Park City considers merging dispatchers into Sheriff’s Office
There would be fewer calls to transferred from the Police Department
November 29, 2016
The Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office are discussing whether to merge the dispatch operations of the two agencies, a move that, if finalized, would be a rare example of a municipal function being folded outright into a county one.
Diane Foster, the Park City manager, explained the talks are a result of a state report that looked into 911 emergency systems across Utah with the idea of consolidating some 911 centers in an effort to reduce the number of calls that are transferred between agencies.
She said state legislation passed with the intent of reducing the number of call centers and eliminating what are classified as secondary 911 centers. The Police Department operates a secondary 911 center while the Sheriff’s Office runs a primary one. Foster said it is unlikely the Police Department’s 911 center will ever become a primary one based on the size of the agency.
“We really want to eliminate transferring calls between dispatch centers,” Foster said.
The leadership of the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office have held discussions about merging the dispatch operations, Foster said. Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council on Dec. 15 are scheduled to discuss possibilities. A decision is not anticipated at that meeting, but the elected officials will likely signal whether they want to continue to investigate merging the dispatch operations. If they do, more research into the issues that would be addressed in a formal agreement would be needed.
The city manager said it is likely Police Department dispatchers would be shifted to the Sheriff’s Office if an agreement is reached. Foster said the overall compensation for dispatch positions is similar between the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office. Summit County generally pays a slightly better salary to dispatchers while the Police Department offers a little bit better benefits, she said.
Foster said it is anticipated not all of the Police Department dispatch positions will be required on a long-term basis under a merged operation. The positions that are not needed would be expected to be eliminated through attrition, she said, adding that there is regular turnover in dispatchers based on the high-stress nature of the position. Foster said layoffs would not be anticipated as a result of a merger.
The Park City lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police supports a merger, the lodge’s president, police officer Mikel Archibeque, said. He said it “creates a lag” when a 911 call needs to be transferred. Police officers, meanwhile, currently monitor the Police Department radio channel as well as the Sheriff’s Office channel, he said. They would only need to monitor one if the systems are merged, Archibeque said.
“We all hear what’s going on. We’re all on the same channel,” he said, describing a benefit of a merger.