Community asks mayor about local dispatch services at city council meeting

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A crowded audience of community members at the June 6 city council meeting.

Of the 13 community members who submitted public comments on the possibility of Lakewood outsourcing its police dispatch center at the June 6 city council meeting, none supported the city’s plan. Mayor Meghan George.

Mayor George opened this portion of the City Council meeting by stating that Cuyahoga County began financially penalizing Lakewood last year because Lakewood continues to operate its own emergency dispatch center, which the county considers as a violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 128.571. This forces municipal governments to band together for dispatch services. Mayor George did not elaborate on how financially Lakewood had been penalized by the county. She said that section of the law could be overridden by Ohio House Bill 445, which is currently in committee.

The mayor said many western communities are in talks to join Chagrin Valley Dispatch, noting that 33 of Cuyahoga County’s 59 municipalities are already members.

However, the Chagrin Valley Dispatch website states that they only serve as a communications center for 26 municipalities. Many of these municipalities are to the east and south, including Bratenahl, Solon and Moreland Hills.

Mayor George said mayors, police chiefs and fire chiefs who were members of the Chagrin Valley Dispatch believe they have ‘improved safety through access to superior technology based on economies of scale “. While discussing the transfer of dispatch services from Lakewood to Chagrin Valley Dispatch, Mayor George said the matter would be referred to the Public Safety Committee for further review.

“It’s really the start of a discussion,” she said.

This discussion began with public comments, the first of which came from Anthony Ciresi, an off-duty Lakewood police sergeant. He noted that the eleven women who lead the Lakewood dispatch unit have a collective 188 years of experience serving Lakewood. Ciresi highlighted the Lakewood Dispatcher’s important role in community safety, pointing out that the Lakewood Police Department does not have the same issues as other communities because “we work as a team, and that team includes our dispatch center. If we lose them, we lose… our ability to communicate.

Denise Tharp, a dispatcher with 15 years of experience, recalled a time when she worked as a dispatcher for Cleveland Metroparks when she contacted police about a shooting in the parks. As the suspect crossed the Lakewood border, she worked with a Lakewood dispatcher. The Lakewood dispatcher’s short response time and geographic knowledge helped save the life of a gunshot victim.

Tharp said she also worked as a dispatcher for Chagrin Valley Dispatch, the dispatch center Mayor George referred to in his opening remarks.

“This is not the type of service any city that is part of the Chagrin Valley Regional Dispatch Center receives,” Tharp said. She classified the philosophy of Chagrin Valley Dispatches as one where little consideration is given to a dispatcher’s unfamiliarity with a city or its geography, even if it costs valuable life-saving minutes. “Chagrin Valley Regional Dispatch is a disservice to the communities it serves and a detriment to responder safety,” Tharp said.

Rebecca Wise explained with emotion that every second counts in an emergency. In an emergency, she said, you might be disoriented or panicked. Because Lakewood dispatchers have so much experience and have served the community for so long, they are able to locate someone and dispatch help faster than a dispatcher who is unfamiliar with the town or its surroundings. landmarks.

Bridget Roda, a Lakewood dispatcher with 22 years of experience, said Mayor George only spoke to the local dispatchers’ union after a public records request was filed. The request was for information regarding meetings Mayor George, Police Chief Kevin Kaucheck and Fire Chief Tim Dunphy had with Chagrin Valley Dispatch. Mayor George told Roda and the other dispatchers they could transfer to Chagrin Valley Dispatch in early 2023. Since Chagrin Valley Dispatch is not unionized, there would be no guarantee of safe work practices.

Roda noted that the legal complexities surrounding Law 128.571 could have been better uncovered if Mayor George had asked more questions of local interested parties rather than the for-profit dispatch center.

Roda pointed to the irony of Mayor George’s past suggestions that she supports women’s empowerment, while taking steps to disband Lakewood’s only all-female union made up of African American, Hispanic, Caucasian and LGBTQ+ women.

Ron Bunner, a Lakewood police officer, spoke about his conversations with two police officers from an eastern suburb whose dispatch is now run by Chagrin Valley Dispatch. “They no longer respond to ongoing calls because response times are so short that by the time they arrive the crime is over,” he said.

Bunner also said that in a June 1 meeting with the Lakewood Police Chief, Chief Kaucheck “admitted that it could hurt our response times and officer safety, but that was the wave of the future”. Additionally, Bunner reported that Chief Kaucheck acknowledged that the move to Chagrin Valley Dispatch would not result in significant savings, if any.

A local business owner expressed support for Lakewood dispatchers, noting that Lakewood dispatchers had served in close quarters throughout the pandemic, at risk to themselves and their families. Dissolving their union and outsourcing their jobs was “no way to treat people”.

Bryan McNeeley, a Lakewood police sergeant, said, “Technology is no substitute for knowing the community. There is no replacement for this.

A full video of the city council meeting is available on the city council webpage at https://www.lakewoodoh.gov/councilvideos/.

Susan Hutner has resided in Lakewood for over 15 years.

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