On January 3, 2012 the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office took over dispatch services for the Gulfport Police Department. The decision to contract services through the county was made by City Council as a cost-saving measure.
In September 2011, 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.
On Tuesday night, Gulfport Police Lt. Josh Stone presented council with an update about the county's dispatch services and transition.
As part of the transition, the department had to update equipment, transfer data and learn new records management systems.
"After one year of service, we have realized both some positive and negative outcomes," Lt. Stone said.
Negative outcomes include having to convert existing data and files to the system the PCSO uses. Lt. Stone said that some of that conversion is ongoing. During the transition, the department lost some data and ways to find existing data. Thy department has also been made aware of a few frustrated callers, however, Lt. Stone said that the Chief looked into those calls and found that callers hung up before answering all of the dispatcher's questions.
Positive outcomes include a cost savings to the city, instant access to reports/data from other jurisdictions, real-time GPS data and increased cooperation between agencies.
Lt. Stone provided examples of working together to the council.
On June 15, six Gulfport Police Officers were on detail trying to catch people breaking into vehicles. Once officers witnessed the suspects break into three cars they moved in for an arrest and the suspects ran. They announced over their radio channel that they were setting up a perimeter.
"Deputies were on scene before we asked from South Pasadena and other places and the K9 Unit was in route before we requested it, that's outstanding and that's cooperation."
Then, one month later - July 15 - Gulfport Police Officers were notified of a stabbing at the North Beach at Fort De Soto. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office put out a description of the suspect, who was leaving the beach, and a Gulfport Police Officer located the vehicle and made the arrest.
In 2012 the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Dispatched 8,244 calls for service. "That doesn't include any calls they may (have) transferred to administrative folks or maybe answered some questions. That's the calls that were dispatched only," Lt. Stone said.
- High Priority = 401
- Medium Priority = 2,221
- Low Priority = 5,622
"A lot of citizens were afraid our call times would increase. Now, I can't show you hard numbers about our old response times. That's not on purpose, the database that we use crashed. So, I can't provide that information. We're trying to get that back up and running. But, I've been here 12 years and I grew up here a lot, so I know that the response time for calls for service should take between 2 and 3 minutes."
- High Priority Response Time Average = 2:43
- Medium Response Time Average = 2:55
- Low Priority Response Time Average = 5:16
Average Response Time All Calls = 4:47
Lt. Stone noted that the high priority and medium priority response times are right where they need to be.
"There's nothing surprising here, we're getting there when we need to," Stone said.
In conclusion, Gulfport Police report that the "transition to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for communications has worked as advertised with many positive outcomes," and "the decision to transition to the county for dispatching services has proven to be prudent."
Editor's Note: The powerpoint presentation from Tuesday night is attached to this article.