State police commissioner outlines changes to consolidated dispatch

A consolidated state police emergency dispatch center in Tolland will continue to handle 911 calls from eastern Connecticut, but the non-emergency calls are better handled locally by troopers from their barracks, the new public safety commissioner announced on Wednesday.

After completing a preliminary review of the consolidated system implemented last year in eastern Connecticut and previously in the western part of the state, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora B. Schriro said she will immediately begin field-testing the redirecting of non-emergency calls back to state police at Troops A in Southbury and Troop D in Danielson. Statewide implementation of the changes is expected by fall.

Schriro had been examining the consolidation plan instituted by former Commissioner Reuben Bradford following a wave of criticism over locked barracks and public safety concerns raised by both the state police union and lawmakers.

In eastern Connecticut, dispatchers from Troop E in Montville, Troop K in Colchester and Troop D in Danielson were moved to a revamped consolidated dispatch center at Troop C in Tolland. The move led to locked doors at the barracks during overnight hours. Schriro recently restored 24-hour coverage at the barracks, shifting troopers so that someone was available to the public at all times. Plans to consolidate dispatchers from troops in the central part of the state remain on hold.

Two bills making their way through the legislature call for an end to the consolidation and return of dispatchers to local barracks.

Schriro acknowledged the consolidation “has had its share of challenges,” but said in a statement the system is still workable. Schriro said the non-emergency calls she plans to redirect back to the troops make up about 60 percent of the calls fielded by dispatchers.

In addition to the shift in calls, Schriro has called for the formation of a working group of dispatchers, troopers and sergeants, and an advisory group made up of representatives of Connecticut’s municipalities, “to elicit their feedback on an on-going basis and address issues and concerns as they arise,” she said in her statement.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who sponsored a bill to end the consolidation, said Wednesday, “I think things are going in the right direction, but I would like to see some special consideration for Troop E, one of the busiest troops in the state.”

In a written statement, state Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, D-Brooklyn, who sponsored a different bill to end the consolidation, said he welcomed “Schriro’s deliberative approach to the issue of how our police barracks serve the community.”

“She has taken the time to listen to the concerns of the residents of northeastern Connecticut as well as troopers, dispatchers and officials throughout the state,” Williams said in the statement. “The return of 24-hour coverage at our barracks has improved service and safety in our communities. Today’s announcement, restoring some dispatch functions to the local barracks is another step in the right direction.”

g.smith@theday.com

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