Overview of Public Safety Dispatcher Selection Standards
Public safety dispatchers are full time or part-time, non-sworn employees who, along with other tasks, receive emergency calls for law enforcement service and/or dispatch law enforcement personnel. The role of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is to establish minimum selection standards for public safety dispatchers employed by agencies participating in the POST public safety dispatcher program. These dispatchers are required to meet certain selection standards as defined in Commission Regulations 1956-1960. Each public safety dispatcher must, at a minimum, pass the following POST selection standards.
Written Examination – Verbal, Reasoning, Memory, and Perceptual Abilities Assessment
Per Commission Regulation 1957, public safety dispatcher applicants must be assessed for verbal, reasoning, memory, and perceptual abilities. These abilities must be evaluated prior to hire to assure the presence of ability levels commensurate with the performance of dispatcher duties, as measured by the POST Entry-Level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery (written exam) or alternative job-related tests of these abilities. Details of the written exam, along with sample questions, are included in the POST Entry-level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery: Examinee Guide (pdf) which is available for applicant and agency use and dissemination. Agencies will find test development, administration, and validation information in the POST Entry-level Dispatcher Selection Test Battery: User’s Manual (pdf).
Commission Regulation 1958 stipulates that “every public safety dispatcher candidate shall participate in an oral interview or other measure of oral communication abilities to determine suitability for public safety dispatcher service.” Public safety dispatchers will be subject to an interview to assess oral communication skills.
Per Commission Regulation 1959, a thorough background investigation is required of all public safety dispatchers before being hired to verify that the applicant has no past behaviors indicative of unsuitability to perform public safety dispatching duties. Regulation 1959 outlines the procedures for the background investigation, which must include a check of motor vehicle records, a search of local, state, and federal fingerprint files to determine any criminal record, contacts with references, as well as other areas of investigation.
To assist agencies with the background investigation process, POST has a Background Investigation Manual, which includes the ten background dimensions that are to be assessed in the background investigation. The manual also includes substantial information about the Personal History Statement – Public Safety Dispatcher (doc) form that applicants will need to complete at the onset of the investigation.
Agencies that wish to modify the POST Personal History Statement form may request an “unprotected” version for agency-specific use only. Requests for an unprotected version of the form, as well as administrative questions about the form, should be directed to the POST Forms Manager. Substantive questions about the form should be directed to Melani Singley of the Standards, Evaluation, and Research Bureau at (916) 227-4258.
Commission Regulation 1960 requires that all public safety dispatchers undergo a medical examination prior to hire. The goal of the medical examination is to determine whether the applicant has any medical condition which would preclude the safe and efficient performance of dispatcher duties.
Additional Departmental Standards
The selection standards described above are POST-required minimum selection standards. Per Penal Code Section 13510(d), local agencies/departments may set standards that exceed these minimum selection standards. Public safety dispatcher applicants may be subjected to additional evaluations and/or assessments required by individual law enforcement agencies. Many law enforcement agencies conduct a thorough psychological screening of public safety dispatcher applicants before they are hired. To assist agencies in conducting these examinations POST has published an informational report: POST Public Safety Dispatcher Psychological Assessment Resource Document (pdf). Additional department-specific selection requirements may include drug screening, a polygraph examination, or voice stress analysis.