City's 911 Emergency Center Now Run by Civilians
New Haven Register via YellowBrix
August 17, 2010
NEW HAVEN — At midnight Monday, the city flipped the switch to civilianize its emergency 911 center.
The police union questioned whether the city was prepared.
The city has been moving toward the change for more than six months after creating a new city department to handle public safety communications and hiring a civilian, Clayton Northgraves, to run it.
Rob Smuts, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the general public calling 911 or seeking police help shouldn’t notice any difference.
The switch, city officials say, was designed to streamline services. Previously, a Fire Department supervisor oversaw 911 operations and police bosses supervised police dispatch and call taking.
Civilians for years have handled the actual call taking and dispatching, although patrol officers routinely filled in when needed.
The change involved police and fire civilian employees being absorbed into one new emergency communications department and cross-trained to do the other’s job.
That’s where the cost savings come in, Smuts said, estimating that the new civilian operation should save the city about $150,000 per year or more.
Questions had arisen about whether the new department had adequate staffing to cover all its around-the-clock shifts.
Sgt. Louis Cavaliere, the union president, said the union had opposed the changes to civilian status for the operation, but signed off to help settle the last contract. Now city officials who pushed for the plan came back and asked for an extension, he said.
“They’re nowhere near ready to do what they want to do for civilianization,” said Cavaliere.
Smuts said the city did request an extension because cross training was not yet completed. But he said Monday that they were ready to make the switch, even if they have to bring in police officers to cover dispatching shifts.
Once the transformation is complete, the result should be better service and a significant cost savings for the city, Smuts said.