Sheriff Dotson: Scrap Lincom. Contract with Salem 9-1-1 to dispatch emergency calls in Lincoln County.
DISPATCH SERVICES FOR LINCOLN COUNTY
News Release from Sheriff Dennis Dotson
There have been several media stories and opinions regarding the concept of contracting for public safety dispatch services with an organization located in Salem, Oregon. Willamette Valley Communications Center, WVCC, currently provides 9-1-1 and dispatch services for 17 law enforcement, fire, and EMS agencies in Polk and Marion Counties. WVCC has been in operation for 20 years.
All of the police and fire agencies in Polk County contract for service with WVCC because Polk County came to realize they could not afford to provide the same level of professional 9-1-1 and dispatch services to their citizens and emergency responders that WVCC is able to provide. Emergency responders using LinCom have come to that conclusion as well.
Citizens are unaware of a variety of issues and concerns that LinCom users have discussed for years. The fire districts, police agencies, and EMS providers are the customers of LinCom and are referred to as 9-1-1 Users. 9-1-1 Users are concerned with loosing their ability to provide our citizens with a high level of service and believe that their ability to continue to provide that level of service has been compromised. This has occurred due to a lack of long-term strategic planning including the creation and maintenance of a capital improvement fund for needed equipment and software upgrades and training.
Several studies were funded and completed to evaluate dispatch services in Lincoln County. A few of these studies included examining the efficiencies and effectiveness of three dispatch centers consolidating into one center. All studies have recommended consolidation of the three dispatch centers based on a variety of findings, but some 20 years later, no progress has been made and Lincoln County still has three dispatch centers. Another study was funded to specifically evaluate LinCom’s operation. Recommendations were made, initially supported, and then 9-1-1 Users discovered they were unable to fund those recommendations.
Many people are also unaware of how dispatch centers operate beyond calling the center, reporting an emergency or crime and then receiving an answer or response from emergency responders. There have been claims that if emergency dispatch services for Lincoln County are located in Salem:
1. Lincoln County 9-1-1 calls will be dependent upon long distance lines.
a. Actually, there will be no difference from what occurs now. Lincoln County 9-1-1 calls are routed to different points in the Willamette Valley and then return to Newport where they are answered by LinCom. The only difference would be that rather than the call being returned to Newport, they would be routed to and answered in Salem.
2. Salem dispatchers will not have “local knowledge”.
a. This comment is misleading. It is the police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical responders (EMS) who are responsible for knowing their respective geographic areas, not dispatchers. In addition, GPS technology is very sophisticated and available to police officers in their cars. Dispatchers merely need to accurately relay the information they receive from the reporting citizen and let the emergency responder proceed to the desired location.
b. Salem dispatchers will gain “local knowledge” through experience, just as LinCom dispatchers learned.
c. Currently, LinCom provides dispatch services for the Willamette National Forest. While more than 60% of the Willamette National Forest is located in Lane County, significant portions are located in Linn, Marion, and Douglas counties with smaller portions located in Clackamas and Jefferson Counties. None of that forest is located in Lincoln County.
d. How much “local knowledge” of those six counties do LinCom dispatchers possess in order to successfully dispatch USFS law enforcement throughout 2,618 square miles of land? It is the USFS law enforcement officers who know how to navigate through and respond to calls for service within their respective areas of that massive national forest.
3. Local law enforcement agencies will not be able to communicate with or know what other police agencies are doing.
a. Local law enforcement personnel can communicate with other police agencies in Lincoln County by switching to specific police agency radio frequencies.
b. While Newport PD (NPD) and the Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) have shared radio frequencies, Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and a Records Management System (RMS) for years, this capability has not included the Toledo (TPD) and Lincoln City Police Departments (LCPD).
c. LCPD and TPD have contracted with WVCC for years for CAD and RMS services. They are very pleased with the services they receive from WVCC. While both police departments continue to answer 9-1-1 calls and dispatch their respective responders, the systems they utilize are owned, operated, and maintained by WVCC.
d. Lincoln City and Toledo officers can view each others dispatch calls on their patrol car Mobile Data Computers (MDCs). They cannot view NPD or LCSO dispatch calls nor can NPD and LCSO view TPD and LCPD calls.
e. If NPD and LCSO contracted with WVCC, all four police agencies would be able to share CAD, RMS, and view each other’s dispatch calls on their MDCs. This would provide a significant advantage to law enforcement in Lincoln County.
Police and fire responders are seeking a higher level of service than LinCom is able to provide. Time is critical because of aging dispatch equipment and outdated CAD and RMS software. Dispatch computers and other equipment along with CAD and RMS can easily cost over a million dollars and that funding simply does not exist without taxing our citizens.
The appropriate advocates for public safety that our citizens should be listening to are their fire fighters and police officers. They are the people who utilize the services more than any other and they are the people responsible for responding to our citizens’ public safety and emergency needs.
Police and fire representatives from Lincoln County have visited WVCC on a number of occasions. All visitors have reported a very professional atmosphere and delivery of customer service to citizens and users alike. WVCC is well staffed and many are cross-trained to provide call-taker and dispatch services as needed. WVCC has a long-term strategic plan that includes staffing, training, equipment, and software needs and upgrades for the future and most importantly, funding for these purchases.
The concept of regionalizing 9-1-1 dispatch services for Lincoln County has been discussed for years. Approximately 18 months ago it was learned that this concept was actually feasible. “With the State of Oregon questioning the large number of public service answering points (PSAP’s) in Oregon, it is believed that Lincoln County public safety can create this county’s future for dispatch services or wait for the State to decide how it will be done,” stated Sheriff Dennis Dotson. “We choose to decide our own future.”
“We understand that citizens want to have confidence that their calls for help will be answered,” stated Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda. “Emergency responders are asking our citizens to trust our decision to pursue 9-1-1 and dispatch services with WVCC,” stated Gleneden Fire Chief Josh Williams. “We are the users of dispatch services and the voice that our citizens should be listening to and hopefully supporting,” stated Sheriff Dennis Dotson.