Communications - Dispatch

Communications - Dispatch "Bridge" Command Center
Mission Statement: San Jose Police Communications is comprised of people dedicated to preserving the value of life and property for all citizens and visitors in our diverse community. We answer and dispatch emergency and non-emergency calls in a timely, precise and skilled manner. We are committed to excellence in the delivery of these services while treating people with dignity, respect and empathy. We are the vital link between public safety and citizens who need assistance. We strive to continuously improve through training, public feedback and teamwork. By utilizing technology and experience, we will continue to grow to fulfill the needs of our ever-changing community and all who pass through it.

Communications - Dispatch STATS Top of page

POPULATION: 1,030,119*

San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area and the third largest city in California, following Los Angeles and San Diego. It is the 10th largest city in the U.S.

The Communications Center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and provides 24-hour telephone service to the public for information or assistance that may be needed in emergencies.

The Communications Unit is comprised of 133 Public Safety Radio Dispatchers (PSRD) and Public Safety Communications Specialists (PSCS) positions. There are 21 multi-level Supervisory positions. The unit is under the management of the Assistant Communications Manager, teamed with the Communications Manager.

The Communications Center utilizes a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) program which offers a wide variety of options and ease of use, as well as intelligent phone work stations. CAD simplifies both the call taking and radio dispatching functions. By featuring command line entry, coupled with mousing dispatch capabilities, and use of basic Windows hot key functions, it provides telecommunications with flexible alternatives to increase productivity and reduce response times. The Dispatch Center is connected to the State of CA through computers and can access State databases such as CA Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS), NLETS, and NCIC, as well as many others.

In addition to their routine duties Public Safety Communications Specialist (PSCS) and Public Safety Radio Dispatchers (PSRD) may be called upon to assist the Special Operations unit of the Bureau of Field Operations. Both PSCS and PSRD employees are part of the Major Investigations Team and are called upon when the need arises. PSRD employees that have completed specialized training are part of the Dispatch Response Team (DRT) working together with the San Jose Police MERGE Unit. MERGE stands for Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment. It is the San Jose version of SWAT.

D. R. T. Top of page

The Dispatch Response Team was formed and established in 1998. The DRT team is a specialized group of dispatchers who respond with the SJPD Merge team on call outs for critical incidents. Members are trained in special operations police tactics, Command Post functions, Mutual AID and I.C.S. The DRT team also participates in large events that may utilize Mutual Aid interoperability and I.C.S procedures such as Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, Grand Prix, U.S. Presidential visits, Democratic Convention, and Golden Guardian exercises. The D.R.T. team consists of 18 members and is currently one of the largest tactical dispatch teams in California.

Employment Opportunities Top of page

San Jose is known for being one of the safest large cities in America. Known for progressive training and P.O.S.T. standardization for civilian personnel, San Jose is in the forefront of innovative training for Police Communications. Comfortably nestled in the foothills of Mt. Hamilton, San Jose maintains an average of 300 days of sunshine and 15 inches of rainfall. We offer a very competitive salary, benefit and retirement package. The mission of the San Jose Police Department is to create safe places to live, work and learn through community partnerships. Get your career started today by visiting us online at:


When to Call 911 vs 311 Top of page

What is an Emergency

An “emergency” is an event that poses immediate, significant threat to life and/or
property. The following are examples of an emergency:  

  • A heart attack or stroke is an emergency; a skinned finger is not. 
  • A teen threatening his/her parent is an emergency; a child refusing to go to school in a non-threatening manner is not.
  • A noise from your neighbor that sounds like a violent physical encounter is an
    emergency; a noisy party is not.

Examples Of When To Call 9-1-1 Top of page

  • Report a crime in progress. Or call the seven-digit emergency number (408) 277-8911.
  • Report a situation which requires a police officer at the scene (e.g. assaults, kidnappings, burglaries, domestic disputes, terrorist threats, robberies, vehicle theft that has just occurred, vehicle or hit and run accidents with known or suspected injuries, gang related disturbance calls or any disturbance call involving a weapon, etc.).
  • Request a paramedic for medical assistance.
  • Report a fire. To report a hazardous chemical spill, smoke in your house or building, sparking electrical hazards, or fire/smoke detector or carbon monoxide alarms are sounding.
  • Report suspicious criminal activity (e.g. alarms, shots fired, shouts for help, sounds of breaking glass, unfamiliar person(s) carrying items from a house, an occupied suspicious vehicle).
  • If the situation changes before help arrive call 9-1-1 again and give the call taker the updated information.

