SREC Changes Not Welcome by Local Dispatchers and Law Enforcement

11/27/2018
Council President Stuckart reviewed the Mayor’s letter to Council and comments to the press regarding the veto of the Spokane Police Department and Spokane Fire Department Dispatch Requirements Ordinance. The Council voted to override the veto 6-0 (CM Kinnear was absent because she is sick).

 

11/20/2018 Update: On the night of the first posting of this story (November 7th) Spokane News received emails from Kirstin Davis who advised us she is the Public Relations person for SREC (KDAVIS@spokanecounty.org) and stated she would send us the information we were seeking regarding the Integration. We would like to point out that after several emails, we at Spokane News have not received any information that K. Davis has stated they would send.

According to the Mayor: “The integrated system will improve public safety outcomes for our citizens and save money for other important priorities.” However, no information on how this will happen and what the “other important priorities” are being released to the public.  ~Jay

 

11/20/2018 Update: Spokane Mayor David Condon today is announcing that he is vetoing an ordinance passed by the Spokane City Council on Nov. 5 that requires dispatch services for Spokane Police Department and Spokane Fire Department employees be performed solely by City employees.
 
“This ordinance effectively is designed to limit the City’s ability to join the regional integrated communications system that is under development,” says Mayor Condon. “The integrated system will improve public safety outcomes for our citizens and save money for other important priorities.”


Original Posting

Spokane News has received many emails from Dispatchers and Law Enforcement seeking our help in sharing their view against the SREC previously known as SPOCOM integration. As many followers of Spokane News listen to scanner feeds you may have heard the voice of dispatchers and now you can read some of their views below. Reaching out to your local Officials with your view of this merger is requested.

 

Dispatchers, after months of requests to be included in integration talks, finally received more formal support and protection of their jobs, certification and specialties to firefighters and police officers on Monday night at the City Council meeting. In a lengthy statement, Council President Ben Stuckart urged his fellow council members to vote yes on an ordinance he sponsored to codify minimum training and certification standards and requirements for fire and police dispatchers. He also proposed to require that dispatch services to firefighters and police officers be only performed by employees of the City of Spokane. This addendum would protect dispatchers from being involuntarily absorbed into SREC, the integration entity which wants to combine 911 and radio dispatching services into one classification. Dispatchers have argued that their specialties serve the responders and public well and keep them safe, identify threats to life and property, and allow them to stay focused on their primary role rather than require them to multi-task and divert their attention. 
After discussion and public testimony, City Council passed the ordinance unanimously. This step taken in favor of the dispatchers position.

 

“I’ve been a Police Dispatcher with the Spokane Police Department for almost 16 years.  I’ve been a Supervisor for 5 of those years.  I’ve seen a lot come and go during my career and this by far is the most concerning thing I’ve been witness to.  
During the consolidation process many questions have been asked and most have not been answered.  Our City Council recently passed an ordinance, unanimously voted on,  in attempt to stop the steam rolling of this project due to their concerns with how this is being handled.  The concerns in how the project is spending the tax dollars, the concern that this isn’t the best way to serve our citizens of Spokane and the concern for the employees futures being shoved into a privatized company.  
We all agree there are areas in which we could improve processes and procedure between 911/CC and Law & Fire, however those could be done with mutual aid training and inter-agency agreements.  We are always looking for ways to better serve Spokane and Law and Fire personnel we work with.  Consolidation, the way it’s currently being pushed, is not going to improve anything and has the potential to do much more harm than good.
The tax payers money is being spent, and essentially wasted, outside of the the agreed upon terms for Prop 1 taxes.  
The public is being fed information that this will improve response times and service to the citizens.  That is false.  What improves response times is having more officers on the streets, more fire fighters on the streets, not consolidation between 911/CC and Law and Fire.  Police and Fire dispatchers are a specialized unit with extensive training in their respective fields.  Due to our fields being so specialized there is a small amount of people who can do our job.  Consolidation reduces the level of service we provide both to the public as well as our field units by opening up dispatching to a lower level of training for more people to be able to perform the tasks at a lesser degree.  The lower level of training is needed to allow for more people to be successful in dispatching in a consolidated center.  Having a lower level of training is dangerous for our officers/deputies/fire fighters as well as for our citizens.    
I implore the citizens of Spokane to voice your questions and concerns to the Mayor’s office.”
K. A. Spokane Police Department Dispatcher
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“I have worked in areas and with agencies who have used combined communications and it has consistently resulted in delayed responses and decreased quality of service due to lack of pertinent information.  
The fact is that dispatching is not a consistent job across all fields, just like being a mechanic can have a wide variety of implications. Our dispatchers get to know their beats as well as the responders that work them. They get to know what information we need and when we need it. You cannot intermingle all personnel and responsibilities and expect service quality to improve.  
Furthermore, dispatch is a vital piece of each individual emergency response agency. The agencies need individual control over their dispatchers and how calls are accepted, dispatched, and handled. SPD, SVPD, SCSO, SFD, SCFD, EWUPD, CPD, LLPD… numerous agencies with differing constituents, demographics and expectations , as well as differing SOP’s. It’s beyond asinine to expect everyone to use the same system.  
This plan is intended to save money, but make no mistake; it will come at the cost of an already stretched level of service. It is nothing more than a political footnote about saving money. The only way to improve call response times and quality is to hire more first responders. The only way to reduce crime is to hire more officers. This plan is playing politics with a system that politicians do not understand. Anyone who truly understands dispatch and emergency response is against this plan, and the citizens need to stand behind them to put an end to it.”
Officer J. M. Spokane Police Department
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“I believe it is an all-too familiar tale of a grab for money. The newly formed PDA arose out of a struggle to cut costs, but the new leaders have not produced any hard numbers about what they’re trying to fix. Response times are already excellent. Current dispatchers do a superior job at protecting their officers, firefighters and the public because they have specialized training. Consultants have been hired to help make a case for what is essentially a political agenda.

