Image: Communications Center Building - Black and White - Grand Opening of new buildingOn January 1, 1949 the Radio Communication Department began operation. It was established by the Board of County Commissioners, Dr. C.R. Campbell, Fred J. Morr, and Hobart Wehking, Sheriff Dan Tehan, and Prosecutor Cary Hoy. The Department consisted of a Supervisor, Ed Kress, and four Dispatchers, Mr. Schraffenberger, William Ditchen, William Herper, and Roy Bell. It was located in an old recreation building in the rear of Drake Hospital.

The radio equipment was composed of a remote radio control to operate two base stations.

The telephone equipment consisted of four telephone lines to receive complaints. Dispatching was performed for the Sheriff's Patrol and eleven Police Departments, constituting a total of twenty mobile two-way radio units.

The Radio Communication Department remained at this location until 1952, until it was moved to 201 Ridgeway Avenue, on the second floor of the County Engineer’s Garage.

In 1952 when the Radio Center moved to Ridgeway Avenue, a 260 foot radio tower was erected along with a transmitter equipment building to house the broadcasting equipment. Improvements that were made from the old location were recorders on telephone lines, a selective radio tone generating system to activate a siren for Fire and Life Squad Departments who were beginning to utilize radio equipment, and the personnel compliment was increased to seven Dispatchers and one Supervisor, newly appointed Maurice J. Wesselmann, Sr. replacing Ed Kress as Supervisor. The department was now dispatching for twelve Police Agencies, the Sheriff's Patrol, County Dog Warden and three Fire Departments, totaling twenty-five units. By the end of 1953, the Center was serving eighteen Police Departments and three  Fire Departments. In 1954, an additional four Fire Departments were added making the total seven.

By 1955, the Radio Center was handling a total of 123,004 telephone complaints, as indicated by registers which were installed by the Cincinnati Bell Telephone Company to assist in recording workload statistics. An additional Dispatcher was also added bringing the personnel compliment to eight Dispatchers and one Supervisor.

Image: Communications Center Staff - Black and WhiteFrom 1959 through 1961, thirty more mobile units were added, one additional Dispatcher and four additional life squad units were added for service throughout the County.

In January, 1961, the Communication Center was moved from 201 Ridgeway Avenue, in Hartwell, and into a new facility on Hamilton Ave. A 307 foot antenna tower was erected. In the fall of the year, the Hamilton County Teletype Network was formed connecting sixteen Police Agencies with each station having a teletype receiver and transmitter.

In 1963 the Hamilton County Police Association decided the control of the teletype network should be established at the Radio Communications Center and all equipment was modified accordingly. The sole transmitter on the Hamilton County Teletype Network was now located in the Radio Center. From 3000 messages, the traffic on teletype increased to 15,325 and there were many functions that could not be performed due to the lack of personnel. Therefore, manpower was increased by five. This brought about organization of all of the personnel. Five Supervisory positions were established, the position of Assistant Superintendent and four Supervisors. This gave an Administration of Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, four Supervisors and thirteen Dispatchers.

In 1964 a direct teletype line was established between Hamilton County Radio Center and the Ohio State Patrol Switching Center in Columbus. This afforded statewide communication by teletype and with the installation of automatic relay equipment, this link provided connection with all states East of the Mississippi River. Teletype traffic rose to 59,125 messages, a substantial increase over the previous year, telephone complaints increased by 27,000 calls.

In 1965 the Teletype Network was expanded to thirty-two Police Departments processing a total of 90,408 teletype messages. Telephone complaints continued to increase to 329,373.

In 1966 the Teletype Network was again expanded and reached into Butler County and Northern Kentucky. Our services had been extended to include twenty-six Police and thirty Fire Departments and twenty-six Life Squads. A total of 57.4% of the emergency services performed in -Hamilton County.  In May, 1966, the Nationwide Law Enforcement Teletype Service Network went into operation linking Police Agencies throughout the United States by private line teletype. Teletype messages processed increased to 103,807. We added one additional Dispatcher.

