Commentary: Move, consolidation of the E.P. dispatch center raises of plenty of questions

By Ricardo Mourato
Posted 10/28/21

The Mayor proposes moving the police/fire dispatch center out of police headquarters and relocating to the Rumford Fire/Rescue Station.

I have been in law enforcement for 24 years, thirteen of …

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Commentary: Move, consolidation of the E.P. dispatch center raises of plenty of questions

Posted

The Mayor proposes moving the police/fire dispatch center out of police headquarters and relocating to the Rumford Fire/Rescue Station.

I have been in law enforcement for 24 years, thirteen of which have been in the capacity of a supervisor and Officer In Charge (OIC). The dispatch function of a police agency is critical.

All calls received by dispatch are relayed to officers in the field and supervisors through dispatchers. During critical incidents, the OIC will often monitor and direct the situation from the dispatch center. Critical incidents often require real-time decisions made by the OIC and relayed to field officers.

This communication will be lost if the center is moved out of the police department. I have raised the following questions and concerns:
• Was there a feasibility study conducted?
• What stage of planning is this concept? Theory? Implementation?
• How much will this cost our taxpayers?
• Is there cost savings? As it stands, there is an increase of $589,532 hidden in plain view in the proposed police budget.
• Will customer service diminish or decrease?
• Is the Dispatch/Police Union in agreement? The answer is (NO) for the same concerns I have mentioned. However, the Mayor stated at the same council meeting that he was unaware, which is false. 
• The Mayor argued that the Rumford communications center was built 20 years ago. 
Fact: Tax-payer dollars were used to renovate the dispatch center just ten years ago.
• The Mayor indicated that the move would keep dispatchers safe, referring to the act of violence in the police station lobby last year.
Fact: The act of violence the Mayor is referring to was vandalism. Dispatchers are safer with police officers in the same building. 
• The Mayor has stated that a police supervisor does not need to be in a dispatch to make life or death decisions, just as a battalion chief does not have to be in Dispatch Center. 
Fact: Law Enforcement is a high liability profession by nature; therefore, decisions by supervisors need to be made in real-time to officers in the field. 

I also argued that the Administration does not have the authority to create a new division according to the Charter. 

Charter section 2-9 (Powers), The legislative powers of the City shall be vested in the Council. Without limitation of the foregoing, the Council shall have power to: (2) Establish administrative departments and distribute the work of divisions.

Section 3-12; The work of each department may be distributed among such divisions thereof as may be established at the direction of the Mayor.

The Council can (Establish administrative departments), whereas the Mayor can only distribute the work among divisions and departments and not create or establish. 

As with my previous submission (October 21 edition of The Post) regarding the City Solicitor's interpretation of Charter: The City Solicitor has a pattern of interpreting the City Charter in a manner that benefits his employer, the "Mayor" rather than his actual employer, you the citizens. 

In the recent East Providence Post (October 21 edition), the Mayor stated, "A public hearing was held where members of the public were able to ask questions of myself and the Council. In spite of this unprecedented transparency, Councilman Mourato has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not understand basic municipal finance".
Fact: I have continued to ask questions and inquire. However, this Administration's responses are everything, but the answer to specific questions asked. The Mayor's constant interruptions of department heads and council members during budget workshops or council meetings are not productive, especially when in the middle of a dialogue with the finance director.

Mr. Mayor, you DO NOT need a Brown University degree in finances to understand how to balance a responsible municipal budget using good judgment and common sense. As a Councilman, I should not have to submit APRA requests to obtain information needed to make budget decisions during a past budget season.

Regarding the quote "Unprecedented Transparency," I recommend that the true meaning of "Transparency" be studied by this Administration.

The City Council was asked to vote on the Mayor's proposed budget; however, this Administration would not provide answers to questions that would help decision-making. 

— Mourato is the Ward 4 member of the City Council.

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