As a fire dispatcher, the recent move to an integrated (“Spocom”) 911 center for cost savings, efficiency and shortened response times are faulty promises, for the following reasons:

1.    We’re already integrated. 911 call receivers, and police, fire and sheriff radio dispatchers all work together and already share technological transparency. We talk to each other all day long, and can see active calls on one another’s computer screens. 

2.    Spocom leaders have already acknowledged that this won’t save any money. In addition, when questioned repeatedly by City Council and dispatchers, they have not produced a funding model and have stated they do not yet have one.

3.    We’re highly specialized to provide the best outcome possible to citizens and emergency responders. Call receivers have their specialties – determining the type of emergency, triaging, identifying safety and legal issues, etc. Law enforcement radio dispatchers carefully manage scarce resources to assign officers to the highest acuity calls of the moment – it’s a skilled and intellectual balancing act. Fire/medical dispatchers fine tune the emergency response, listen for red flags and priority medical symptoms, and dispatch paramedics and fire trucks accordingly. Each of our agencies has won multiple awards for excellence and clear thinking in times of chaos and tragedy.

4.     Emergency response times shorten when we hire more law enforcement officers and firefighters, not combine job descriptions. 

5.     Officers and deputies will be put at risk when their radio dispatchers are forced to divide their time between answering radio transmissions and taking phone calls.

6.     The public’s safety will be threatened if 911 call receivers have to also answer radio traffic. It’s a dangerous mix.

Kelly Masjoan, Spokane Fire Department Dispatcher”

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“I am a Spokane Police Officer and I am adamantly against the consolidation of Spokane City and County Dispatch Centers.  I’ve been in law enforcement for 30 years. It’s been my experience that making units or agencies large causes major issues.  Things become overlooked and service becomes substandard.  

Smaller units or agencies have better communication and are able to react and correct issues more efficiently.  The City and County have different needs and issues in their community.  The Spokane Police and Sheriff’s Departments have different standard operating procedures as well as policy and procedures.  Officers and Deputies rely on skilled and trained dispatchers to know and understand how to make sure they get resources and information in a timely manner to keep them and the public safe on the street. 

Based on my experience consolidation will not  save money and will more than likely cost more in the long run.  Dispatchers can’t improve response times, only more officers on the street can do that.” 

Officer David Daddato, Spokane Police Department

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“This is in response to the highly political and very controversial 911 emergency center integration into a private entity called SPOCOM. Most have not heard about the decisions being made behind closed doors that will not only affect the citizens of Spokane County including the Cities within, as well as the employees that work for the agencies involved.

As an EMT Fire Dispatcher for 20 years, I am very passionate about what I do. I care about the citizens. I have pride in my job. I believe I make a difference. Not only have I dedicated my career to this very specialized position in the community, so has my Son, a Paramedic Firefighter for the Spokane City Fire Department for 3 years as has his Father, a Paramedic Firefighter for Spokane County Fire District 9 for 35 years.

I am NOT in favor of this integration proposed by the SPOCOM board. It is NOT in the best interest of the citizens, the employees or for the safety of the firefighters and police officers. Please take the time to learn about this proposed change to our 911 emergency dispatch center. It WILL affect you in one way or another.”

Tonya Peone, EMT Fire Dispatcher, 20 years of service

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“A change in how emergency communications are handled in Spokane County is being proposed. It represents a step down in comparison to the services we currently provide.  Money approved by taxpayers for supporting and improving the system already in place is being used to pay consultants, travel for board members, recruiting/hiring Administrators and forming a new public Agency.

