The Communications Division of the Tucson Police Department is a vital link between citizens needing police service and the police officers responding to calls for service. The purpose of the Communications Division is to collaborate with the community, the department, and other agencies to provide professional services that protect life and resolve problems. Citizens needing emergency police response may contact the Department 24 hours a day by dialing 911. Non-emergencies may be handled by calling 520-791-4444, the non-emergency line, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., or by using online reporting available on this website.
The Communications Division employs approximately 100 non-sworn employees whose primary responsibility is to provide emergency assistance to the citizens of Tucson. Personnel currently staff two positions within the Division: Police Service Operator (PSO) and Public Safety Dispatcher (PSD). The PSOs staff the non-emergency lines and the emergency desk or 911 lines, and dispatchers staff the radio frequencies. Each position is crucial to providing quality service to the citizens of Tucson.
520-791-COPS — INFORMATION ONLY
This telephone line was established to provide callers with general information on frequently-requested topics, including how to obtain a police report, when public fingerprinting is available, upcoming special events, employment information, and more. This is a recorded line only, with menu options available to guide callers through the available information. This line reduces the load on the 791-4444 non-emergency line, providing more efficient service to users of both systems.
If you need to report something to the police but it does not require an emergency response and does not pose immediate threat to life, 520-791-4444 is the published non-emergency telephone line. The non-emergency telephone line is staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for this purpose, or to help you if you have a question. Non-emergency telephone lines are staffed by Police Service Operators who are assigned to the position on a rotating schedule. Over 11,000 calls per month are handled at the non-emergency desk. These calls include requests for information, referrals, and may even result in a police response. It is not uncommon for operators to spend several minutes on calls in this assignment; however, they are aware incoming calls are on hold and make every attempt to handle calls as quickly as possible.
“Our objective is to answer all 911 lines in a timely and efficient manner, provide quality customer service, and offer a vital link between police officers and the citizens of Tucson.”
Types of calls the Police Service Operators (PSOs) answer include emergency calls, outside business calls, calls from other police or social service agencies, and inter-agency lines. PSOs receive 911 calls that have been screened by an operator working the 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) before being routed to Police Communications. PSAP is the first point of contact for anyone calling 911. A caller is asked a few questions which determine the nature of the call and to which agency the call needs to be transferred. If the call is transferred to the Police Department it will be answered by a PSO who will then gather more detailed information to determine an accurate course of action. This may include generating a call for police service, offering an alternative option or response, or referring the call to another police or social service agency. The PSOs working the emergency desk answer over 600,000 calls a year, over 50,000 calls a month, and generate over 30,000 calls a month to police officers for service. PSOs also follow through on calls entered for service by re-contacting citizens when needed, generating “Attempt to Locate” records, updating internal files, and completing requests made by police officers.
Public Safety Dispatchers
There are 40 Dispatcher positions with the primary function of working the police radio to dispatch public safety units to respond for emergency assistance within the City of Tucson. The City of Tucson is divided into five geographical areas called Operations Divisions. Each division is assigned police officers, a radio frequency, and a Public Safety Dispatcher who works the frequency. The dispatcher workstation is equipped with three computers and six monitors. One computer runs the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) to monitor calls and police unit activity status. Another computer on the dispatch console controls the police radio, and a third computer controls the mapping and computerized telephony system. Dispatchers have a variety of duties, including talking to police officers via radio and computer, dispatching calls for service, tracking and logging police unit activity on the computer, and relaying requests from police officers to Police Service Operators, supervisors, and other agencies. They also access computerized files to check for wants and warrants, stolen vehicles, stolen property/articles, license plates, and driver’s license information. When dispatchers are not assigned to work a radio frequency they help answer incoming 911 lines on the emergency desk.
Training new personnel and providing continuous training for established employees is a high priority in the Communications Division. Because the employees of Communications deal with critical situations that can develop into life-and-death matters, knowing what to do when there is little or no time to think and weigh options is essential in this line of work.
For this reason, the initial training program Communications employees receive is very intense. Police Service Operators participate in approximately 26 weeks of training and Dispatchers take part in approximately 30 weeks of training. Each group begins training in a classroom setting for the first six weeks, which is followed by one-on-one instruction with a trainer on a live computer, phone, and radio. Each new employee will complete five phases of training that include work performance reviews and individual instruction. Once employees successfully complete training they are assigned to a shift to begin work independently. The probation period for each position is 18 months and begins on the date of hire.
- What type of activity should I report?
- Any type of criminal or suspicious activity should be reported to the Police Department. When calling 520-791-4444 for non-emergency situations or 911, please be specific. We need to know what activity you have observed and what causes you to believe the situation is criminal or suspicious. Please try to provide as much information as possible, such as vehicle descriptions, clothing and physical descriptions of suspicious persons, and good location information where the activity is occurring.
