnering agencies)

When a CAD system integrates with your record management system, much of the documentation agency personnel would need to complete by hand or in a digital form is already documented. Computer-aided dispatch software tracks everything that happens during an incident in real-time, so when an officer gets back to the station after a call, all the information they need (beginning from the first 911 call) is already in the system, ready to be reviewed or referred to the next person in the chain of custody.

Different use cases for CAD

CAD police software is not just for tracking and recording criminal incidents. Accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and any other situations that may call for first responders can be managed more effectively with computer-aided dispatch software. Police officers can use the CAD system to communicate with other first responders, such as the local hospital or fire station, and transfer jurisdiction to agencies in a nearby precinct if necessary (such as during a pursuit). Meanwhile, dispatchers at emergency centers can use the CAD system to locate people in emergency situations and direct first responders. And of course, crucial evidence or information about incidents can be recorded and shared between authorities during investigations.

Benefits of CAD software to law enforcement agencies

Here are some ways in which public safety CAD systems make life easier for law enforcement agencies:

  • Enhanced communication: CAD police software facilitates communication between officers, supervisors back at the station, and other first responders. Instead of tying up radio channels, all parties responding to an incident can track resources and personnel on-site in real time.

  • Efficient use of resources: Accurate, fast communication lets law enforcement agencies focus on resource allocation and gives them the most intel possible about the number of vehicles dispatched, officers involved, and any other parties on the scene.

  • Automated record-keeping: CAD systems keep track of live incidents as they unfold, beginning with the initial 911 call. When integrated with a records management system, such as Axon Records, computer-aided dispatch software also makes reporting accurate data to NIBRS an easier task.

  • Improved response time: By automatically triaging calls and gathering information, CAD systems can cut down response time to emergencies by eliminating confusion and back and forth about locations and resources needed.

Finding the best computer-aided dispatch software

While CAD software provides many benefits, the initial implementation phase can be a challenge for law enforcement agencies. After all, you can’t afford to have disruptions to the emergency response system and adjusting to new software often comes with a learning curve. Here are some features to look for when evaluating public safety computer-aided dispatch software.

  • Call taking and triage: This is an essential part of any police CAD system. Any platform you’re considering should automatically accept calls and help dispatchers triage them to appropriate departments.

  • Location verification: Officers and especially civilians in emergency situations may not be physically or mentally capable of giving you their precise location when calling for help. That’s why your CAD system should include location verification to identify exactly where resources are needed.

  • Dispatching: A police CAD system should help you assign and automatically notify officers and other first responders (EMS, fire department) when they are called to respond to an incident, along with an accurate location of the incident and any other relevant details gathered from the call.

  • Field unit status and tracking: The best police CAD systems let you track your field unit locations, including the number of vehicles and personnel, as well as any incoming body-worn or vehicle camera footage.

  • Record management: Because CAD systems track calls and incident response as soon as an emergency is reported, they’re a valuable source of data for investigators, attorneys, and detectives.

  • Integration with existing records system: To get the most out of your CAD system, look for a platform that seamlessly integrates with your records management system. Automatically having access to all the evidence in your possession in your records systems eliminates duplication of effort (having to transition data in the CAD system to the records system) and ensures you don’t lose a piece of key evidence.

Axon keeps you connected

Our dynamic reporting system Axon Records, is for and built in partnership with law enforcement professionals, with a NIBRS-compliant reporting system, intuitive reporting tools, and customizable automatic alerts to make sure you’re never missing a moment. Reach out for a demo.