I am a fire dispatcher working in the current communications center.  My coworkers and I have extensive training to assist the public with EMS and Fire Emergencies.  Currently fire dispatchers are certified as EMT’s and are Emergency Medical Dispatchers.  We can provide emergency patient care over the phone while you are waiting for first responders to arrive.  This change means that you will no longer have someone medically trained taking your calls.  Medical emergency calls will be taken by call takers reading from a script.  No adapting or deviating. Fire and non-medical calls will be handled the same scripted way.

As a citizen, I feel that these changes are not in the best interest of public safety.  I want the best services for my family, friends and neighbors.  Contact your public officials and let them know how you feel about this.”

Grace Hammersley, Spokane Fire Department Dispatcher

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“I am not in favor for consolidation. As a taxpayer, this is a waste of money spent by people in charge of using taxpayer money. They said they are wanting to fix a broken system, but have failed to identify what is broken? They have hired a director for this new agency and that director stated last week to the board that it will cost more money than originally thought. The levels of service we dispatchers provide to officers/deputies/fire fighters will definitely change due to the fact that a private agency will not want to have any liability. They are using Proposition 1 money to pay for consolidating. That money was sold to the taxpayers for updating CAD (computer aided dispatch), radio system (allows all agencies to talk on same channel), crime check, alert Spokane, enhance 911 system. It did not say that the money would be put to combing agencies, which is what is being done. The City of Spokane city council is not in favor of this and have passed a resolution to stop involvement. As an employee… the board of directors and director cannot answer and refuse to answer questions about our pay, retirement, benefits, differed compensation packages. They have only said it would be competitive. But our question is…competitive to whom? The City of Spokane makes significantly more than any other agency.”

Kyle Steinmetz Spokane Police Department Dispatcher

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Below is information in favor of SPOCOM with the complete link shared at the bottom of this story. 

A complex, extensive project to regionalize Spokane County emergency communications by creating an Integrated Communications Center is currently underway. The new Integrated Communications Center will eventually replace the current Combined Communications Center (CCC), providing faster, more efficient responses to emergencies. (1)

This is a complicated effort and historically, attempts to regionalize have failed. However, a favorable political climate, coupled with emergency response leadership’s desire for a more effective and efficient system has contributed to the project moving forward. Spokane County Fire and Law Enforcement leaders have agreed to the concept, and are working with City of Spokane and County officials on the early phases of the project. (1)

Currently, incoming 911 calls to the CCC are transferred via phone to either fire or police for dispatch purposes. The future Integrated Communications Center would handle all emergency calls immediately, by integrating computer aided dispatch systems and personnel thus eliminating the need for call transfers and re-triaging which should result in the reduction of total response times for citizens of Spokane County. (1)

(1) http://www.spokanevalleyfire.com/chief-regional-communications-center-project-underway/

Emails to voice your view. 
Spokane Mayor: mayor@spokanecity.org
Spokane County Sheriff: oknezovich@spokanesheriff.org
Spokane Valley Fire Chief: collinsb@spokanevalleyfire.com
Spokane Valley Mayorrhiggins@spokanevalley.org

County Commissioners:
Mary Kuney: mkuney@spokanecounty.org
Josh Kerns: jkerns@spokanecounty.org
Al French: afrench@spokanecounty.org

Spokane Valley City Council
bpeetz@spokanevalley.orgawoodard@spokanevalley.org,  bwick@spokanevalley.org,  phaley@spokanevalley.org swood@spokanevalley.org lthompson@spokanevalley.org

Spokane City Council
bstuckart@spokanecity.orgkateburke@spokanecity.orgmfagan@spokanecity.org,
bbeggs@spokanecity.orglkinnear@spokanecity.orgcmumm@spokanecity.org,
kstratton@spokanecity.org

Spokane Valley Fire Department:
rosem@spokanevalleyfire.com,

Spokane County Fire Department District 9:
ADMIN@SCFD9.ORG

Spokane County Fire District 4
Chief Randy Johnson, email: randyj@scfd4.org
Assistant Chief Bill Neckels email: billn@scfd4.org
Division Chiefs Howard Johnson III email: howardj@scfd4.org
Bob Bender email: bobb@scfd4.org
Gino Palomino email: ginop@scfd4.org

Spokane County Fire District 8
Commissioner Position 1: 
Andrew V. Rorie arorie@scfd8.org

Commissioner Position 2: Lee C. Boling lboling@scfd8.org
Commissioner Position 3: Gregory A. Hesse ghesse@scfd8.org
FIRE CHIEF: Tony Nielsen tnielsen@scfd8.org

Spokane County Fire District 3
scfd3@scfd3.org

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