Published March 24. 2014 12:00PM Updated March 25. 2014 12:08AM
The state’s new public safety commissioner declared Monday that state police barracks would resume their open door policy by providing round-the-clock staffing.
Commissioner Dora A. Schriro said she continues an evaluation of a state police emergency dispatch consolidation plan that left barracks closed during overnight hours and weekends, but has determined “our state police barracks need to be open and accessible to the public 24-7.”
The consolidation, especially in eastern Connecticut, has come under criticism because of the lack of access to troopers, along with claims of delayed response times. Two separate proposed bills have called for a return of dispatchers to their original barracks and better access to troopers.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it corrects the whole issue of dispatch,” said state Sen. Cathy Osten, who co-sponsored one of the bills asking for reversal of the consolidation.
“It still does not fix the lag times in getting people out to calls … the overtime. It doesn’t correct the inaccurate information going out,” Osten said. “It’s still a work in progress, but the commissioner has assured me they are looking at the whole (consolidation).”
The closing of barracks at night and on weekends was a by-product of the dispatch consolidation, which not only moved the civilian dispatchers to one location but moved the desk troopers, who had worked side-by-side with dispatchers, to the road. In their absence the barracks are closed and visitors are instead greeted by emergency call boxes, dubbed “Trooper Smurfs,” which connect visitors to dispatchers who can contact a trooper.
In eastern Connecticut, the consolidated dispatch center is at Troop C in Tolland, which now dispatches troopers from Troop E in Montville, Troop K in Colchester and Troop D in Danielson. A similar consolidation was previously instituted in western Connecticut. Schriro has already halted plans for consolidation of central district dispatch centers.
Under the new directive from Schriro, commanders at each of the barracks are to develop a plan of coverage using existing manpower. Since troopers are in and out of the barracks during normal shifts to perform administrative duties, troopers on duty will now be assigned staggered times to remain at the barracks and available to the public.
Schriro said she has directed both Eastern District Major Michael Darcy and Western District Major William Podgorski to implement a plan immediately.
“This plan will afford all Connecticut residents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their Troop is open and immediately available to them,” Darcy said in a written statement.
State Police Union President Andrew Matthews expressed optimism about Schriro’s willingness to listen to the union membership and address concerns raised by troopers and the public.
“We’re glad she is taking into consideration issues of public safety … and not basing decisions on politics or personal agenda. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said in a statement, “the decision to cut staffing at our police barracks was a dangerous one that needed to be revisited.”
“I am pleased that the commissioner has made the order to reverse that decision and keep all 11 State Police barracks open and staffed 24/7,” McKinney said.
Schriro is still conducting a “top to bottom” review of the consolidated dispatch system and is expected to brief Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on her findings in the coming weeks, said Scott DeVico, the Legislative Program Manager and Public Information Officer for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Day staff writer Johanna Somers contributed to this report.