A year after Washington Township switched its emergency dispatch system over to the county command center, the municipality’s governing body says things aren’t going as planned.
“(The county dispatch system) clearly isn’t working as well as we want them to,” Mayor Ken Short said.
Short mentioned there was a mix-up in communications with an emergency call at Cobblestone Fields recently, which only adds to a growing list of gaffes between the county and township.
A letter from the attorney representing the Washington Township Police Benevolence Association Local #301 has been sent to the county regarding communication problems as well, Short said.
“I’ve heard from some of our guys the problem is the inconsistency,” Vice Mayor Bill Roehrich said. “(The county) says it’s fine, but we’re saying it’s intermittent.”
The problem needs to be fixed, and sooner than later, Short said.
“Two of our former dispatchers took jobs there when we switched over,” Short said. “But I know some of the dispatchers there have been let go and there’s been mix-ups in road and town names. We need to get this working right.”
Procedure vs. Technical
While lack of signal and mix up of road names may be to blame for some of the problems, one of the committeemen wondered if it was on the procedural end.
“We had a recent incident where residents were calling for information, and dispatchers were sending mixed messages,” said James LiaBraaten. “You can have the best system in the world, but it doesn’t matter if procedures are off.”
In August, Washington Township Police and members of the New Jersey State Police aviation unit diffused a situation where a suicidal, shotgun-wielding man was found in a cornfield.
During that incident, residents were told by county dispatchers that authorities were looking for a missing person–not an armed and potentially dangerous one.
After that situation, chief of police Michael Bailey said had there been local dispatchers taking care of the situation as was done in the past, there may have not been a problem that night.
"The (dispatch system) isn't any worse than what we had, but we have higher expectations (for it)," Short said.
Bailey will meet with the township committee at Monday night’s regular meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building. The public is encouraged to attend.