U.S. Mayor Article

Best Practices: District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams Hosts Tour of Joint Command and Control Center

By Josie Hathway
November 5, 2001


On October 25, at the end of the Mayors Emergency, Safety and Security Summit, District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams hosted a tour of the Districts new Joint Command and Control Center. Over 25 mayors, police chiefs and fire chiefs participated in the tour, which is part of The U.S. Conference of Mayor's ongoing focus on sharing best practices.

Mayor Williams centralized law enforcement communication through the Joint Command and Control Center. The center is an information hub for law enforcement management and provides "real-time" intelligence on what is happening in the streets of the District. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) all work together from the command center. Depending on the circumstances, other city or federal agencies are also included, such as the Fire Department, the Coast Guard, the Health Department, the State Department or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The center also coordinates inter-agency cooperation with Virginia and Maryland. "We are maximizing our capability," said Mayor Williams, adding that prior to operation of this model command center, there were multiple command centers and liaisons sent back and forth from the centers.

The Center is in operations 24 hours a day, seven days per week. A minimum of four officers or detectives are stationed at the center to support the units on the streets, providing them with the ample data available through the cameras, databases and 911 calls. In case of emergency, the center has back up for their computers and phone lines. One wall of the command center room is filled with 20 screens, which provide live footage from fixed cameras that have been placed in 20 areas of the city. All the cameras can be controlled in the room. Mayor Williams said, "Now that communications are centralized, rumors can be squashed in real-time basis and the city does not loose resources following up on rumors."

On September 11th, the day of the terrorist attacks, the room was one week shy of being fully operational. But in response to the great need on that day, implementation intensified and the center became operational in an hour and a half. The concept for the center developed during Y2K. Planning and implementation began in April 2000 in anticipation of the World Bank demonstrations.

As Mayor Williams indicated, the District does an "exquisite" job with planned events such as inaugurations, marches and protests. Now in the era of unplanned events, Mayor Williams has equipped the city with the Joint Command and Control Center.

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