In 1967 it became increasingly apparent that with the use and growth factor which the Radio Communication Center was experiencing, additional and more efficient equipment would be required. Much of the existing electronics as antiquated and unreliable, since practically all of it consisted of tube~type equipment, much of which dated back to 1949. Additional floor and security on the communications room was non-existent. Statistics indicated that there would be a continued increase in demand for services from the Radio Communication Center and that additional equipment and manpower would be necessary. However, physical capacity of the current structure would not accommodate any further additions. To meet these requirements, officers of the Hamilton County Police Association met with the Board of County Commissioners and requested that consideration be given to the problem. Thereupon, the Board of County Commissioners resolved to construct a new facility including a new broadcasting room incorporating modern solid-state radio electronics in new communications control equipment, separate message handling facilities, an automated document retrieval system, and semi-automatic message routing system for teletype traffic in expanded quarters. During 1967 the Communication Center serviced a population of 400,000, processing 345,000 telephone complaints, and handling 122,000 teletype messages directed throughout the County and the Nation. A total of 245 mobile units were now in use using the Communication Center and their base station.

On August 22, 1975 a brand new Communication Center was dedicated. Participating in the ceremony were County Commissioners Robert A. Wood, Robert P. Reckman, and Allen E. Paul. Also participating were R. A. Anderegg, County Administrator; Maurice J. Wesselmann Jr., Communications Center Superintendent; Col. Howard R. Makin, President of the Hamilton County Police Association; other Hamilton County Public Safety Officials-, Kenneth R. Hessler, Motorola Communications and Electronics, Inc. Vice President and representatives from the Administration of Justice Division of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. A 360 foot tower was installed at the Communications Center and remote sites were used for the first time. The sites were linked with microwave radio for reliability and cost savings.

At this point the Hamilton County Communications Center provided radio-dispatching service to approximately ninety (90) Police, Fire and Life Squad agencies within the Hamilton County area. A civilian staff of fifty-two (52) trained men and women, under Superintendent Wesselmann, operated the Communication Center.

Image: PDP11/35 System ConsoleA new Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system was designed and supplied by Motorola, Inc. It was partially funded under a federal grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. Hamilton County Communications Center was the second communications center in the nation to use a computer for dispatching purposes, and the first to use CAD for multijurisdictional dispatch. The first CAD system supported 6 call taker positions and 4 dispatch consoles. The computer was a DEC PDP 11/35 with 96 K of memory and a total of 5 megabytes of disk storage on 5 RK05 disk drives.

This CAD system automatically routed a citizen's complaint to the appropriate responding agency by utilizing a street locator file supported by the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Regional Computer Center. This new concept greatly reduced paper work, increased response time, recorded and logged each incident in detail, generating valuable data and statistical information, and provided for maximum flexibility and expansion.

The next major technological advancement arrived in 1978 when law enforcement agencies were converted from a vehicle mounted radio system to a personal portable system. In addition to providing much greater freedom of movement, the new system also provided automatic unit identification and a personal emergency alerting feature. This portable system necessitated the addition of numerous receiver sites and a 5 path microwave radio system to link transmitter and receiver sites to the communications center.

Perhaps one of the greatest enhancements to public safety communications was the implementation E-9-1-1. Leading the effort for the needed state legislative changes was Cincinnati physician, Dr. William H. Gates, M.D. August 17, 1988 9-1-1 service was implemented in Hamilton County. In December of 1994 the countywide Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) system was placed on line. The MDT message switch computer allowed 625 MDT's to access information from one of two computer aided dispatch systems, the Regional Crime Information Center (RCIC), or the State of Ohio's Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS). The MDT system processed nearly 70,000,000 transactions annually. Today we dispatch for over 42 political subdivisions.  The Communications center takes over 600,000 calls per year and processes approximately 400,000 complaints. Equipment and staff were upgraded at the Communications Center to handle the impact of 9-1-1. Staff was increased to 61 dispatchers and 9 shift supervisors. The 1975 CAD system was replaced with a new system that provided faster response time, a local geographic database and numerous operator requested functional enhancements. A new electronic phone switch was installed to replace the aging mechanical switch. Mobile Data Terminals (MDT) were intended to be part of this project but were deleted at the last minute.

