Communications Center

Page updated on Nov 20, 2007 at 10:45 AM

The Alexandria Police Department Communications Center (911)

The Alexandria Police Communications Center handles all emergency (911) calls for the City and non-emergency calls for Police Department.   Medical emergencies and fire calls within the city limits are transferred from the police center to the Fire Department Communications Center. 

 Emergency number: 911 Non-Emergency number: (703) 838-4444

 The Communications Center employees work four shifts to provide 24/7 coverage.  They are assigned to one of four shifts, either one of the two 630 A.M. to 630 P.M. shifts or one of the two 630 P.M. to 630 A.M. shifts.  

 Each communications center employee is trained to be both a call taker and a dispatcher.   The call taker position handles the telephone calls, both emergency and non-emergency from the public, other law enforcement agencies, from our officers and many others.  In 2006, the Police Communications Center handled 380,000 calls, or approximately 1,400 calls a day.   The dispatcher position is the person who handles the radio and the call assignment and dispatching of the calls to the officer.   This position is often a high pressure one during emergencies.  During emergencies we often have to put two dispatchers on the radio, one to handle the emergency and one for the rest of the city.   Each dispatcher is responsible for all routine radio work in the city, including call dispatching and ordering of certain auxiliary services, such as tow trucks, animal control and other city services.  In addition to the initial dispatching of calls, dispatchers are responsible for routinely receiving and logging arrivals at calls, logging clearances from calls, dispatching to and clearing from administrative service details (periods of unavailability which include equipment maintenance, arrest transportation, and so on), and logging to and clearing from on-view incidents, which include traffic stops. Field officers using their MDBs, relieving dispatchers of such routine tasks and reducing radio talk time as well, now complete many of these tasks.  The communication employees’ rotate through the dispatcher position during their shift.  

 New employees are trained at each position and learn all the other tasks handled by the section.   They first learn to hand the phones then moves onto learning the radio.  This training usually takes a year to become proficient and each task in the center.


 Incoming emergency calls are assigned by an Automatic Call Distributor, among available call takers.  This distributes the workload of incoming calls fairly evenly among those assigned this function. A call taker not on a call remains in a state of readiness to receive the next call, and the Distributor directs the call automatically to that operator, who is notified by a tone that a caller is now on the line. Our Communications Center is equipped to handle up to six call-takers simultaneously.

 Most of the Section's dispatching work is accomplished using a CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system, with operators and dispatchers using computer terminals to rapidly record and transmit information.  Patrol cars are equipped with MDBs (Mobile Data Browsers computers). Dispatch functions are recorded using the computer terminals.  The resulting statistical data provides extensive capability for production of management reports and workload monitoring.

All radio frequencies, telephone lines, and many of the intercom lines are recorded on the Section's recorder system.

 The enhanced E 911 system has both ANI (automatic number identification), and ALI (automatic location identification), and is area wide.   The Department encourages citizens to call a special non-emergency (703-838-4444) number when a police, fire, or medical response is not needed immediately to reduce call volume on 911 and provide for more proper and efficient use of 911 by citizen callers.