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Council Drops Idea Of Contracting Dispatch


Moments after receiving a proclamation honoring National Police Week by the Oakdale City Council at its Monday, May 5 meeting, Police Chief Lester Jenkins was called to defend his department from additional cuts in response to inquiries regarding the possibility of contracting out dispatching services.

At the last council meeting, the topic surfaced about the possibility of contracting with Stanislaus Regional 911 (SR 911) for police dispatch services as a cost savings measure to the city. SR 911, a joint powers authority, currently provides all fire dispatch services in the county – including Oakdale Fire –with the exception of Turlock Fire. All law enforcement dispatching is provided by the organization with the exception of Oakdale Police, Ceres Police, and Turlock Police departments.

“Consolidation of services is one of the most common cost reduction strategies currently used by public agencies,” said Jenkins, advising the council that the topic had been examined by former Chief Marty West in 2010. “I was directly involved in the process and recall that no cost savings were discovered at that time. With no savings to be had we decided to maintain our own dispatch center.”

Jenkins used the cities of Patterson and Riverbank due to their size and population as comparison cities when examining the prospect of the contract.

In 1998 the City of Patterson disbanded its police department and contracted its law enforcement services, including dispatch, with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Riverbank also currently contracts with the Stanislaus Sheriff.

“A shut down of our dispatch center would require the department to increase the number of full-time clerks from one to three as they have done in Riverbank and Patterson,” said Jenkins. “This would nearly triple the records services costs while not reducing our dispatch services costs enough to make up for the increased costs.”

Jenkins also pointed out “negative impacts” that the police department lobby wouldn’t be staffed 24 hours a day, or at all on weekends as it is now. There would also be an additional drain on patrol officers, who are working at the same levels of 1990 of only two officers and a sergeant on the street, of having to frequently come to the station for after-hours necessary clerical duties when they arose.

Another concern according to Jenkins was that if SR 911 was to do police dispatch, the department would have to share the radio channel with between two to four other agencies.

“Based on the analysis we have conducted, the city will not be able to realize the necessary savings to justify contracting with SR 911 for dispatch services,” said Jenkins in recommending maintaining current dispatch operations. “Contracting with a larger dispatch center causes residents to lose several key services they currently enjoy and would further increase the workload of an already overburdened police force.”

Jenkins’ presentation ended with applause from the audience consisting of many police supporters and police employees.

Councilman Farrell Jackson, one of those from the last meeting who had asked to see a comparison, stated he had not seen the figures presented side-by-side and related that the loss of services was also a big factor.

“If there’s no cost savings, there’s no reason to continue to look at this,” said Jackson.

Mayor Pat Paul said that with a contract there would be a loss of control of the department and added that officers need to be on the street and not in the station to perform other duties.

During his presentation, Jenkins notified the council that the department was asked by “another police agency” to provide a bid for dispatch services.

Jenkins said that they could easily expand their current workstations to accommodate the agency and that the contract had the possibility to add up to three additional records/dispatch personnel to the department.

Though Jenkins did not state to the council which department the other city was, sources from inside the department disclosed that the City of Newman was the one interested.