It was not until December 1994, when a countywide MDT system was placed on line. The MDT message switch computer allows 625 MDTs to access one of two CAD systems, the Regional Crime Information Center (RCIC), or the State of Ohio's Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) for information. The system also supports Email and messages between MDTs and from MDT to dispatchers and terminals on the RCIC system. The MDT system processes nearly 70,000,000 transactions annually. The MDT system uses 16 radio sites and frequency agile field units to provide capacity and ease of use. The system is used primarily for law enforcement, but some fire departments do have MDTS. The current system will support up to 1500 total units. Future updates include increased data rates between sites and units, four additional sites to provide portable coverage, replacement of field terminals with intelligent terminals and a fire/EMS database.

In 1995 Maurice J. Wesselmann Jr. retired as only the 3rd Superintendent/Director of Communications in our 46-year history.

In 1996, the Deputy Director, E. Thomas Burroughs was appointed to succeed "Wess". Tom had been with the Communications Center since 1968 working in various capacities in both the dispatch and administrative environments. His tenure was cut short when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor early in 1998; Tom passed away in June of 1998.

William H. Hinkle, the Communications Center’s Operations Director was appointed as Director in the summer of 1998, to replace Tom Burroughs.  Bill began his career at the Center as a dispatcher in 1975.  He worked for many years as personnel manager.
In late 1998, the Hamilton County Commissioners approved the purchase of a mobile 800 MHz radio system for fire and EMS applications.  That 6 site, mobile radio system was placed in service in the late summer of 1999.  The 6-site system was the first step in modernizing voice radio in Hamilton County.  It replaced an antiquated low-band 2-way system and allowed us to effectively reduce the channel loading on the fire console by splitting it into east and west zones and gave the fire service additional fire ground talk groups.   An alphanumeric paging system for fire was also installed about the same time.  The paging system operates in the 158 MHz band and is installed at 8 sites around the county to provide personal paging.

To staff the new fire/EMS dispatch position 4 additional Telecommunicators were authorized  in early 1999.  This  brought our staffing numbers to 65 Telecommunicators, 9 supervisors and 5 administrators.  1998 phone call volume was 856,451 calls resulting in 381,374 dispatched incidents.

On July 16, 2003 the County dedicated the 15 site, 20 channel, Motorola Smartzone, Astro 25, simulcast, trunked radio system.  The new system provides public-safety and public service radio communications capabilities for a variety of governmental entities.  Near the end of 2004 the City of Cincinnati placed its 10 site, 20 channel Motorola Smartzone, Astro 25, simulcast, trunked radio system in service.  The two radios systems share some major components that permit all public safety users to roam seamlessly between the two radio systems, providing outstanding radio coverage.

In 2005 federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI)  grand funds enhanced the radio system with the addition of integrated voice and data (IV&D).  The IV&D enhancement   allowed for mobile data computers to be installed in fire and EMS apparatus, stations and in hospitals.

In 2006 our third generation CAD system was placed in service.  The new Motorola CAD system made situational dispatch of individual pieces of fire equipment possible and allowed MDCs direct access to many CAD features and data.  Other enhancements include run card based fire equipment dispatching, additional CAD & radio network integration, drop down menus, integrated mapping, extra alarm assignments recommended by the CAD, rather than a manual look-up.

Our 5th Communications Center Director Bill Hinkle, retired  in February 2009.

In February 2010, Michael E. Bailey was appointed as our 6th Communications Director.  Mike is a veteran Hamilton County Telecommunicator who has served as a dispatcher, radio room supervisor and as our Technical Services Manager since his career began back in 1984.

October 2016 Andrew (Andy) Knapp was appointed as our 8th Communications Director.   In 1988 Andy joined the “Big Team”.   He completed the Scarlet Oaks Police Academy in 1990.  After the police academy, he worked part time for the Village of Northbend and the City of Cheviot as a police officer.  During his career here at  the Communications center he was promoted twice assuming the Supervisor II,  “Watch Commander” position.  Andy left the Communications Center in 1999 to take a position with Loveland-Symmes Fire Department as a Deputy Chief and was tasked with the startup and operation of the Northeast Communications Center.  We look forward to Andy's leadership and the next chapter for our organization.