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Lawmakers Question Police Dispatch Consolidation Effort

by Christine Stuart | Nov 15, 2013 1:00pm
(3) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, Law Enforcement, Labor, Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid photo

Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford

He was there Thursday to talk about funding for policing the two casinos, but lawmakers from eastern Connecticut wanted Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford to know they were concerned about the consolidation of their dispatch centers.

Last year it was the western part of the state. Now State Police dispatch centers in eastern Connecticut are being consolidated. At the end of October, Troop D in Danielson and Troop K in Colchester moved their dispatch functions to Troop C in Tolland. Troop E in Montville will be consolidated next.

The changes are part of a larger effort to reduce the number of state police dispatch centers in the state from 12 to 5.  In the western part of the state, dispatch functions for Troops A and B were moved to Troop L in Litchfield.

Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester, wanted to know how much the consolidation effort in the eastern part of the state cost.

Neither Bradford nor Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes were able to give her an answer Thursday.

But Bradford said the consolidation effort was not about saving money. “It was a business decision that made use of our resources in the most efficient manner possible.”

He said that in 1974, when he went to the training academy, it was to become a trooper rather than a dispatcher.

“So as a taxpayer I don’t want a policeman dispatching,” Bradford told Orange. “I want him out doing work he’s supposed to be doing.”

Bradford said the barracks will still be staffed as they traditionally are staffed and will not be closing. But it’s just the dispatching function that will be moved.

“It’s not so much a cost savings as it is a proper deployment of hazardous duty resources doing hazardous duty functions,” Bradford said.

Orange said she understands that, but she questioned the staffing levels. She said she knows someone who went to the barracks during the day to seek help, and the doors were locked because no one was there. They used the blue emergency phone and were told someone would be there in 20 minutes.

“Twenty minutes is a long time when someone’s in crisis,” Orange said. “Twenty minutes is too long to come back to a troop.”

Hugh McQuaid photo Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said there have been several incidents in the past six weeks where she believes public safety has been jeopardized.

“For a decision that was initially made to save money, it’s now not saving money, and potentially impacting the public safety and I’m hopeful the department will continue to evaluate this and determine whether or not it’s really working,” Flexer told Barnes.

But Barnes maintained that he believes the “model is more cost-effective for the state and certainly can be done.” He said in other parts of the country this method has been deployed across much larger geographic areas.

“There’s no compelling reason to believe that that in and of itself jeopardizes public safety,” he said.

In repeating a favorite phrase of the Malloy administration, Barnes told Flexer that “change is hard.” He said that just because people on the front line — in any part of government — are initially frustrated with policy changes, it’s not a reason to undo those changes completely.

Flexer said the complaints she’s hearing from her constituents may not be related to the consolidation of the dispatch centers, but may in fact be a staffing issue.

At the moment it’s unclear which is really causing the problem, but legislative Republicans have promised to make it an issue in the 2014 election. The only two lawmakers to speak up about the issue Thursday were Democrats.

“It won’t be pretty if something happens that could have been avoided and there’s a lawsuit against the state,” Orange said. “Then we will have saved no money.”

Orange, a veteran lawmaker who also sits on the Public Safety Committee, said she was sent by former Speaker Moira Lyons to Harrisburg, Pa. in 2005 to visit a centralized dispatch center.

“At this point in time, Pennsylvania found that it did not work,’ Orange said. “Just keep that in mind as well.”

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(3) Comments

posted by: Matt from CT | November 15, 2013  6:32pm

It’s a power trip and not efficiency.

I don’t mind regionalization and such, but it has to be done wisely.

When a Trooper or any other police officer checks by radio and it comes back that there is an arrest warrant, the first thing that happens is they must call the issuing agency or (formerly) Barracks and confirm the warrant.

The dispatcher would physically get the paper to make sure it wasn’t a computer error, confirm the warrant was still valid, and the arrest would be completed.

The next step is the person must be brought to the physical location of the warrant to be processed.  There may be instructions from the court regarding bail and other matters that aren’t in the computer. 

With no Troopers in the barracks around the clock, and the Dispatchers all at Troop C, Troops D & K have had to transfer all their warrants to C so a dispatcher is always available to confirm the warrants.

Now when a Trooper from D arrests someone on an outstanding arrest warrant, they must travel to Tolland to book the prisoner.  He can NOT be processed locally.

So you end up without a net increase in staffing on the street—the desk trooper who formerly provided security (as well as helping on the radio) at the Troop being out on patrol is offset by the extra time of shuffling paperwork and prisoners out to Troop C.

posted by: Sidestep | November 18, 2013  11:47am

It’s actually much dumber.

If they took the prisoners to Tolland, only one trooper from wherever would be off the road.

Instead, suppose Troop D arrests someone. What happens is, a Troop C trooper drives the warrant from Tolland to somewhere near Danielson, and a Troop D trooper drives it the rest of the way and delivers it to the barracks. So that’s actually FOUR troopers per arrest that are taken off the road:
1 to pick up the warrant at C.
1 to get it from that guy and bring it to D.
1 guy is processing the prisoner, remember.
And since there’s no dispatcher watching out, a 2nd trooper has to come inside and monitor the processing room, in case the arrestee decides to fight or something.

This is the “increased efficiency” that Commissioner Bradford and the Governor are so proud of.

posted by: DAN MUST GO | November 18, 2013  3:45pm

Dan Malloy has appointed people to run the State Police who are leaving the Department in shambles. Commissioner Bradford is being less than truthful or has no idea what is going on under his watch. The Troops, (K and D out East) are closing at 4 or 5 PM and are not manned. Consolidating dispatch is not saving money it is costing money. Overtime for November alone to run this is significant to shocking. That should be FOI’d. Colonel Stebbins was so bad at selling this he told different stories everywhere he went. LTC Corona was forced into retirement after failing to follow rules Troopers must. Yes Change is hard, but change just to change is stupid. This plan is stupid and runs poorly and costs more in overtime. Malloy and his appointees are clueless.