NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB)- Niagara County consolidated most of it’s emergency communication in 2012. The county now dispatches for ten police departments, two fire departments, and all volunteer fire services in the area.
Sheriff James Voutour told News 4 the consolidation has generally been a good thing; it’s expanded municipalities access to one another and had made communication better, he said.
The City of North Tonawanda’s police union sees it very differently.
In a press release following the massive wind storm that left thousands in Niagara County without power, the PBA in North Tonawanda claimed the county’s overloaded dispatchers couldn’t handle the call volumes.
“The county now takes x amount of minutes to drop it to us and now with that information delay it’s slowing us down to get to the calls,” said PBA member and spokesperson, Erik Herbert.
The union would like its own emergency dispatch center back.
“I’ll hold the door open if they want to leave,” said Voutour.
He was angered by the press release, and said it painted a story that isn’t true.
“We doubled staffing in here, we took care of all the issues, our radio system was not even close to being taxed. It was less than 50 percent capacity during the height of the storm,” Voutour said.
North Tonawanda averaged only five calls per hour during that storm according to the Sheriff.
He said in general, it’s North Tonawanda’s Police Department that might impact their response times, he said.
“From June 2011 to June 2012, when North Tonawanda police triaged and dispatched their own 9-1-1 calls, 85.6 percent of calls were dispatched within one minute. From June 2013 to June 2014, when Niagara County absorbed the dispatching duties, only 39.9 percent of calls to police were dispatched within a minute,” stated the PBA press release.
North Tonawanda doesn’t have AVL for its squad cars; it’s like GPS. Every other department the county dispatches for has it. It makes it easier to find the nearest car to respond to an emergency.
Voutour also noted that because North Tonawanda doesn’t allow any other agency’s vehicles to respond to calls, it often delays their response time.
Herbert told us the PBA would like its emergency dispatch center to return to the police station.
Voutour said the door’s open.
“When they said my dispatchers were in efficient and ineffective during that storm…I’m like a mother hen when it comes to my employees. When my employees are right I stick up for them.”
The Niagara Falls Police Department uses civilian dispatchers, the Lockport Police Department uses police dispatchers, and Niagara Falls Fire Department uses civilian dispatchers for emergency calls. The rest of Niagara County’s emergency calls go through the county’s dispatch center.
The union has had discussion with the county on this issue before; both parties told us they didn’t get very far in those talks.