Starting July 1, “There will always be an open door,” said Restine. “At any time, for any reason, the public can walk into the department's lobby and talk to a dispatcher. The dispatcher can have an officer there in a heartbeat, and the lobby has audio and video, so it is a safe place.”
No matter the time of day or night, starting July 1 there will always be an open door and a friendly face at the Mount Shasta Police Department.
With a unanimous vote at their Monday meeting last week, Mount Shasta City Council approved the change to 24-hour dispatch staffing.
Before the economic downturn in 2009 necessitated the reduction, MSPD was always fully staffed with dispatchers, explained Lieutenant Joe Restine.
For the last decade, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. the department’s front door has been locked with no dispatcher on duty to assist police officers.
Restine said there is always at least one police officer on duty, but overnight dispatch has been routed through the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department.
While this has been a serviceable solution, the Sheriff’s dispatchers don’t have access to the MSPD’s local history information and other inhouse databases which help police officers do their jobs most effectively.
For example, “They’re not able to pull up a case to see if it is related to something that may have happened earlier in the day,” Restine explained.
In addition, MSPD has the ability to track all of their officers via GPS, and the Sheriff’s dispatch doesn’t have access to this information.
“With this change, if there is an officer out somewhere in the middle of the night, a dispatcher can pull up their location on GPS. If they can’t contact them for some reason, they could send someone out to look for them. So it will be safer for the officer and it will allow us to hold officers more accountable.”
Restine said dispatchers serve an important role within the police department. They note important facts and run license plate and drivers license numbers into databases to provide useful information regarding suspects and victims. All this saves the officers’ time and increases public safety.
Restine explained that the MSPD receives Public Safety Answering Point funding from the state, more commonly referred to as PSAP. When the change was made to reduce dispatch hours in 2009, the state provided a five-year waiver that excused the department from having 24/7 911 service. The state extended the waiver in 2014, but a month ago the state gave MSPD until July 1 to provide continuous 911 services or risk losing PSAP funding.
PSAP provides about $220,000 every five years for technology that supports the 911 system, including maintenance contracts, answering equipment, software, furniture and other necessities.
The council listened to the police department’s proposal during their March 11 meeting and agreed that returning to a 24-hour model made sense.
Starting July 1, “There will always be an open door,” said Restine. “At any time, for any reason, the public can walk into the department’s lobby and talk to a dispatcher. The dispatcher can have an officer there in a heartbeat, and the lobby has audio and video, so it is a safe place.”
Restine said a few months ago, a woman who had just been assaulted by her boyfriend came to the MSPD for help in the early morning hours. It was lucky that an officer was in the building, heard the woman knocking on the front door and was able to help because the dispatcher was not yet on duty.
“This will provide a point of safety at all hours for anyone experiencing a crisis or an issue,” Restine added.
The department is currently in the process of hiring and training new dispatchers to make the staffing change.