Police 911 Process

Examples of calls for police assistance are:

  • Vehicle Break-In
  • Loud Music Complaint
  • Suspicious Person
  • Cold Report (incident occurred more than 1 hour ago)
  • Missing Person
  • Shoplifting
  • Barking Dog
  • Drug dealing
  • And many, many more

Dispatchers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:

  • What are you reporting?
  • Where did this occur?
  • When did this occur?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Where are you now?
  • Are any weapons involved?
  • How many people are involved?
  • What is the specific location?
  • Has this happened before?
  • Are alcohol or drugs involved?
  • What is happening now?
  • Are you hearing or seeing anything?
  • Are there any dangerous or vicious dogs or animals in the area?
  • Are there any hazards in the area?
  • Do you want to be contacted by an officer?

We take that information and create what is called a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) "Incident". This information is entered and viewed by the "Radio Dispatcher". The Radio Dispatcher reads the call and determines if an officer is available to take the call.

Dispatch is like an emergency room at a hospital. They work on the patients that are currently there. But if a more serious case comes in (victim of a gunshot), they have to drop what they are doing and work on that person that requires immediate attention. So if you make a request for an officer and it is superceded by a higher priority call, you may have to wait.

A radio dispatch may sound like this: (Note: commas are pauses)

Dispatcher: Officer 23, Netcom, Detail
Officer 23: Go Ahead
Dispatcher: Respond to a loud party at 123 Loma Street, the rp (reporting person) wants to remain anonymous and does not want contact.
Officer 23: Copy, Responding.

If you are calling to make a cold report, these are the common steps:

  1. Call to request an officer.
  2. The officer either calls you to make the report by phone or responds to your address.
  3. The officer will ask you a series of questions pertaining to your case.
  4. Your responses are recorded on a report written by the officer.
  5. Then he/she will request a case number from dispatch for your report.
  6. He/she will then give you their card with the case number written on it.
  7. The officer will write the report and file it with their Records Division.
  8. Once processed and filed, you can call records and request a copy of the case.

Please remember to listen to the dispatcher's questions and answer them as accurately as possible. When the dispatcher is entering your information into the computer, there is a format they must follow. This ensures the calls sent to the radio dispatchers have uniform information that is easy to read. This also allows them to give the officer on the radio the correct information in the correct order. Remember that old game called "Telephone"? We don't want to lose anything in the translation of information.


Santa Cruz Regional 9-1-1
495 Upper Park Rd.
Santa Cruz, CA 95065
(831) 471-1000

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