• 43°

Chief explains police dispatch changes

The City of Ironton will hand over its dispatching services to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Thursday. The four dispatchers are being laid off; city council decided earlier this year not to fund dispatching after June.

Police Chief Jim Carey recently explained the details of how calls to the police department will be handled once dispatching is gone.

Beginning at 10 p.m. Thursday people who call the Ironton Police Department will get an automated system advising them they’ve reached the IPD and if they have an emergency they must dial the sheriff’s office at 532-3525 or call 911.

“We prefer they call the sheriff’s office,” Carey said.

“Then, that call goes immediately to a dispatcher who sends the officer. With 911, those dispatchers then have to relay the call to the sheriff’s office.”

Those who do not have an emergency but need some other form of police assistance will be given an automated phone tree directing them to push a certain number to reach a certain office or person in the police department.

Beginning May 18, the police department office will only be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Requests for rummage sale permits will be handled at the finance department.

Residents will no longer be able to post bond for fines at the police department.

Carey said, over the years, residents have called the city to report late-night water line breaks and other non-police problems and the police have called out the necessary city employee to handle the complaint. This will end once the county takes over dispatching.

“Dispatchers do more than what people realize they do,” Carey said.

Last week the city also laid off three road patrolmen, leaving Carey and 15 employees more short-handed than ever. The department was already struggling with a manpower shortage: three open positions that were vacated for various reasons have not been filled. These recent layoffs, then, will leave the city six officers short.

With the layoffs, Carey said he will be forced to pull Steven Wilson from the detective’s bureau and put him back on the road. This means Capt. Chris Bowman will be the sole investigator for most, if not all, cases — murder, assault, robberies, burglaries, etc. Carey said this will still leave one road patrol shift not covered; it will be filled with overtime.

Losing dispatch may cause problems, but Carey said he was very disappointed to learn some council members are balking at having a police department clerk when officers are being laid off.

“City council is talking like they’re not going to fund the clerk’s position and that changes the whole ball game for us,” Carey said.

If the clerk’s position is not funded, the vehicle impound lot will be closed. Carey said the impound lot brings in an estimated $50,000 to $70,000 annually.

“The last sale we got $15,000,” Carey said.

The person who would likely have gotten the clerk’s position, Kenton Jordan, is not solely a dispatcher; he was the department’s terminal agency coordinator (TAC) coordinator for its Law Enforcement Data Systems (LEADS).

LEADS is a national database system used by law enforcement. It must be manned around the clock every day to be called an entering agency, with the ability to enter warrants, information on stolen cars, etc. Once the dispatchers are gone, the city loses its entering status (ability to enter warrants, etc.,) and becomes a non-entering agency. This means the city can no longer enter information into the system. Without Jordan, its only trained TAC, the city will lose its LEADS terminal altogether. The city could train officers to do this, but the road patrol is already shorthanded.

The sheriff’s office may not handle stolen vehicle calls, because it was not part of the basic service the two entities have agreed on.

“He (Sheriff Jeff Lawless) said he will provide us with the same service he provides the villages,” Capt. Dan Johnson said.

Johnson said he thinks the sheriff is willing to accommodate as best they can and has been very cooperative but Lawless and his office is also shortstaffed and underfunded.

“I don’t see the level of service being the same,” Johnson said. “It can’t be.”