Cost of upgrades for 911 dispatch, police records systems: $4 million

A man walks into the downtown Grand Junction Alpine Bank, displays a handgun and demands money. A teller presses a panic alarm button to summon police.

A 911 dispatcher at the Grand Junction Regional Communications Center radios to the police officer patrolling that area of the city, even if that officer is taking a report several miles away from the bank and may not be the closest source of help.

But under a new 911 system, the dispatcher would have the benefit of an automated vehicle locator — a real-time map that shows where all city patrol vehicles are at that particular moment. Whichever officer is closest to the bank would get the call.

Quicker response time is just one benefit authorities are touting of what they say would be an expensive but necessary overhaul of how local law enforcement and emergency personnel respond to calls for service, communicate with each other and maintain electronic records.

Local agencies expect to spend roughly $4 million in the next couple of years to replace the computer-aided dispatch system and the records-management system used by law enforcement to generate reports.

“These systems will make all of us smarter, they will make us more proficient at what we’re doing, and they will enhance our service to victims,” Grand Junction Deputy Police Chief Troy Smith said.

There is a practical reason why authorities want to change the 16-year-old, 911 dispatch system and the records system, which is used by Grand Junction police.

Motorola, the vendor for both systems, will soon stop licensing them.

Beyond that, authorities say they are hampered by a variety of shortcomings and inefficiencies in the systems.

• Officers or emergency personnel who are dispatched to a particular address either must recall from memory where it is and how to get there or flip through a map in their vehicles. A new 911 dispatch system would outfit their vehicles with an electronic map showing that address and the best way to access it.

• The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies don’t have access to the dispatch computer system.
That means if a sheriff’s deputy wants to pull up details on calls for service to a house in the county, the only way he can access that information from his computer is if those calls generated a report.
If he wants information on calls that didn’t result in a report, he has to contact the dispatch center and speak with dispatchers who may be busy handling other calls.

• Generating a report based on a 911 call requires duplicative efforts. Dispatchers create a report based on information from the original call, then law enforcement and emergency personnel who respond must create a new, additional report, even if the details are the same.
A new dispatch system automatically would feed the dispatcher’s report into the responding officer, firefighter or paramedic’s computer.

• The Sheriff’s Department and Grand Junction Police Department operate on two different records systems, leaving them unable to access each other’s information and creating all sorts of potential blockades to solving crimes.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said people are amazed when he tells them the Sheriff’s Department and Police Department operate on two different systems that have trouble communicating with one another.

“I think it’s a reasonable expectation that law enforcement has access to these systems and share information efficiently in order to be able to better serve crime victims,” he said.

Authorities learned Friday that they had received a $1 million state energy-impact grant to help pay for the new dispatch and records systems.

Some funding also is expected to come from 911 surcharges, but Smith said officials will need to tap additional sources.


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