The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 20, 2014

APD upgrades dispatch system

By Lora Scripps

— Dispatchers at the Athens Police Department are now operating under an upgraded Southern Software CAD (computer aided dispatch) system.

“This system will help us provide a better public response,” Johnson said. “This CAD system takes issues we had with the other system and corrects them.” 

The system upgrade, which cost $1,850 and was approved by the Athens City Council, was installed early this week. It went “live” around lunch Wednesday.

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said the upgraded system would allow dispatchers to access information and respond more rapidly.

“It’s a lot quicker, a lot more accurate than what we had,” Johnson said. “It is going to give us a lot more ability to be able to search and reach out for resources.”

Floyd pointed out that the system also has a function that will help pinpoint locations more quickly once a dispatcher starts to type an address. It also allows dispatch to track a large number of response units as well as alerts dispatch if an officer has been out for a certain period of time without reporting back.

“If dispatch hasn’t checked on the officer, it reminds them to check,” Johnson said. 

The chief said the mapping system is a “neat” aspect. The map system is part of E-911 and the GIS system at Athens Public Works.

Johnson also pointed out that the system allows the department to look at more data and that the department can better tabulate the calls they receive among other things.

Johnson, who said he believes in safety first, said the officer is tracked by the system and the information obtained by dispatch.

“It’s the nerve center,” Johnson said. “This is where it all happens. When a person calls with a problem, these are people who figure out what we need to do and they assign a unit to complete the call. So much information comes through here a day.”

APD dispatchers have been using the system since 1996.

Two veteran dispatchers Vickie Fuqua and Melanie Bates are part of the APD team that are the first contacted when emergency assistance is needed. Athens Police has a total of seven dispatchers. Another full-time dispatcher was approved by the City Council recently.

Fuqua has been with the department for 18 years. Bates has been a part of the “nerve center” for nearly 22 years.

Bates believes the upgraded system is a more efficient way to input information as well as track officers. She is also excited that the system allows the department to do pattern searches that pinpoint locations when it comes to thefts, burglaries or crimes in the area, which Johnson said will help concentrate patrols in areas where they are needed.

Johnson is quick to praise his dispatch team. The chief can read each dispatcher by the tone of his or her voice.

“I can tell if there is something going on or if it’s an everyday thing,” he said. 

APD’s dispatch now has a more streamlined system.

“It really is a neat system,” he said. “It lets us have access to a lot that the other system did not. It will make a difference in response. I believe it will be a huge asset for the entire department and the city.”