A plan originally intended to save taxpayer dollars was scrapped, to the tune of more cash.
Three years ago, state police dispatch centers were consolidated in several areas of the state, as a way to save money but after complaints about response times, the centers are now being de-consolidated.
When Troy Quick’s children called 911 after two men broke into his Windham home in 2014, he said it took over an hour-and-a-half for police to respond.
“I got a call from my son very shaken up that someone in a strange vehicle was here. They were banging on the door,” Quick said.
A neighbor was able to scare off the burglars.
After an internal investigation, the union representing state troopers said the delayed response was in part due to state police consolidations.
“When it takes an hour and 19 minutes for a trooper to respond from an initial call, that’s a problem,” said Andy Matthews of the state police union.
When the dispatch centers consolidated, State Police Colonel Danny Stebbins said it meant more troopers would be on the road.
“This is just an option for flexibility of our people to use, used as an emergency situation,” Stebbins said.
The consolidation began in 2012, in the western part of the state. Two troops merged into Troop L in Litchfield. Soon after, troops based in Hartford and Bradley Airport combined.
Lastly, in the eastern part of the state, three state police dispatch centers, including one in Danielson, merged into Troop C in Tolland.
Police admit that the transition was riddled with problems.
“Some of the problems were things like dropped calls, whether they were 911 or routine calls for service,” said State Police Trooper Kelly Grant.
“The information was getting lost in translation. People were getting misinformation out in the field with the wrong street address,” Matthews said.
Eyewitness News exclusively reported how the transition was also impacting state police dispatchers.
“It’s tough. You’re fatigued. Your eyes are fatigued from looking at the screen. You’re not as sharp as you should be. Calls seem to roll into one another,” said State Police Dispatcher Scott Owens.
The transition cost the state thousands of dollars in overtime.
For example, in August of 2013, Troop C in Tolland had 74 hours of overtime. In September, when the consolidation started, that number nearly doubled and continued to skyrocket.
By October, it was at more than 1,700 hours, and in November it was nearly 2,400 hours.
“It was dangerous, not only for the members, but for the public because it affected our response time. It affected our backup,” Matthews said.
Several months ago, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the public safety commissioner admitted state consolidation wasn’t working, and began deconsolidating.
It would cost the state even more money to go back to the way it was.
“To go back to what it was, just about $380,000 or so, but that includes an upgrade to the 911 system,” Grant said.
The state said there is a silver lining. New dispatch centers are better able to handle emergencies.
“If someone can’t tell you their exact GPS location we are able to get an idea of the location. It won’t give us the exact location but the general location,” Grant said. “Yes, $400,000 is a lot of money however we’re back to normal operating procedures. Each troop now has troopers and dispatchers.”
While the union said the cost is expensive, it will eventually save money in the long term.
“That 400,000 is a great investment to save a lot of money that you would have been spending because of the consolidation,” Matthews said.
Friday was the deadline for deconsolidation of all of the dispatch centers throughout the state.
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