Examples of Non-Emergency Call (3-1-1 or 277-8900) Top of page

  • Directions.
  • To determine if someone is in jail. The Santa Clara County Department of Corrections is available online for this information at You may also call the jail at 408-299-2306.
  • To report city issues not of a police, fire or medical nature, refer to the government pages of the local telephone book for the appropriate number.  The city operator at  408-277-4000 can assist you, or check the City of San Jose web page at
  • 3-1-1 is used to report non-emergency incidents. We realize the term "emergency" can have a different meaning to different people. We encourage you to use your own judgment when determining the nature of your situation. When in doubt you can always call 9-1-1. If you have determined that your particular situation falls in the non-emergency category, you may call the San Jose Police Department at 3-1-1 or use the seven-digit non-emergency number of (408) 277-8900. Some examples of situations that would be appropriate for the 3-1-1 system would be:
    • Non-injury traffic accidents
    • Loud music or loud party complaints
    • A civil stand-by
    • Non injury hit and run accidents
    • Juvenile complaints of a non-threatening nature such as skateboarding at a school or mall, etc.
    • Parking Complaints
    • Abandoned vehicles, unless suspected stolen
  • Cellular callers: Not all telephone service providers will allow 311 calls from cellular phones in San Jose. If your call to 311 can't be completed as dialed from your cell phone, please dial the 10 digit non-emergency number:
    (408) 277-8900.
  • When to Text 911: Text to 9-1-1 is now available in San Jose. If you need help, but can't safely speak on the phone or are unable to speak, use your mobile phone to send a text message to 911 (no dashes or spaces).

    Here's a link to more information about how to Text to 911.

How To Report A Crime Top of page

  • Most importantly STAY CALM. Help CAN be sent while you are answering questions.
  • Give the location. If possible provide the full address of where the problem is occurring, include apartment number or suite numbers if you know them. If you don't know the address, provide an intersection or a landmark.
  • If you are reporting a crime in progress, emphasize that point with the call taker. Answer the call taker's questions, and stay on the line until the call has been terminated.
  • Inform the call taker if you DO NOT want your name and address given to the units responding. If you DO want to speak to the officer, please inform the call taker of your request.
  • When providing information about an incident, be as descriptive as possible. You may be asked to give identifying information about any person(s) or automobile(s) involved in the situation. The more information provided, means the more information Dispatchers will be able to relay to the responding units.

Informational Questions That Might Be Asked Top of page

When you call 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 you will be asked to:

  • Briefly explain the nature of your emergency or complaint.
  • The address of where the incident is occurring.
  • Your name, address and telephone number.

Why do we ask questions in a particular order?  The location of occurrence is so we know where to send the help. That might be the first question a Dispatcher or Call Taker will ask you. WHY? If we get disconnected, or there is a phone problem, the location of the incident is the minimum amount of information needed to send help. Since the address has such great importance, please be sure to give a full description of your location. For example;

  • Provide an apartment number or building number if you live in a large apartment complex.
  • Provide a suite number and business name if it is occurring in a business complex.
  • At a park, give us a description of where you are within the park. Be specific i.e. Are you near the restrooms, the baseball diamond, near the front entrance, in the back of the park by the picnic tables, etc. If you are driving to your destination, and call about something you saw on the way, provide the closest cross streets where the incident is occurring. For example; Santa Clara St between 1st St and 2nd St, or Tully Rd. at White Rd right at the corner.

Why do we ask for your name and address next? Once an officer arrives at the location you originally provide, it is not uncommon for the situation or location to have changed.  We will often use your address as a starting point to search for what you reported. We will typically send two officers to calls. One officer will go in one direction from your address, while the other will go in the opposite direction. Both are searching for the incident you called about. If they are unable to find anything, they may respond back to your address and talk to you, for additional information. But only if you want contact.

Once we have the very basic information we need to send help, the Dispatcher or Call Taker will start asking more questions such as;

  • Who caused the problem, when the incident occurred?
  • Why do you think the situation happened?

If the problem you are reporting occurred 5 minutes before you called, the questions we ask will be different then if the situation occurred the night before. If the incident you are calling about just occurred, or 5 to 10 minutes prior, the next set of questions we ask may be about the person you think is responsible for causing the problem or the situation.

So let’s talk about how to describe a person or suspect.

How to Describe a Person or Suspect Top of page

When we give a suspect description to an officer, we describe that person in a certain
manner. We start from the top of their head and work our way down to the toes. For example we might say something like this:

  • White male adult about 5’ feet 7”tall, blond hair, blue eyes, with a mustache and goatee.

For the clothing description we start from the outside and move in towards the body from the top of the head and moving down to the toes. For example;

  • The subject is wearing a red jacket, blue flannel shirt with a white t-shirt underneath, black belt with a rodeo type belt buckle, blue jeans and brown cowboy boots.

Information Needed If A Vehicle Was Involved Top of page

How would one give information to the Dispatcher or Call Taker if a vehicle was involved? There are certain questions asked, and in a certain order for a vehicle description. The reason we ask these questions in this way is because the officer responding to the call may spot a similar vehicle on the way to your call, the same color or year or the same make or body style. If possible, we would like the license plate too.

So here is a list of questions the Dispatcher or Call Taker may ask about the description of a vehicle:

Color >> Year >> Make >> Body Style >> Miscellaneous information (does it have a ski rack on the roof, or there is a huge sticker in the rear window) >> License Plate.

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OUR MISSION: Create safe places to live, work, and learn through community partnerships. The Department maintains
a commitment to the following values: Integrity, Courage, Excellence, Service, Diversity, Innovation, and Respect.