Single channel for all police agencies mulled

Radio dispatchers also could be consolidated

Carroll County

September 20, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials are exploring the possibility of consolidating emergency dispatchers and using one police channel to make the county's law enforcement agencies more efficient in sending officers and keeping track of them at a crime scene.

"I fully support the concept of consolidated police communications. I couldn't fathom fire rescue services having a mix and match," said Scott Campbell, acting administrator of the county's support services for the Office of Public Safety.

He said that his office still needs to see how feasible such a plan would be.

"But it's still very, very preliminary - though that does not diminish the legitimacy of the initiative," he said.

Campbell said the space limitations of each agency will factor into how quickly consolidation could happen. His office is looking at devising a plan to lay out the movement of personnel and come up with technical improvements that would be necessary for such a move.

"There are real basic quantitative things we have to access," said Campbell. But until a permanent, long-term solution is found, he said, officials will look at possible short-term improvements.

He would not speculate on how long it would take to complete the project, if it is approved by county commissioners.

Four municipalities - Hampstead, Manchester, Taneytown and Sykesville - operate on the same police channel as the Maryland State Police barracks in Westminster. The Westminster Police Department operates on its own channel, as does the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

Calling 911

Unless a caller dials a police agency directly, calls to 911 are routed to the county's emergency communications center. The dispatcher can then initiate a response or transfer the caller to a particular agency if requested.

Dispatchers are concentrated in a county building, the barracks, the sheriff's office and the Westminster Police Department.

Placing dispatchers in one place would streamline the flow of information, authorities said.

"This would eliminate redundancy," said Maj. Thomas Long, a spokesman for the county sheriff's office. "It could be Maryland State Police responding on the same call that we are, but neither of us knows it."

It also would cut down on calls between agencies, said Capt. Scott Yinger, commander of the Westminster barracks.

Putting everyone on the same channel would show all the law enforcement agencies which department could handle the call first, police officers said.

"We monitor each other, but if we're talking we can't hear other channels," Long said.

Improving safety

Yinger added that having one police channel would also boost officer safety by keeping all of the agencies aware of how long an officer is at a crime scene and allowing them to keep tabs on him or her if the officer has not checked in.

Troopers met with sheriff's department personnel, Campbell and other staff from the Office of Public Safety last month to begin discussing the concept of consolidating radio and dispatch resources.

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