In 1973, Ascension Parish emergency calls were dispatched from two locations. In Gonzales, dispatchers employed by the Sheriff’s Office dispatched calls for service and fire incidents from East Bank residents for both the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Gonzales Police Department. They worked from a location that, at the time, was referred to as the Sheriff’s Office substation, but is the Gonzales City Hall building. The other dispatch office, located at the main Sheriff’s office in Donaldsonville, dispatched calls for West Bank residents. At that time, 911 was not operational on the East Bank of Ascension Parish but was used on the West Bank. Sheriff’s Office Dispatchers did all tasks with pencil and paper and they not only dispatched calls for service, but also took all general phone calls. Amongst other tasks they were required to perform, they managed and bonded out prisoners, including booking them into and out of lockup. The radio consisted of only two frequencies. There were two dispatchers on the day shift, one on the evening shift and one on the night shift, each working 8-hour shifts (8-4, 4-12, 12-8). The NCIC machine was an old Western Union Teletype machine on a party line with 7 other departments, with dispatchers competing with the other departments to use it.
The dispatch center moved into the Courthouse Annex East in 1974. Duties still included dispatching responsibilities along with tending to the prisoners. The dispatch center was located where the waiting room of the front business office is now located. Eventually, dispatchers went to 12 hour shifts from 8 to 8. During that time, the WANG computer system was installed. Dispatchers still did their work with pen and paper and when they had time, information was typed into the WANG system for storage. Around 1990, the dispatch center relocated within the building to the general location of the current center. A kitchen and bathroom were added behind the center. There was one radio system in this center, and three WANG terminals for inputting information. There were two dispatchers working the dispatch center with one person working an 8 hour shift during the week, answering the phones and tending to the window on days, and two dispatchers working the night shift.
In 1998, the dispatch center was extended to the back of the south side of the building. In this center there were four working consoles, with all dispatching for the sheriff’s office, police departments, and fire departments of the parish being consolidated into this one communications center. At this time, the center began using Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), allowing them to enter calls directly into the computer system. Dispatchers not only dispatched police and fire, but began providing pre-arrival instructions for medical calls as well.
In 2005, the Communications Center was totally renovated, expanded from four to seven consoles, and equipped with the latest and most technologically advanced equipment on the market. This included encrypted channel frequency for security and the most modern 911 call back emergency system available.
Communications is one of the most important services within the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. The professional men and women who serve as Communication Dispatchers are responsible for maintaining the essential information link between the public and our law enforcement officers in the field. They are highly trained and capable of handling the thousands of emergency and non-emergency calls that come through the Communications Center each month.