Who to Call in an Emergency When Two Police Forces Serve the City

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? With apologies to Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis, it’s the local police department. (Sorry, Ghostbusters.)

Recently, a resident expressed concern and confusion as to whom to call for police services since the city is served by both the Gaithersburg Police Department (GPD) and the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), according to GPD spokesman Officer Dan Lane. The resident called the station about an issue and was transferred to the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center (MCECC).

“I think that’s where the confusion unfortunately is,” Lane said. “They call here (GPD station) asking for an officer, and we don’t dispatch officers from our station. That’s why we forward everyone to the dispatch center.”

A GPD officer was later dispatched to the resident’s call because it pertained to city issues, Lane said.

If a resident needs police services, they should call 911 or MCECC at 301.279.8000. Because the city is served by both GPD and MCPD, they may get an officer from one or both agencies, Lane said. Once a call for service comes in, it goes to a city officer assigned to that specific area. “If they are tied up, then the next person will be a county officer. If that county officer who is responsible for that area is busy, then they will go to the next city officer that may not be that sector and that’s how (assigning a call) goes off and on so it will go city, county, city, county.”

When it comes to handling cases, Lane said that the agencies “generally go by the primary responding officer first,” but on cases such as homicides they work together to provide assistance.

By calling MCECC first, a log of the call is made in the system which can immediately pull up information including a GPS coordinate, cell phone subscriber’s name or residential information for landlines. If an emergency occurs and the caller can call 911 and only hang up due to an ongoing emergency issue, officials can follow up at MCECC but there is no log for calls at the station, Lane said.

If a resident wants to follow up on the outcome of a call they made, officers can look at the MCECC log to see what the responding officer reported, Lane said. Also, if a caller is unsatisfied with the response of dispatchers, officials may review the recorded conversation.

Residents may call the GPD station at 301.258.6400 if they want to speak to a specific officer or have an administrative question, but all calls for service will be transferred to MCECC.