People coming to the Glenville Police Department for help used to be greeted by a dispatcher.
Now — following the consolidation of the county’s dispatchers into one building in Rotterdam — they are met with printed instructions on how to reach a police officer by using a phone set up in the entrance vestibule.
“Try to get into the lobby — you can’t,” said Det. Michael Lamb, president of the Glenville Police Benevolent Association. “You come into a vestibule and there’s a phone there and there’s a kiosk there, so if somebody’s chasing you down the road and you come in here, you have to pick up the phone and listen to the prompters.”
Lamb wrote a letter to Glenville town officials, county officials, local police chiefs and members of the media last week saying the Police Department’s service to the community has become depersonalized since the town’s nine dispatchers were moved into the Unified Communications Center on Hamburg Street in May.
Lamb — who started working for the department as a dispatcher in 1986 — said Glenville officers have received complaints from residents who say the new process is confusing. He wrote that the now closed Glenville dispatch center was previously staffed “24/7/365” since 1985.
“The feeling is that there should be a person manning the room once utilized by the [dispatchers] in the Communications Center,” he wrote.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle questioned the timeliness of Lamb’s letter and said it was “out of line with proper bargaining.”
“I don’t know where Mr. Lamb was during the four years we negotiated the UCC model,” he said. “These are the very issues that we brought up that we were concerned about.”
Koetzle said staffing the room 24/7 year-round would require six employees and cost the town about $350,000 in wages and benefits. That would more than eclipse the $149,509 the consolidated dispatch center is projected to save the town annually.
“I hope that’s not what he’s asking for, but it appears that’s what he’s asking for when you read the letter,” he said.
Lamb said he “wasn’t asking the town for anything,” but said staffing the entrance during the day would be beneficial to the town. In the letter, he said a retired dispatcher, a police officer or someone of “equal standards who knows how the department operations are completed” could be hired for the job.
He wrote that the lack of a human presence causes “confusion, fear and a lack of trustworthiness, and lack of security.”
In Niskayuna, similar to Glenville, dispatchers used to take walk-in complaints at the Police Department’s entrance. With the dispatchers’ move to the consolidated center, the town installed two phones in that entrance and an intercom system in Town Hall. Supervisor Joe Landry said he hasn’t heard any complaints.
“If you’re walking into the Police Department and you’re wishing to speak to somebody during normal business hours, you will speak with a person,” he said.
Koetzle said the new system is working in Glenville, too.
“If they come in, they’re going to have access to the dispatch center through the use of the phone and they’re going to have a kiosk system to get them whatever paperwork they might need,” he said.
“Having a real person to talk face-to-face with is invaluable and should be brought back to the police departments and never again be lost,” he wrote.