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What is a Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) System for Law Enforcement?

The use of computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems in law enforcement are synonymous with modern policing 911 dispatch softwarepublic safety software. and public safety solutions. Public safety agencies have come to rely on the interoperability of a robust CAD system as an integral part of their operations. These digital technologies have evolved significantly since police dispatching software consisted of a punch-card with handwritten notes. 

As CAD systems software advances, it is able to provide far more functionality than simple record keeping. Today, CAD in law enforcement combines with records management systems, mobile data terminals, and external programs, to provide first responders and 911 dispatchers the most up-to-date tools to best serve their communities.

From the moment a 911 call is placed, the police CAD system is already compiling a host of essential information for the dispatcher and law enforcement units. CAD integration and mapping systems let 911 dispatchers know the location of a caller and whether the call was placed from a mobile phone or traditional landline. In the event a caller is unable to speak or does not know their location, 911 dispatch software utilizes a mapping feature that can be vital in determining where help is needed. Additionally, computer-aided dispatch systems have the ability to identify which law enforcement units are available to respond. When combined with mapping technology which pinpoints the location of available police units, both dispatchers and patrol supervisors can make crucial decisions about response assignments.

What is Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD)

Computer-Aided Dispatch, commonly referred to as CAD, represents a crucial technological advancement in the realm of law enforcement communications and data management. Since its emergence in the late 20th century, CAD has become integral to public safety operations, particularly in law enforcement. Its significance was further underscored in 2003 with the establishment of national standards for CAD in law enforcement, heralding a new era of efficiency and coordination in police operations.

The Benefits of CAD: Maximizing Law Enforcement Efficiency with CAD

The effectiveness of CAD systems in law enforcement is immediately apparent from the onset of an emergency situation. For example, when a crime report or incident is relayed through the 911 system, the CAD system is activated instantaneously. It employs tools like the Automatic Location Indicator (ALI) to accurately determine the location of the call, whether it’s from a mobile phone or a landline. This rapid information gathering is critical, especially in situations where a caller might be unable to communicate their location or if the call is terminated abruptly.

CAD and Records Management Systems (RMS) Integration

In law enforcement, the integration of CAD software with Records Management Systems (RMS) is a game-changer, significantly improving operational productivity. This symbiosis allows for instant data access and sharing among different units. For instance, in response to a reported crime, the dispatcher’s screen is automatically populated with essential details about the incident location, the nature of the crime, and the identification of the nearest and most suitable response units. This integration also extends to mobile technology, providing officers in the field with real-time access to vital information through devices like in-car laptops and smartphones.

Enhanced Coordination in Emergency Response

CAD’s role in law enforcement goes beyond initial incident reporting. It is instrumental in the efficient coordination of various response efforts. Using the crime report scenario, law enforcement dispatchers can quickly update patrol units, ensuring a swift and coordinated response. The CAD system’s mapping technology also plays a crucial role in pinpointing the exact locations of units in the field, allowing for strategic deployment and response. As the situation unfolds, all new information is fed into the CAD system, keeping all units updated in real-time. This continuous flow of information is crucial not only for immediate response management but also for subsequent analysis and after-action reporting.

Enhancing Response Capabilities with Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)

Alongside the capabilities of a CAD system, the integration of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology plays a pivotal role in modern law enforcement. AVL enhances operational efficiency by providing real-time tracking of patrol units. This integration is key in optimizing response strategies and improving situational awareness. The synergy between AVL and CAD systems ensures that law enforcement agencies are equipped with comprehensive tools for effective and timely responses to incidents. The AVL technology not only aids in quicker deployment of resources but also contributes to a safer environment for both officers and the community.

Computer-Aided Dispatch System for Law Enforcement Reduces Two-Way Radio Traffic

Another advantage of a CAD system in law enforcement is the reduction of transmissions through the traditional police radio. Any law enforcement officer can attest, one of the most dangerous situations they can encounter is the inability to call for help when they need it. When a police officer puts out a call for immediate back-up, he or she does not have time to wait for another unit to complete their non-emergency transmission. The use of law enforcement software as part of a CAD system will dramatically reduce unnecessary radio traffic. Patrol units can utilize the self-dispatching feature to assign themselves to calls for service, show that they have arrived on-scene, and note the appropriate clearance code. All of this can be done from their mobile data terminal, without using the two-way radio. By doing so, the radio is available for immediate use by units who are in need of back-up, reporting vital information that everyone on-duty needs to hear without delay, and other emergency transmissions.

For the Record, CAD in Law Enforcement Has You Covered

A computer-aided dispatch system for law enforcement serves as a permanent record of each activity during a given shift. When incorporated with an agency’s records management system, a CAD system for police organizations will have a host of benefits beyond traditional record keeping. 911 police dispatchers have the ability to instantly research an address to determine past incidents at that location. Further, knowledge of previous law enforcement contact with a particular subject can be paramount to law enforcement safety for responding units. Dispatch software can help keep first responders informed about prior encounters with a subject, including weapons, fleeing and eluding attempts, domestic or other types of violence, prior arrest history, and the status of any active arrest warrants.

The historical data within a CAD system is also a valuable tool for administrators when it comes to organizational planning. Budget proposals can be supported by statistics showing call volume and type, trends in crime rates, and workload changes using geospatial mapping. Further, when determining manpower needs, policy makers have a wealth of information at their disposal to help determine personnel assignments, specialty unit functions, and future equipment needs. A CAD system for law enforcement can go beyond conventional policing functions. When used as part of an agency’s overall records management system, computer-aided dispatch software can provide information about fleet services, finance/budgeting, human resources, and public relations.

Regardless of Size, a CAD System for Law Enforcement is Right for Any Agency

Irrespective of jurisdictional range, a CAD system for law enforcement agencies is no longer a luxury, but an operational necessity. Technology allows for law enforcement dispatch software to be customized to the needs of an organization. Smaller agencies will not be required to pay for features they do not need, while larger departments can still depend on a CAD system that will handle their requirements. Options for customized use of CAD in law enforcement can include data management of specialty functions such as criminal investigations, correctional facilities, special operations, courthouse security, civil process, and a variety of other agency components.

Many 911 dispatch centers require dispatching software like next generation 911 that can work for multiple public safety agencies. A customized computer-aided dispatching system can address the needs of not only different law enforcement agencies, but fire services, EMS, flight medics, forestry/park rangers, marine units, aviation, and nearly any organization benefiting from the use of service dispatch software. All of these agencies can be served by a computer-aided dispatch system that is logging valuable information, in real time. This includes unit identifiers detailing who did what and when, dispatch operator identification to know who manually logged information, and a chronological record of each detail of a call for service. Whether an incident was over in a few minutes or lasted weeks, CAD software keeps track of it all and preserves incident data for on-demand availability.

The more tasks a CAD system in law enforcement can do, the more time law enforcement officers have to serve their community. Report writing is more efficient when data about a call for service is readily available. Investigators in the field or at their office increase their ability to solve crime when information about suspects, locations, and call history are easily accessed. Additionally, computer-aided dispatch software allows for emergency 911 operators to better manage incoming calls and get vital information to units in the field. Regardless of one’s function within a law enforcement agency, the benefits of computer-aided dispatch software stand to enhance performance and improve public service.


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10-8 System’s computer aided dispatch software brings the latest technology to provide public safety agencies with the most up to date information and pinpoint precise location information to better help response time and connectivity.

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