Service should be seamless, if not improved, when the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office begins dispatch and records services for the Gulfport Police Department, the police chief told residents at a crime watch meeting Monday.
The new service starts Jan. 3, 2012. The county;s Communications Center will handle all non-emergency calls. The non-emergency number folks call will stay the same: 727-893-1030. But it will forward to the Largo dispatch center, instead of Gulfport.
Vincent said that the change may "speed up the process," because instead of one person dealing with the calls and dispatching officers, the county will have two people per call to help: a call taker and a dispatcher. He said the call taker answers the phone, takes the information and enters it into the system, which is sent simulateously to the dispatcher for the south zone and to the officers' CAD system in Gulfport.
Four of the five employees who lose their jobs in Gulfpot because of the transition accepted offers with the county's Communication Center. The last day for all five employees is Jan. 2, 2012.
According to Vincent, the transition is going smoothly, as officers have nearly completed training on the new systems. Each officer has to complete eight hours of records training and four hours learning the CAD system.
"I think for the most part the benefits, compared to the few downsides to this change, make this a good move, especially when you consider the amount of money that is being saved," Vincent said.
One resident asked about the possibility of the station continuing to serve as a "safe harbor." Vincent said, it will cost more money, but they will be able to have a supervisor with the Communications Center view the video camera and "push a button" and unlock the doors to allow the person inside.
Vincent explained that there are several other changes, including dealing with protocol on interviewing suspects, use of the empty holding cells, using the new system and accessing old files and information after the system switch.
Vincent will track information during the transition, such as time between when a call is taken and when an officer is dispatched. He added that he's always willing to take feedback: "I want to hear about it."
In September, the Gulfport City Council voted 3-2 to approve the FY2012 Operating Budget, which included a cost savings by hiring the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to provide dispatch services. According to city estimates, the city will save about $450,000 over the next two years by contracting with the county to dispatch local officers.
You can learn more about the Pinellas County Sheriff Office Communications Center in Largo by reading the article: "Behind the Scenes at Dispatch Centers in Gulfport, Largo."