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Schriro Completes Consolidation Review, Releases Plan

by | Apr 16, 2014 4:44pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid Photo MIDDLETOWN — Emergency 911 calls will continue to be handled at consolidated dispatch centers under an Emergency Services and Public Protection Department plan that also shifts administrative calls back to regional state police barracks.

The plan was outlined Wednesday by Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro. It comes following the conclusion of Schriro’s preliminary review of a controversial consolidation effort set in motion by her predecessor, retired Commissioner Reuben Bradford.

Bradford’s plan was to consolidate the 12 state police dispatch centers down to five. But it was put on hold partway through the process amidst opposition from the Connecticut State Police Union and some lawmakers, who raised public safety concerns.

Schriro said previously planned mergers in the unconsolidated central region of the state will remain on hold for further review. She said her plan should also alleviate workload complaints made by dispatchers working in the consolidated centers.

“By parsing out those calls that are better and best handled at the barracks and directing them back, we have our desk trooper who is there, available to handle those questions and tie up less of the phone time currently occurring at the central locations,” she said.

The plan will see 60 percent of the calls made to state police shifted back to local troops to be handled administratively and about 40 percent handled urgently by someone at a dispatch center.

“It is critical that 911 calls are answered quickly . . . The growing trend in the enforcement community is to direct those 911 calls to facilities focused on emergency situations in the interest of improved public safety,” she said.

Schriro began dealing with the dispatch consolidation issue almost immediately after she was nominated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in January. Last month, she reversed part of the policy by ordering that all state police barracks be continually staffed by troopers.

On Wednesday, she avoided directly answering a reporter’s question on whether she believed the consolidation program was a mistake.

“You know, I wasn’t here . . . I think like any plan, no matter how well thought out, it doesn’t necessarily work as intended,” she said.

One goal of the mergers was to shift sworn troopers from administrative desk duties back onto the road. But in areas where it’s been implemented, Schriro said the consolidation has fallen well short of the goals set by the department.

Schriro released her plan as lawmakers are considering a bill that would force the department to reverse the consolidation process. The bill has the support of lawmakers including Senate President Donald Williams and others in the state’s eastern region, where the mergers have already taken place.

In a Wednesday statement, Williams praised Schriro’s deliberative study of the issue.

“She has taken the time to listen to the concerns of the residents of northeastern Connecticut as well as troopers, dispatchers, and officials throughout the state. The return of 24-hour coverage at our barracks has improved service and safety in our communities. Today’s announcement, restoring some dispatch functions to the local barracks, is another step in the right direction,” Williams said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, the union representing dispatchers, said Schriro has taken steps to reduce stress on dispatchers. But he said they still have public safety concerns.

Dorman pointed to an incident this week where an electrical problem at a Tolland dispatch center forced 911 calls to be dispatched through a center in Litchfield.

“Talking to our dispatchers, the concern is when you put everything into one central place and something like that happens, and that’s not often the case, there can be a public safety impact,” he said.

The plan also calls for the creation of a department working group with dispatchers and sworn state police as well as an advisory panel consisting of local elected officials. The groups will continue to evaluate the state’s dispatch centers.

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(3) Archived Comments

posted by: Chien DeBerger | April 16, 2014  5:11pm

oh boy…

posted by: Matt from CT | April 16, 2014  8:43pm

I think there is still another piece of this puzzle to fix.

It sounds like they still looking at having only one desk trooper at each barracks, rather than the old system of a dispatcher and a trooper.

Having two people at the barracks doesn’t double the effectiveness, it multiplies it many times—the trooper doesn’t have to leave the phones unmanned when going to the bathroom, dealing with a walk-in, calming down a disruptive prisoner.

The dispatcher and trooper working together, knowing their own reasonable size area (which in my area is still around 70,000 folks, a quite reasonable level of consolidation) is better than dealing with bureaucratic layers of larger centers.

Now, *answering* the actual 911 calls and routing them appropriately at a regional level isn’t bad.

East of the Connecticut river, only Troop E received any 911 calls, from some of the cellular towers in New London County.  They would then, if not for them, transfer them to the appropriate fire/ems dispatch, or municipal police dispatch.

Most of Eastern Connecticut the E-911 calls, wireless included, goes first to a regional fire dispatch, which if it was for the State Police would then transfer the call to the appropriate barracks.

West of the river, however, seven troops answer wireless 911 calls then have to parse them out to local or regional dispatch centers as necessary.

That type of initial where, what, who question asking and transferring to the appropriate location to handle dispatching the incident can be reasonably handled on a regional basis.

(Rhode Island takes it a bit to an extreme where all 911 calls in the state are centrally answered, then forwarded by the call takers to the appropriate local dispatch centers).

Because, wireless especially, can generate an huge number of calls for the same incident, having a team of central call takers who can handle those surges instead of just a dispatcher and trooper at a single barracks wouldn’t be a bad thing.

posted by: Wiley Coyote | April 17, 2014  1:41pm

I think this Commissioner is proving she is doing what she thinks right after a careful review.  BRAVO!

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