If you were to walk through today’s Washington State Patrol dispatch centers, you would find televisions lining wall-to-wall, computer monitors live-streaming troopers responding to a scene, and a room full of dispatchers helping people in their time of need. While the technologies in the centers have changed throughout the years, the dedication from dispatchers has not. As National Public Safety Telecommunications Week comes to an end, it is the Washington State Patrol’s hope that the incredible and life-changing service they provide is never far from anyone’s mind.

The Washington State Patrol Communications Division has a long and proud history, dating all the way back to 1942 when the first center was established in Olympia. Prior to the center opening, State Patrolmen received their orders and broadcast information from local sheriffs’ offices, police departments, or highway department installations. In the years that followed, 21 communications centers would open state-wide.

In 1983, an entirely new WACIC (Washington Crime Information Center) data base was brought on-line, providing faster response time as well as access to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center computer system and direct entry of missing persons and runaway children.

For reasons of improved efficiency and reduced costs, in 1983 the State Patrol began consolidating their 27 communications centers down to nine and finally to what is now our current structure of eight centers state wide co-located with their district headquarters:  Bellevue (District 2/D2), Bremerton (D8), Marysville (D7), Spokane (D4), Tacoma (D1), Vancouver (D5), Wenatchee (D6) and Yakima (D3). At this time, communications centers used a punch card system to time stamps cards and hand wrote comments about incidents and unit locations. Typewriters were saved for important documents, like daily reports.

In 1987, the WSP created its first, own “in house” Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system that was used until 2003. Communications Officers transmit, receive, and relay information concerning public safety and law enforcement activities to, from, and between State Patrol mobile units and stations, other state, county, city, and federal law enforcement agencies, and the public by means of radio, 911/business multiline telephone systems, and other telecommunications devices. All of this information is entered, recorded and stored by means of a Computer Aided Dispatch system.

The Washington State Patrol gained international recognition for its development of the Mobile Computer Network (MCN), an innovative system linking laptop computers in patrol cars with satellite and land-based radio communication technology. The MCN became operational in 1991.

In July 2003, Communications Division procured a completely new CAD, Premier CAD from Motorola, for all eight centers. This $1.6 million project enabled the agency to have a faster more efficient and effective CAD system with the expanded capabilities for collecting data, providing numerous reports, integrating with 911 and displaying computerized maps of interstates, state routes and other roads state wide. It also had the potential for interfacing with future technological advances (i.e. mobile laptop computers, automatic vehicle location, etc.). The system was upgraded in June 2008.

Throughout our proud history until today, everyone in State Patrol Communications has and will focus on officer safety and public safety. We provide a vital function as the “first of the first responders”, linking the emergency call to the emergency response twenty four hours a day, every single day.