The Honolulu Police Department’s Communications Division is the largest Public Safety Answering Point in the state.
It’s where all 911 calls made on Oahu end up.
KHON2 was given a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the 911 call center, located at HPD’s main station. The workers there handle more than a million calls a year.
“I love how it’s different every day, and I love the teamwork aspect and helping the public,” said police radio dispatcher Jeris Nakamasu.
They not only help the public but also serve as the vital lifeline to the officers out on patrol.
“We’re going to be making sure where they are, if they need any outside agencies to come help them like EMS or Fire Department, or anything like that, and any checks on weapons or anything involved we have to relay that to the officers that are out there,” Nakamasu said.
It’s different from what you see in the movies and on TV shows like Fox’s “9-1-1.”
“A lot of the technology they have on the movies and tv it’s not realistic. So we can’t really track somebody’s location right there in that exact spot. We might have a general area but here we have to ask the caller where they are and what’s going on,” Nakamasu said.
That’s why it’s so important that you give the call taker your exact location, including the street number and name, and cross streets, or any landmarks nearby.
“And we put that into the computer and that gets sent to the radio where the dispatcher will dispatch an officer, and the officer will take it from there. And we’ll always be documenting where the officer is and what’s going on with that call,” Nakamasu said.
He added there are times when the job can get stressful, especially if you personally know the caller. But it’s rewarding knowing you’re helping others.
If you’re interested in becoming a police radio dispatcher, HPD is hiring.
“We’re always looking for more people. So right now we have about 139 staff, but we have authorized staffing of 167,” said HPD Major Gerald Kaneshiro.
Police radio dispatchers are civilian employees, and they have to go through training that lasts a year.
“For me personally, I had no prior knowledge of law enforcement of anything like that. So you’re going to go to class and learn how to classify each type of call and how the computer system works,” Nakamasu said.
Police radio dispatchers make $38,000 the first year, and $43,000 the year after that. And the pay only goes up from there, and way up if you work a lot of overtime.
Kaneshiro explained: “Really you have to be dedicated to public service, you want to serve the public. You have to have good communication skills and also you have to be able to multi task.”
HPD is accepting applications for police radio dispatchers on a rolling basis. For more information on the requirements and how to apply, click here.