NMSP closing dispatch offices? maybe changing radio systems in the next year or so????Possily?
SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) — Eleven emergency dispatchers at the New Mexico Department of Public Safety will be out of a job in the new year. Thursday, the State Personnel Board approved the reduction-in-force plan, which is part of a years-long effort to modernize the way emergency calls are handled by state police.
The move means the communications center in Alamogordo will close on Feb. 3 and Roswell’s dispatch center will shut its doors on April 7 of next year.
Calls that had been handled by the two locations will be routed to Las Cruces. The communications center there is one of three regional dispatch hubs that will eventually handle all radio and telephone traffic for DPS agencies statewide.
Department officials say the hubs, to be located in Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, will feature updated dispatch systems that can field calls and send them to units anywhere in the state. Each location can act as a backup for the others, something that isn’t possible the way the eight DPS dispatch centers are configured now.
Read the Dispatch Center Memo here >>
Decades ago, 18 dispatch centers dotted New Mexico. Calls were relayed to police in the field through Vietnam-era radio transmission systems that largely relied on proximity and a clear path to a radio tower. Mountains and sometimes even mere hills left police with radio dead zones in which they could neither receive nor transmit information.
DPS upgraded its systems over the years and closed seven local dispatch centers. Two years ago, New Mexico still had 11 communications centers.
As the department continued to modernize, the state economy lagged and all state departments — even normally well-insulated public safety agencies — felt budget pressure. Last year, the department closed dispatch centers in Santa Fe, Raton and even the state’s busiest center in Espanola.
Calls for Santa Fe are now dispatched through Albuquerque. State police officers working the roads around Raton and Espanola have calls sent to Las Vegas.
“Moving forward, I believe it’s more prudent to concentrate any of the budget we do have on three main centers instead of eight or 11 as we were originally positioned,” New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told KRQE News 13.
One of the dispatchers affected by the closures plans to retire at the end of this year. The remaining eight dispatchers — and one supervisor — will have to decide whether to apply for a job at another communications center or look for work elsewhere. One supervisor position is vacant. So far, one dispatcher plans to move to Las Cruces and four others told the chief they are considering such a transfer.
They’d be doing the state a favor if they did. Dispatchers go through a three-week-long academy before they’re placed in front of a computer terminal. Because the job is a stressful one, turnover is high. The department welcomes any way to mitigate the cycle of training new dispatchers.
“We want to keep that expertise,” Kassetas said.
The chief said the move will not compromise the safety of officers or the public. The advantage local dispatchers used to have in knowing the roads around their post has largely been nullified by mapping technology, Kassetas said. New equipment at the regional dispatch hubs will make radio transmissions more reliable.
Staffing levels will be more consistent, too. Despite a 24/7 demand for service, only one supervisor is budgeted at each of the closing centers. That means dispatchers are often left to handle complex emergencies with minimal backup from a coworker — if they have any at all.