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When I began my career with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office 48 years ago, I remember stopping in at the Mulberry police station and watching the dispatcher answer and dispatch calls from a radio room tucked away in a tiny corner of that police station.

The entire process in those early years took only a few seconds.

Today, it’s more complicated, and we manage that with advanced computer software and mandatory protocols that enable us to get help to people in need in a consistent, step-by-step process.

The one negative thing modernization has done is to slow down response times. It can take several minutes for information to be collected, then typed into a computer dispatching system, and then relayed to deputies in the field.

With that in mind, I challenged my team to find a way to have the best of both worlds – manage a modern, high-tech 9-1-1 center, while also being able to dispatch calls with the same speed as what I saw in that small Mulberry radio room back in the 1970s.

And their answer was Live 911 – and it’s a game-changer.

Live 911 is a web-based software that allows our patrol deputies to listen in on 9-1-1 calls – as they are happening – in their patrol cars on the way to the incident.

Not only do our deputies hear critical details in real-time, deputies are also self-deploying to a scene before the details are dispatched to them over the radio and through their in-car computers.

Recently, deputies were responding to a hit-and-run vehicle crash in our Northwest District.

While patrol units were on their way to the crash location, the Sergeant, listening to the Live 911 call, heard the caller give a very detailed description of the suspects and the direction they were running. Armed with that information, he was able to locate and arrest the hit and run suspects before dispatch was able to relay the information to the units.

On another occasion, a mother called 9-1-1 to report that her 1-month-old child was choking. A nearby deputy, monitoring Live 911, self-dispatched to the call and was able to get on scene and save the child before the call information was fully entered into our system by the 9-1-1 call taker.

These are only a few incidents that show how effective this new software is. Live 911 is proving to be a valuable law enforcement tool, and allows our members to better serve the citizens and communities they love.

Grady Judd is the Sheriff of Polk County. Learn more about Judd and the Polk County Sheriff's Office at polksheriff.org.