- Examples of suspicious activity can include, but are not limited to:
- Someone looking over fences
- Someone trying to break into a residence or vehicle
- Drug activity
- Shots heard
- Suspicious vehicles that are unfamiliar to the area
- Sometimes it is difficult to determine what type of suspicious activity or people should be reported to the police. If you are in doubt, call 911.
- Why does the operator keep asking me questions? If they just sent the police, they would find out all they need to know.
- As the reporting party, you are the first and only source of information until a police officer arrives on scene. Police Service Operators are trained to ask specific questions relevant to the officer’s response. In the few minutes that it takes for the officer to drive to a location, particularly one that is volatile, many things can change. A suspect may leave, a shot can be fired, a burglar can gain entry, or more people can arrive at a fight with weapons. The more information you can provide the better chance officers have of apprehending a suspect, bringing a fight under control, or preventing injuries.
- Why do they send the police even when I called back and told them everything was okay?
- There are several types of reports that the police respond to that will not be cancelled by telephone:
- Domestic violence
- Child or adult abuse
- Robbery calls
- Certain types of alarms
- Molestation or rape
- 911 hang-ups
- These calls are rarely cancelled even if you call back to tell us everything is fine. The reason is a victim can be easily coerced into sounding convincing while telling the Police Service Operator that everything is okay. Some situations require the physical presence of the police to verify that everyone is safe and that peace has been restored.
- When I call 911 why do I get someone different every time? Once I had to tell my story three times in one night.
- The Communications emergency desk is staffed with anywhere from five to twelve Police Service Operators (PSOs) at a time. The phone system is designed so that each call is answered in the order it was received. Therefore, when you call several times in a day, it is possible you will get a different PSO each time you call because the original PSO may be busy with other calls or tasks, or she/he may have gone home for the day.
- Why does it take so long for an officer to respond to my call?
- Calls are assigned a response level based on the type of activity or urgency. Calls that require emergency or critical responses are incidents posing immediate threat to life where the threat is present and ongoing, and/or an incident posing an immediate threat to life that involves the actual use or threatened use of a weapon. This also includes crimes against persons or significant property crimes where a rapid response is needed and the incident is in progress, just occurred with the possibility of apprehending a suspect, or the incident is about to escalate to a more serious situation. What does this mean? Matters that do not involve immediate threat to life or do not have the potential to escalate to a serious incident may experience an extended wait depending on the time of day, call load, and number of emergencies the police must respond to first. Non-emergency events that are not necessarily time critical but do require response from a police officer may have to wait for an extended period of time.
- Why won’t they let me talk to a police officer when I call?
- The Communications Division is staffed with highly-trained professionals whose responsibility is to provide community service, interview callers, and relay information to police officers. Officers do not staff any positions in the division. Simply, police officers are not available to speak to when you call 911.
- Why won’t they tell me what’s going on when I call?
- Often, situations are still in progress when citizens call to find out what is happening in their neighborhoods. Police Service Operators (PSOs) are not aware of what is working at all places all the time. Furthermore, the situation you are inquiring about may be sensitive in nature and details cannot be made available to you. Many times, the only information PSOs have is whether you will be affected by the current situation. Communications Division employees are not authorized to release any further information.
- When I call 911, why do I have to tell my story twice?
- When you call 911, a 911 operator working the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will answer your call. Before your call is routed to Police Communications that operator will ask a few questions to determine if you need police or fire, or if your call needs to be transferred to another police agency. When your call gets transferred to the Tucson Police Department, the Police Service Operator (PSO) will take the same information, ask more detailed questions of you, and determine how to handle your call. If you give a detailed account to the first operator you speak with, you’ll most likely be asked to repeat your story when a PSO picks up the phone. Don’t forget to stay on the line so you can be transferred. Giving your story to the PSAP operator is not enough; you also need to talk to a PSO. See the chart below titled, “What happens when you call 911?”
- How can I apply for a job with the Tucson Police Department Communications Division?
- Work in Police Communications is interesting and very rewarding. It is a stressful environment that appeals to those who can work well under pressure and who are skilled at performing multiple tasks simultaneously. Employees work shift work, holidays, and weekends. Shifts consist of 10-hour workdays with three consecutive days off.
- Persons seeking employment in Communications with the Tucson Police Department must apply with the City of Tucson Human Resources Department. Applicants are given a written and practical test, an oral interview, and must be able to pass an intensive background investigation. If you are interested in applying please visit City of Tucson Human Resources at 255 W. Alameda in downtown Tucson or call 520-791-4241.