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Beverly police unions come out against new regional dispatch center

Posted by Stewart Bishop  July 11, 2011 04:48 PM

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Police unions in Beverly have come out against a plan to move dispatch operations to a new regional call center in Middleton, and are calling on the mayor and chief of police to abandon the plan.

In a letter sent to Mayor William F. Scanlon, Chief Mark Ray, and the city council, Sergeant Lawrence H. Van Liere, president of the Beverly Police Superior Officers Association and Officer Eric Abrahamson, president of the Beverly Police Benevolent Association, said there were too many unanswered questions about how the center will operate, like what costs are involved, as well as contractual issues and officer safety issues.

"Seven of the thirteen communities originally involved in this project have already withdrawn for various reasons, primarily because of the cost factors," Van Liere and Abrahamson said in the letter. "We, the members of the Beverly Police Department, strongly suggest that the City of Beverly withdraw from participation immediately."

The planned Emergency Dispatch Call Center is being funded by a state grant of $6.8 million. The new center would be staffed by civilian dispatchers. Currently dispatchers in Beverly are uniformed officers.

Van Liere and Abrahamson said the concept of a regional dispatch center seems suited to smaller, more rural communities and not for a city the size of Beverly.

Scanlon said the matter of the regional dispatch center has already been through a public review process.

"This decision took place two full years ago," Scanlon said. "It was brought up and discussed by the fire chief, the police chief and voted on by the city council."

The mayor said the project would move forward as planned.

"It's certainly going to save the city money and will provide better service at a lower cost," Scanlon said. "We see it as a win-win."

The unions questioned the mayors cost savings assessment and said the new station could end up costing the city money and harming public safety.

"It will cost the City of Beverly approximately $650,000 annually for the next five years plus the loss of approximately $100,000 yearly in 911 grant money," Van Liere and Abrahamson said. "Where are the cost savings within the police department? We are told that through attrition of four officers that there is a savings and that there will be only be two officers inside the station, an officer in charge and a station officer. This department is currently operating with 20 less officers than it originally had, any more cuts to personnel would be detrimental to the safety of police officers and the citizens of Beverly."

The regional dispatch center is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Stewart Bishop can be reached at sbishop@globe.com

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