The appointment of a new Emergency Services and Public Protection Department commissioner gives lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration a second chance to look at the police dispatch consolidation.
At the end of last October, Troop D in Danielson, Troop K in Colchester, and Troop E in Montville moved their dispatch operations to Troop C in Tolland. The changes are part of a larger effort to reduce the number of state police dispatch centers in the state from 12 to 5. In the western part of the state, dispatch functions for Troops A and B were moved to Troop L in Litchfield.
The Central District was supposed to be consolidated next, but several state lawmakers raised concerns in November and former Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford retired in December.
During the confirmation of Dora Schriro, who headed the New York City Correction Department before being appointed by Malloy to replace Bradford, lawmakers wanted to know what was happening with the dispatch consolidation effort.
At Schriro’s confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sen. President Donald Williams wanted to make sure that Schriro understands there is a unique quality to some of the police barracks in the eastern part of the state. He said Troop D operates more like a local police department because none of the towns in its region have local police departments.
Last year, the state police moved dispatchers from the barracks in Colchester, Danielson and Montville into their Tolland facility in an effort to save money and put more officers on the road.
“I strongly believe . . . those barracks that serve as local police departments, we ought to look at those barracks in that context. And preserving local dispatch is a very important component of that,” Williams said. “I would like to look at these barracks and their function according to their true function.”
The consolidation of 12 statewide dispatch centers down to five caused the Connecticut State Police Union to take a symbolic vote of no confidence in Bradford and his second in command, Col. Danny Stebbins. It also has created some friction between the administration and Democratic lawmakers who represent eastern Connecticut.
Schriro told Williams she has taken a preliminary look at the operations, but that she needs another month to dive a little deeper into the issue and explore all options before she makes her recommendations to Malloy. Those recommendations could come as early as the end of March.
“The centralization of dispatch is well-intended,” Schriro said. “It was intended to get more troopers out on the road, but that of course means moving them out of the barracks, which has additional ramifications.”
Williams said he hopes the dispatch consolidation effort can be handled administratively, but if it can’t there is legislation that would roll back the consolidation effort.
Prior to the dispatch consolidation efforts, the hot button public safety issue was how many troopers comprise the right number for the state.
The General Assembly approved legislation in 2012 that eliminated the 1,248 minimum state trooper staffing mandate and called for a study of police staffing and response times. The state police union sued the state for not having enough troopers and it won, based on the previous mandate.The state was getting ready to appeal that ruling when the General Assembly passed the legislation removing the minimum staffing mandate, making the issue moot.
Schriro said she has a meeting scheduled with all the master sergeants who handle the administrative functions for the state police, and plans to get some information about whether their staffing levels are adequate.
She said she wants to be using the time and talent of all of her employees efficiently and where there are deficits she will raise that issue.
There are six divisions, including the Connecticut State Police and Emergency Management and Homeland Security, in the Emergency Services and Public Protection Department.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said if she believes the department needs more state troopers “that you’ll fight for them, regardless of the finances or the politics.”
Schriro said she “commits to all of you to be the best public servant I can be.”
Schriro started the job at the end of January. Her nomination was forwarded Tuesday by the committee to the state Senate for final approval.