Seems Simple….But Maybe It’s Not

Auburn Hills PSAP

Gov To Consider 9-1-1 Consolidation

Rep. Richard LEBLANC (D-Westland) said he’s ready to move forward on his controversial plan to eliminate 118 call centers that currently handle 9-1-1 emergency calls, but he said he would drop his plans if Gov. Rick SNYDER does not sign off.

The ranking member of the House Michigan State Police (MSP) Appropriations Subcommittee said he believes there are some encouraging signs.

The Westland Democrat has had preliminary discussions with some persons at the “upper level” of the Governor’s office and they have indicated the issue will be on the table next week. He noted those sources do not speak for the Governor, but he sees all this as “positive signs” his bill might see the light of day.

So far the reaction from the 9-1-1- groups is not nearly as upbeat.

“There is little public support,” he said after his fifth proposal began circulating among the various special interests.

He does not have a blueback, but his intention is to create 12 regions with four call centers in each which would reduce the current number of 166 down to 48. He said none of this is written in concrete, but based on that he foresees “tens of millions of dollars in savings” as a result of the consolidation with fewer employees and buildings needed to run the system.

In effect, LeBlanc has handed veto power over to Snyder, noting if he does not sign off, there is no sense pushing the legislation.

“If the Governor is not interested, I’ll leave it for a subsequent legislature,” he told MIRS.

The Governor’s special law enforcement committee, which has been meeting for the past year, is also expected to review the plan on Thursday.

We have been following some legislation which proposes to consolidate Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) statewide into 12 regions with 4 call centers.  A PSAP is a dispatch center like the one we have here in Auburn Hills.  The bill sponsor believes that “tens of millions” of dollars will be saved.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Well, I’ve been around awhile and I would suggest that it is a little more complex than that.

Our dispatch center employs a total  9 people to deliver 24 x 7 x 365 service to our community’s police and fire.  We are part of Oakland County’s unified radio system OAKWIN and part of a virtual consolidation of our computer aided dispatch systems through CLEMIS (Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information Systems).  We handle about 7000 phone calls per month and of those about 1/3 are 911 emergency calls.  It is an amazingly technical operation to get your 911 phone call routed to the closest PSAP center whether you are at your home, mobile on foot or in your car or on your Internet phone.  Then the technology of getting the right police and fire equipment to you in a timely fashion while being accountable and documenting what we did when, is simply mind-blowing. 

We are connected to every other dispatch center in Oakland County.  We back each other up–if our 911 phone call system fails (it has a couple of times) our callers fail over into Rochester’s dispatch center and vice versa.  Each center fails over onto a nearby center of approximately the same size so that a 911 caller–who typically isn’t calling because things are going good at the moment–doesn’t have to be transferred or wait for a response.  We handle everything from suicidal subjects to power outages to information about city services.  They handle our computerized traffic signal program that manages the traffic signals around the Palace and the Great Lakes Crossings  mall helping millions of drivers move through our streets more easily.  Because we believe in the quick clearance concept on our freeways they are key people in managing the response of police and fire on the freeway system to keep the traffic moving.  They watch our prisoners in short term lock up and assist people who come into our desk.  Without them we would have to lock our doors at night and on the weekends because we would have no one in the building.  Departments that have done that put a phone on the outside and a person at the station would have to wait for an officer to come in from the street because it makes more sense for us to have officers mobile. 

Rep. LeBlanc doesn’t specify how he believes money can be saved.  He also doesn’t indicate where the money would come from to pay for this major technical undertaking.  He says it is because buildings will be closed and personnel laid off.  Since the centers are mostly located in police departments, I don’t know how he expects that money will be saved since there are no buildings to be closed.  Theoretically the dispatchers could be laid off but I think he may not know all of the associated jobs the dispatchers perform.  Who will do those duties?  People at a higher pay scale?  In the last 20 years we civilianized these duties to save money—now he wants us to switch back?  He also has not released any data that indicates why 12 regions with 4 call centers is the proper number. 

Police and public safety communications professionals around the state are paying close attention to this bill and what the Governor’s position on it will be.