Case Study: Berkeley Police Dept | 911/non-911 Public Safety Communications Call Center

Case Study: Berkeley Police Dept, 911/non-911 Public Safety Communications Call Center 1

Explanation of how call takers and dispatchers at the Berkeley Police Department Public Safety Communications Center handle 911 calls.


CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) Software System The Berkeley Police Department uses this software system to prioritize & record events, track the status and location of officers in the field, and effectively dispatch personnel (Ibid.).

Call Takers The City of Berkeley has call takers who accept and processes inbound 911 and administrative calls for police, fire, and medical services and other services. They input call info into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system and transfer the info to fire and police dispatcher staff. BPD is Berkeley Police Department (Auditor’s Report, 8; 2021).

Dispatchers coordinate all police-related calls requiring a response from law enforcement and enter all officer-initiated incidents into the CAD system. They maintain radio contact with field staff (Auditor’s Report, 8; 2021). Dispatchers have the ability to enter narrative data at any time to provide ongoing information to the officer regarding the nature of the event. The CAD is not optimized to give responders all the information they need before arriving at the scene (Auditor’s Report, 10; 2021).

Events are situations entered in the CAD resulting in a response by at least one sworn officer. There are several ways an event is initiated. Community members initiate events by calling the 911 emergency or non-emergency lines, or by flagging down an on-duty officer. Police officers may initiate events on their own. Events are initiated when an alarm goes off or when CHP transfers a call. There can be multiple incoming calls for one event (Auditor’s Report, 10; 2021).

Dispatch Duties

Assigning Call Types

  • Dispatchers assign each event a call type that describes important information about the event unless the event is officer-initiated. Call types are also used to assign priorities and resources to an event (Auditor’s Report, 11; 2021).

  • The Berkeley Police Department uses 137 unique call types. Some describe a potential crime (e.g., robbery, assault, gambling), while others describe the location (e.g., fall on city property), people involved (e.g., missing juvenile), or a situation that may not be related to crime (e.g., welfare check, vehicle stop)(Ibid.).

  • Call types for events are assigned prior to arrival of Berkeley Police Department staff in the community, and they may differ from the actual event that took place after the event has concluded (Ibid.).

Assigning Priority Levels

  • Dispatchers are responsible for collecting adequate information in order to determine the appropriate response action based on the nature and priority of the event, and the available resources (Auditor Report, 21; 2021).

  • Dispatchers assign all events a priority level which aligns with guidelines for how soon the Communications Center should dispatch police personnel to the event based on the urgency or severity of the circumstances. For an event with a priority level 1, dispatchers are expected to dispatch officers within one minute, whereas they have up to 90 minutes from the time of the initial call to dispatch an officer to a priority level 4 event (Ibid).

Pre-scene, On-scene, Post-scene—from Call to Response using the CAD System

Pre-scene. Information entered into CAD at this stage may not always match the information entered later in the response process. By the time an officer arrives, a burglary may no longer be in progress, a noisy party may have dispersed, or, if the delay between call and response is long enough, the caller may have left the location (Auditor Report, 10; 2021).

On-scene. Berkeley officers notify a dispatcher when they are on their way to the scene & when they arrive. Due to the changing nature of events, the police officer assigned as the primary unit collects additional information on scene (Ibid.).

On-scene. The CAD event will be updated as information becomes available by either the officer or dispatcher, however, the call type is final once the officer arrives and a responding officer cannot change the call type in CAD. The evolving situation of a call may lead to a dispatcher assigning additional police or other units to the scene, or officers nearby may self-dispatch to provide backup (Ibid.).

Post-scene. Once the event is closed, the primary officer on scene completes an incident report if required by the severity of the event, and updates the CAD file with any new information. Those reports are submitted to the Berkeley Police Department patrol shift supervisor and either approved or revised (Ibid.).

Post-scene. Typical revisions include clarifying dates, police codes, or providing additional details. According to BPD, disposition codes are most often entered by an officer. However, an officer may also radio into the Communications Center about the event and a dispatcher will enter disposition information (Ibid.).

1 All material contained in this document reflects content contained in the elected Berkeley City Auditor’s Data Analysis of Police Response (July 2, 2021). At the Berkeley City Council’s direction, the City Auditor analyzed the Berkeley Police Department’s Response to Calls for Service from 2015-2019 (350,000+ calls). The above table is located on page 9. The report is available at: Audit Reports - City of Berkeley, CA