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Last updateTue, 22 Jul 2014 9pm

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High Springs dispatch center unsafe and understaffed

Columns2012 As the former High Springs police chief, I am highly concerned with the actions of three city commissioners to eliminate the contract with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Combined Communications Center (CCC). As the police chief, I identified many inadequacies and safety concerns in the operation of the High Springs Police Department dispatch center. These concerns, which included the massive failure of the center during the May 2011 shooting at the community school, coupled with the significant cost savings of the CCC, were presented to the former commission and were the catalyst for the elimination of our center in September 2011. These documents are available for all to review.

The issue surrounding the use of the CCC is summed up in one word “safety.” The former center was unsafe and needed immediate change as it did not have the technology to manage the calls for service and was woefully understaffed. Unless this commission spends hundreds of thousands of new tax dollars on hiring the staffing necessary to have two dispatchers on a shift at all times, as well as a dispatch manager, overhauling the technology and equipment in the center, and training all of the dispatchers and certain officers on the new dispatcher law, the city is once again going to have a liability ridden, unsafe, and dysfunctional “backwoods” dispatch center servicing the community. The CCC is the safest, cheapest and most proven method of operation. Why spend unnecessary additional funding that will never equal the services currently offered by the CCC? Any new funds should go toward hiring additional officers, firefighters and public works employees.

Unfortunately, using the CCC required the city to change certain street addresses in the downtown part of the city. This is due to duplications in addressing where some emergency calls for High Springs are being sent to Gainesville and calls for Gainesville being sent to High Springs. These calls continue to cause unnecessary delays in receiving medical and law enforcement assistance. They need to be changed immediately.

I was not in favor of eliminating our dispatch center; however, when the commission could not afford to make the needed changes, I had no other alternative but to go with the CCC. The use of the CCC is endorsed by the officers, sergeants and staff employees at the HSPD, as well as every law enforcement and communication professional that I know in this area.

Please do not be fooled by inaccuracies and propaganda being drummed up by Ginger Travers, Steve Holley, Jeri Langman and Commissioners Barnas, Davis and Gestrin (these are the same three commissioners who have made some of the most devastating and destructive changes to the city.) Call City Hall today and tell your commissioners that you want to keep the CCC and that you support your public safety officer’s adamant request to have the best, most cost effective level of service. Your life and the safety of your public safety officers dependl on it.